The new demographic paradigm



Ana Amélia Camarano

Instituto de Políticas Econômicas Aplicadas (IPEA)



The approximately 190 million inhabitants living in Brazil counted by the 2010 Demographic Census are the outcome of a population expansion that began more than 100 years ago.

The international migrations were responsible for the miscegenation and rapid growth of the population at the turn of the nineteenth century. The reduction of infant mortality, which began at the end of World War II, coupled with high fertility generated rapid population growth in the 1950-1970 period and a very young population. This period, known as the baby boom was marked by the fear of a demographic explosion.

The baby boom was shorter than expected and only lasted two decades. From the 1970s onwards, fertility entered a period of rapid and sustained decline, accompanied by the continuation of the reduction in mortality which today benefits the elderly population more. These two processes occurred over a short period of time and simultaneously in almost all the developing countries.

Since the beginning of this century, the fertility of Brazilian women is below the rate that ensures population replacement. Currently, the total fertility rate is around 1.7 children per woman. In the 1950s it was 6.1. Today, Brazilians live on average 73.5 years, 43 more than at the beginning of the last century. In essence, fewer people are born, though they live longer.

Two consequences of this process are already apparent: population contraction and super aging. Brazil is no longer a country of young people. It is likely that the 2030 Census will find that the maximum number of Brazilians that can be envisioned will be about 208 million, of which 20 % will be elderly. From then onwards, if the same trends prevail, this contingent will begin to decrease and the format of the age pyramid will be inverted. The baby boomers are aging and becoming elderly boomers. The concern with the "excess" of children is giving way to the "excess" of the elderly.

Other major changes occurred during the period: increased education of the population and the participation of women in the labor market, reduction in gender differentials in private and social life, changes in family arrangements, especially in marriage rates, shorter duration of marriages, changes in traditional gender contracts, reduction in the number of family caregivers and a new epidemiological profile.

Population aging is occurring before the Brazilian State sorts out basic social needs such as education and health and it is the public policy agenda, based on a negative view of the process. However, this view has been responsible for the legitimation of some social rights such as universal retirement, special queues, seats reserved in public transport, gratuity in urban transport, half price admission, among others.

Despite this, several issues remain unresolved and may become more accentuated in the near future. While one can be certain about a rapid growth of the elderly population over the next 30 years, it is not known how the long-lived will survive in terms of health, autonomy and income. These are important conditions for the dependence or otherwise of any population group.

It is expected that mortality will continue to decline and people will live longer, but it is acknowledged that it is difficult to project the limits of life expectancy The reduction in the supply of labor will result in a decrease in the number of contributors to social security, which leads one to wonder if it will be possible for Brazil to continue to maintain the dissociation between aging and poverty. The care of the frail elderly individual is also an unresolved issue. That responsibility continues to be attributed to the family without considering the changes that occur in it.

In short, what we know is that we are facing a new fact in history: aging and a shrinking population. Thus, new challenges are ahead.

ABRASCO - Associação Brasileira de Saúde Coletiva Rio de Janeiro - RJ - Brazil
E-mail: revscol@fiocruz.br