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Dependency Ratio


The Dependency Ratio is a demographic and economic measure used to compare the proportion of a population that is economically inactive to the proportion that is economically active. These groups are often defined as those under 15 or over 64 (dependent) and those between 15 and 64 (productive). This ratio is used to understand the pressure on productive population provided by the dependent population.


The phonetics of the keyword “Dependency Ratio” would be /dɪˈpɛndənsi ˈreɪʃioʊ/.

Key Takeaways

  1. The Dependency Ratio is a measure which indicates the percentage of people in a dependent age group (those not in the labor force) who are being supported by those in the labor force. These are usually divided into the age groups of 0-14 and 65+, referred to as the young and old-age dependency ratio respectively.
  2. A high dependency ratio suggests that those in the productive age group will have a higher economic burden as they will need to provide for the financial and social needs of the dependent group. This can be a challenge for many nations, particularly those with an increasing aging population or high birth rates.
  3. The Dependency Ratio not only impacts social and financial structures, but also has implications on a country’s economy. Governments may face funding challenges for social and health services. High dependency ratios may also impact economic growth, as it might result in reduced savings and increases in public expenditures.


The Dependency Ratio is a critical measure in business and finance because it provides insights into the proportion of individuals in an economy who are not in the workforce, primarily young (below working-age) and old (retired) people, compared to those who are. These two groups are assumed to be “financially dependent” on the working-age population. A high dependency ratio can put strain on a country’s economy and public services as a smaller proportion of the population is contributing to the economic output, tax revenues, and is available for work, while a larger proportion may be reliant on benefits and pensions. Understanding the dependency ratio allows governments and businesses to plan for future economic challenges, workforce, and services distribution.


The Dependency Ratio is a crucial measure widely utilized by economists, financial analysts, and policymakers to understand the economic pressures that may be faced by the productive population. Akin to a demographic barometer, this ratio is fundamentally used to get a sense of the age structure of a population and helps predict social assistance costs such as healthcare and social security. Essentially, it provides a snapshot of the working population’s burden in supporting the dependent population, those who are too young or too old to work. A higher dependency ratio indicates a greater financial pressure on the working population to provide for the non-working population.Analyzing the dependency ratio is vital in both macroeconomic planning and business strategy, as it significantly influences fiscal stability, social structure, and potential consumer dynamics. For instance, a high youth dependency ratio may indicate increased investment requirements in sectors like education or childcare in the future. Similarly, a high old-age dependency ratio signifies probable heightened healthcare and pension costs. For businesses, understanding this ratio can help them identify market opportunities or risks within their respective industries. For example, a high proportion of elderly dependents may signal the necessity for more healthcare services, elderly-friendly products, or retirement homes.


1. Aging Population in Japan: Japan has one of the highest old-age dependency ratios in the world. It means that the proportion of people aged 65 and above, who are generally retired and reliant on pensions or savings, is significantly high compared to those who are of working age (15 to 64 years). This places a heavy economic burden on the country’s social security and healthcare systems because there are fewer working-age individuals to support the older population. 2. Young Population in Nigeria: Nigeria, on the other hand, has a high youth dependency ratio because a large proportion of its population is under 15. Given that this segment of the population is typically not working and is dependent on the adults for financial support, this also creates a significant economic burden for the working-age population as they need to provide for a larger number of dependents.3. The Impact of COVID-19: The pandemic led to an increase in the dependency ratio in many countries all around the world. Due to the significant job losses, a larger number of people were dependent on the working population, thus increasing the dependency ratio. For instance, in the United States, as a result of job losses particularly in industries such as hospitality and retail, there was an increased number of dependent citizens, leading to an increased dependency ratio.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is Dependency Ratio?

The Dependency Ratio is an economic term used to measure the proportion of the total population aged below 15 and above 64 versus the working-age population.

How is the Dependency Ratio calculated?

It’s calculated by dividing the number of dependents (those below 15 and above 64 years) by the total working-age population (those between 15 and 64 years). The result is then multiplied by 100 to get the percentage.

Why is the Dependency Ratio important?

The Dependency Ratio provides insights about the pressure on productive population. Higher ratios suggest that more people rely on the productive part of the population to maintain social systems such as healthcare, social security, and education.

What is a high Dependency Ratio?

A high Dependency Ratio means there are more dependents than working-age individuals. This situation can be a huge burden on the working population to provide for the needs of the non-working.

What does a low Dependency Ratio mean?

A low Dependency Ratio means the number of dependents is low compared to the working-age population. This could suggest a greater potential for economic growth due to a larger workforce.

How does Dependency Ratio affect the economy?

High Dependency Ratios could lead to higher taxes and reduced spending power. It also poses a serious threat to pension systems. On the other hand, a low Dependency Ratio could mean more funds for investment.

Can the Dependency Ratio affect fiscal policy?

Yes, it can. Governments may have to adjust fiscal policies to accommodate a higher Dependency Ratio – this could involve increasing tax rates, changing social security payouts or investing in services like healthcare and education.

What other factors can affect the Dependency Ratio?

Factors such as mortality rates, birth rates, immigration, and changes in social security can significantly alter the Dependency Ratio.

How can a country reduce its Dependency Ratio?

Increasing the working age population either through increasing birth rates, encouraging immigration, or extending the retirement age, can help to reduce the Dependency Ratio.

: Can Dependency Ratio be used as a forecast tool?

: Yes, the Dependency Ratio can provide crucial insights into future economic trends, allowing policymakers to prepare for challenges associated with an aging population or a burgeoning youth population.

Related Finance Terms

  • Population Age Structure
  • Economic Productivity
  • Working Age Population
  • Social Security Costs
  • Retirement Age

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