A rusting fountain of youth in Germany

In the first week of this mini-series, we found out that Germany has a surprisingly high median age. Last week, we saw that this is especially the case in rural areas in East Germany. Today, let’s see where we’re heading: What does the trend say? Did Germans reach peak-elderly and from now on, we’re going into a young future?

Oh, oh no. No no no. Definitely not. Look at this chart:

I’m one of these people younger than 30 years. 1950 we made up 45% of the German population. These days we only make 30% of the population. We’re getting chased by the elderly: In 1950, 15% of Germans were 60 years or older. Today, more than 25%. In 2050, almost 40%.[1]

In 2050, I will become one of these 40%. I can see myself being a proud senior, laughing at the imprudence of the few young people who still dare to step a foot on the streets that we rule with our rollators. What a time to be (still) alive. Jokes aside: Such an overhang of old people will bring huge challenges to a welfare state like Germany. Just to name two: Health insurance costs increase; pensions are going down. (I’m a bit afraid.)

It’s worth noting that the current projections were made in 2015 and do not include the effects of recent changes in in-bound immigration. It’ll be exciting to see the next projections by the German Statistical Office Destatis, which are scheduled for next year. Maybe I don’t need to be afraid so much after all.

Chart choices

Since I’m showing shares over time, the obvious choice for this data is a stacked bar chart or area chart. I could show the 0-30 year olds on the bottom, the 30-60-year-olds in the middle and the over-60-year-olds at the top. But that wouldn’t be the obvious choice for the kind of statement I want to make: That there will be MORE people over 60 than under 30. Showing shares of the same total as line charts is a great way to see when one share is becoming greater than the other. The drawback of line charts for shares is that it’s not intuitive: People don’t immediately see that the data are shares; they need to read the legend to understand it.

Next week, we’ll look into the future again. We’re zooming out to look at the bigger impact of age structure: What does it mean for the size of a continent? Have a nice week!

  1. Let’s compare this with the world: In 2015, 12% of the entire human race was older than 60 years. In 2050, it will be 21%. ↩︎