, Volume 6, Issue 3, pp 191-200
Date: 30 Jul 2009

The effect of change in educational composition on population ageing

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Abstract

Official Swedish demographic projections have systematically underestimated the number of older people. One explanation behind the underestimation may be found in the fact that the demographic projections are not taking into account socio-economic mortality differentials. We performed alternative demographic scenarios based on assumptions of unchanged and continuing declining mortality, with and without taking into account socio-economic gradients in mortality. According to a scenario based on assumption on declining mortality rates per age group, sex and educational level, the number of older persons (65+) in Sweden will increase by 62% during the period 2000–2035. This can be compared to an increase by 54% in a scenario that does not take into account future structural differences in educational levels and the latest trends in socio-economic inequality in life expectancy (the method used by statistical offices). The socio-economic structure of the older population is significantly changing over the years. We project that by year 2035, only 20% of women 80 years and older will have a low educational level, compared to about 75–80% today. The change in socio-economic structure is similar for the older men. Standard demographic projections that do not take into account socio-economic mortality differentials, risk underestimating the number of older people and hiding dramatic changes in population composition. Taking into account socio-economic mortality differentials results in alternative projections giving us new information regarding the future size and socio-economic composition of the older population. We recommend use of this information in health care and long-term care human resources planning or when assessing financial sustainability of health care, long-term care and pension systems in the future.