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The shape of things to come: Why age structure matters to a safer, more equitable world

Elizabeth Leahy, Population Action International

Population age structures yield insights into current and future challenges to political stability and human security, and to opportunities that demographic change promotes. This study classifies all national populations into one of four major age structure types, based on the proportional size of three age cohorts. A quantitative analysis shows that each structure has distinct traits in vulnerability to civil conflict, governance, and economic growth. The study finds that countries with very young and youthful age structures have historically been most likely to face challenges to their development and security, but are afforded opportunities through the demographic transition process. Specific emphasis is placed on Africa. Although most national populations in sub-Saharan Africa have a very young age structure, regional disparities are likely to increase in the near future. The diverse issues currently affecting age structures in Africa are discussed, including government policies and funding, health infrastructure, disease and equitable access.

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Presented in Session 27: Changes in age structure and their implications for wellbeing