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5 Ways Older Adults Are Boosting the Global Economy

New AARP study says 50+ population effect on track to double

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Economies around the world will benefit economically as the global population of people 50 and older increases, according to a new study from AARP.

The 50-plus population’s effect on the global economy is projected to more than double over the next three decades, growing from $45 trillion (34 percent of the global gross domestic product [GDP] in 2020) to $118 trillion (39 percent of GDP) in 2050, according to the “Global Longevity Economy Outlook” report. The study measures the 50-plus population’s economic effects both worldwide and in 76 representative economies, which account for 95 percent of the global GDP and 79 percent of the world’s population.  

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Here are five key points from the “Global Longevity Economy Outlook” report.

  1. More people are living longer. In many places, average life expectancy continues to increase. Between 2000 and 2019, global life expectancy increased by six years, from 67 to 73. That number is projected to be 77 years by 2050.
  2. Older adults are becoming a larger share of the population in many places. In 2020, 1 in 4 people were 50 and older. By 2050, they will account for 1 in 3 people. Overall, their numbers are projected to grow from 1.9 billion in 2020 to 3.2 billion in 2050, a 70 percent increase. Much of that growth will happen in the next seven or so years, potentially reaching 2.3 billion 50-plus people by 2030.
  3. More older adults means an increase in economic contributions. Two years ago, the 50-plus population contributed $45 trillion to the global economy. That contribution is projected to surge as high as $118 trillion by 2050, according to the study.
  4. More jobs will be created by spending from the global 50-plus population. The number of jobs supported by spending from older people is set to jump by nearly 20 percent, to more than 1.2 billion jobs in 2030. That’s roughly 35 percent of the total jobs projected to be available worldwide.
  5. Global economies with smaller shares of older adults also benefit from the longevity boom. Foreign spending from older adults boosts those economies with younger populations. In fact, foreign spending by the global 50-plus population generates GDP, employment and labor income in young economies around the world, the study finds.

“Older adults are consumers, workers, caregivers and volunteers, and they serve other critical roles in our societies,” said Jean Accius, senior vice president of global thought leadership at AARP. “Their contributions spur economic growth that benefits all generations, as well as communities and businesses. Policymakers and business leaders can benefit more fully from the global longevity economy by combatting age discrimination, encouraging multigenerational workforces, and tailoring products and services to meet the needs of a rapidly aging population.”  

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The report also recommends several ways that policymakers, businesses and employers can position themselves to benefit from the increase in longevity among the 50-plus. The recommendations include:

  • ​Create and implement actionable national plans and strategies on aging
  • Develop a better understanding of the unpaid contributions by the 50-plus population — such as family caregiving and volunteering — in order to support them better 
  • Create products and services that meet the needs of the rapidly aging population
  • Foster age-diverse workforces
  • Invest in upskilling, reskilling and lifelong learning for all workers
  • Fight age discrimination in the workplace
  • Fight ageism in society, which impacts health and stifles economic growth

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