The phenomenon of population ageing occurs when the median age of a country or region increases due to successive low rates of birth or rising life expectancy. Populations have slowly been ageing for centuries, as life expectancy has risen steadily until roughly the age of 70 across the world. Measuring life expectancy can be difficult, as there are no answers as to precisely how long the average human can be expected to live for. The ageing of populations has had significant effects on government policies towards the elderly, as well as towards the young, as low rates of birth have become a concern in many countries. Some have even started to have negative population growth, a big concern for countries around the world.
Many European countries are currently experiencing negative population growth, with their populations expecting to decline by the millions towards 2050. However, these figures are challenged regularly, as being designed to grant more money for individual institutions, rather than address serious social concerns. Many social policies are being targeted as requiring a change to cope with an ageing population. Pensions are an obvious issue as populations age; if there are more people withdrawing money from the state rather than paying it in, the system risks collapse. In the future, governments are likely going to have to make difficult choices between lowering pension amounts and increasing taxation, neither of which would prove popular amongst voters.
Raising taxation to increase pension amounts may be a more attractive option to voters, so long as they are guaranteed the same amount when they retire, although, as retirement amounts have largely not increased in line with inflation, their real value has decreased as time has gone on. Successive governments have attempted to minimise the effects which decreasing pension values have amongst voters, with varying degrees of success. Governments have tried to increase benefits that the elderly get, without directly increasing pension values, something that many voters have enjoyed.
City planners also have to attempt to cater to ageing populations, ensuring that facilities are accessible to the elderly and others with limited mobility; one thing that is agreed upon by almost everyone is that this is an issue which is best addressed now before it becomes exacerbated.