• Within the OECD, countries such as Korea, Japan, Germany and Italy have a declining working age population.
  • The OECD calculated that Japan is the country most heavily affected, as its working population is set to be just 60% of its original size by 2050.

Within the OECD, Korea, Japan, Germany and Italy are among the countries most heavily affected by a decline of their working age populations. Taking each country’s population between the ages of 20 and 64 in the year 2000 as a base, the OECD calculated that by 2050, that population would only be around 80 percent of its original size in Korea and Italy. In Japan, the country most heavily affected, that number would be just over 60 percent.

For the OECD in total, the size of the working age population is actually expected to increase and be at 111 percent of the 2000 figure in 2050. The growth is driven by countries with strong birth rates and large populations, like Australia, Turkey and the United States.

While Japan’s working age population has been in decline since the 1990s, Korea’s working age population was expected to start its decline in 2019. The country's statistics bureau just confirmed that the entire population of South Korea in fact declined by 0.04 percent in 2020.

For countries experiencing a decline of working age population, problems like underfunded social systems, tight labor markets and an overstretched medical and care sector are common.

The Threat of Declining Working Age Populations
An indication of declining working age populations, from the years 2000 - 2050.
Image: OECD/statista