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The most-active population (aged 20-34) in China, India, Europe and the United States of America, 1950-2100 (millions)



Europe (48)


Source: United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (2011): World Population Prospects, the 2010 Revision. New York. See:
Notes: Due to limitation of space country names were abbreviated. China stands for People's Republic of China, USA stands for United States of America.

These figures encapsulate one of the most striking messages on this web site: They summarize the estimated and projected size of the most-active population aged 20 to 34 in China, India, Europe and the United States of America between 1950 and 2100. The data are from the most recent revision of the World Population Prospects, released by the United Nations Population Division on May 4, 2011.

In 1950, China's most-active population (aged 20 to 34) was in the range of 126 million - which was only a little large than the most-active population in Europe, where the population aged 20 to 34 was 122 million. However, by 2010, China's most-active population has increased to 313 million, while Europe's most-active population has increased to only to about 158 million. In other words, China has currently about twice as many people in the most-active age groups between 20 and 34 than Europe. There can be no doubt that this, at least partially, explains the diverging economic trends between Europe and China.

India's most-active population (aged 20-34) increased even more than in China: Between 1950 and 2100 it more than tripled from some 91 million to 314 million. However, what is even more striking is the range of uncertainty in these numbers for India. With only half-a-child difference to the medium variant projection India's "most-active" population aged 20 to 34 could be as high as 500 million or as low as a bit more than 100 million. India's economy might have to create some 200 million jobs more, or 200 million jobs less (as compared to the medium variant), by the end of the century - just depending on whether average fertility is half-a-child more or half-a-child less than the projected medium variant fertility decline.

In the United States of America, the most-active population (aged 20-34) increased from 37 to about 64 million between 1950 and 2010.

Future trends in the size of the most-active population very much depend on future trends in fertility - most dramatically in India and China: If India's fertility trends turn out as projected, its most-active population would decline by roughly 55 million - from 314 million in 2010 to 259 million in 2100. However, if India's fertility would decline only a little bit slower than the medium projection (half-a-child child less per woman), the most-active population would increase by 178 million. If the fertility would remain constant (and not decline, as projected), India's most-active population age 20 to 34 would actually increase to more than 680 million! It is hard to imagine how India could create employment opportunities for such a huge wave of young adults in their most productive age.

Europe, on the other hand, has the opposite problem: In the 48 countries that are classified as European, the number of people age 20 to 34 will decline by almost 44 million over the 21st century - from 158 million in 2010 to 114 million in 2100. But this assumes that Europe's fertility would increase ( ! ) towards the replacement fertility of 2.1 children per woman by the end of the century. If average level of fertility would remain constant at current levels in each of the European countries (an assumptions which is not completely unreasonable), then the population in the most-active age group between 20 and 34 would decline much more dramatically: first to 105 million in 2050 and then to less than 70 million in 2100. If that would happen, then Europe's most-active population would have declined by 88 million between 2010 and the end of the 21st century. 

An extreme, but by no means impossible, scenario would be that India's and China's fertility declines a little slower than projected (with a fertility of half-a-child less per woman) while Europe's fertility remains constant. In that case China, by 2100, may have a most-active population of almost 300 million and India of almost 500 million. The two Asian population giants may have almost 800 million people aged 20 to 34 by the end of the century. Europe, on the other hand, would have a most-active population of about 120 million. Compare this to middle of the 20th century! In 1950, China, India, and Europe had all roughly the same number of people in the most-active age between 20 and 34. What this would mean to the geo-political and geo-economic status of Europe is rather obvious. By 2100, Europe could have become a peripheral region.

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This section was updated on 8 June 2011

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Copyright 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 by Gerhard K. Heilig. All rights reserved. - 18 April 2012