Ageing Population Prompts Gender Imbalance in Cities

A combination of population ageing and longer female life expectancy has increased the excess of women in some of the world’s major cities. In 2012, 80 out of a total of 120 cities had a higher female to male ratio than in the rest of their respective countries. Metropolises with a particularly large excess of women also featured an exceptionally large female to male ratio among those aged 65 and above.

Cities with the Highest Share of Females Aged 65+, 2012

Source: Euromonitor International

Note: Chart features top 10 of 120 of the world’s major cities in terms of share of females aged 65+ in the total population.

Society Ageing at its Most Intense in Developed Cities

The number of women in major urban areas is often increased by gender-selective migration patterns (due to the location of educational facilities, female-specific industries and activities etc.), with there being a variety of reasons why they do not return to their home regions. However, a higher female to male ratio in developed cities is largely a result of the significant number of women aged 65 and above, who tend to live longer than men.

As demonstrated by the chart above, in 2012, women aged 65 and above comprised the largest share of the total populations in Japanese and European cities. These metropolises also posted considerable population shares for elderly people (65+) in general. For example, in 2012, the elderly accounted for 24% of the total population in Osaka, 21% in Milan and 20% in Berlin, Rome and Hamburg. The main reasons behind such pronounced ageing in European and Japanese cities include long-decreasing fertility rates that are now below the replacement level and relatively high life expectancy at birth, especially in the case of women.

Long-Living Females in Eastern Europe

However, some of the biggest differences between the life expectancy of men and women can be found in Eastern European cities. In 2012, average life expectancy at birth in the region was 80 years for women compared with 74 for men. Women in Eastern European cities generally have less risky lifestyles, involving for example lower alcohol consumption, safer driving and fewer workplace accidents.

Notably longer female life expectancy in these cities has led to the world’s highest female to male ratio in the 65+ age group. Cities like Novosibirsk, St. Petersburg and Riga also registered the highest overall female to male ratio out of 120 of the world’s major metropolises.

Cities with the Highest Female to Male Ratios, 2012

Source: Euromonitor International

Note: Chart features top 10 of 120 of the world’s major cities in terms of female to male ratio. These are also the top 10 cities in terms of female to male ratio in the 65+ age group.

Concerns for Greying Imbalanced Societies

Ongoing population ageing and gender imbalances in developed cities threatens to jeopardise their future economic performance. The potential consequences, among others, include intensification of demographic shrinkage arising from lower fertility levels and the loss of potential mothers in the cities. The lack of an active workforce as well as an increasing number of dependent people can have negative economic and social effects on urban development, hence imposing challenges on local governments. The fact that women strongly predominate among urban seniors will also shape consumer spending in the cities and impact a range of services that need to be provided in terms of public health, social protection, etc.