Chile politics: Quick View - Census shows older population, highlighting challenges

Content Type
Country Data and Maps
Economist Intelligence Unit
No abstract is available.
Politics, News Analysis, Forecast, Political stability
Political Geography


Chile's national statistics institute (INE) has announced the preliminary results of the latest census. These show slower population growth and an aging of the overall population. This has turned attention to political challenges such as pensions and immigration.


The census estimates Chile's population at 18.3m, and reveals a continued aging of the overall population. While in 1992 the percentage of the population under 15 was 29% and that over 65 was 7%, the latest census shows that the former has fallen to 20% and the latter has grown to 11%. The shift in the "demographic pyramid" highlights Chile's success in increasing life expectancy and family planning; its demographic profile is similar to that of a developed country. Chile's annual rate of population growth has fallen to 1.1%, from 1.2% in 2002.

However, the change in the demographic pyramid creates challenges in terms of supporting the pension costs of a retired population, as the number of pensioners grows faster than the workforce. The issue of how to deliver more equitable pensions has become a contentious political topic that dominated the final year in office of the president, Michelle Bachelet, and is likely to plague her successor, Sebastián Piñera, after he takes office in March. Chileans feel that privately run pension funds have failed to deliver sufficient payouts, prompting demands for more state intervention in the pension system. In addition, increased costs of healthcare for the elderly will add to public expenditure. This and other issues affecting the elderly are likely to rise on the list of public concerns.

Attention to immigration policy has also increased amid slowing population growth and the aging of the population. Inward immigration has increased significantly in recent years, with the number of immigrants growing by 123% between 2005 and 2014; the government estimates that around 500,000 foreigners live in Chile. Although polls show a majority of Chileans viewing immigrants positively, the increase in new immigrants and the belief that immigrants are responsible for rising crime have caused many Chileans to call for tighter controls. However, with the census showing that immigrants have more children than native-born Chileans, the director of the INE, Ximena Clark, has highlighted immigration as a solution to the declining birthrate.

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