Global Monitoring Report 2015/16: Development goals in an era of demographic change

World Bank


This report evaluates the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals and spells out the areas that require attention in the transition to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Despite solid development gains in the MDGs, progress has been uneven and significant work remains. The experience of the MDGs will help drive progress toward achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.  The report argues that demographic shifts present potentially transformative opportunities if there is international cooperation and effective management of the challenges these shifts also face. It requires the development community to step up efforts to sustain broad-based growth, invest in people, and insure the poor and vulnerable against ever-changing risks.

The report is in two parts: the first examines global development progress, the unfinished agenda, and the policy opportunities looking ahead, and the second focuses the theme of demography and how demographic change can be used to achieve development goals.

Key findings

The MDGs saw a number a number of successes, including: economic growth has remained strong and robust, with most developing countries increased the income levels of their bottom 40% and about 1 billion people rising out of extreme poverty. Infant mortality rates have been reduced  and school enrollment has increased. Incidences of preventable diseases such as AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis have fallen and access to clean water and better sanitation has risen. However, depth of remaining poverty, uneven growth, and persistent non-income disparities (such as access to services) remain significant challenges to the SDGs.

Global demography is at a turning point: the world’s population is growing more slowly and is aging at an unprecedented rate. These shifts have the potential to alter the trajectory or global development over the next 15 years.  The working-age share of the population peaked in 2012 and is now declining. Low income countries still have high fertility rate with youthful populations of working age, while the population in many higher income countries is aging. In contrast to the former, the latter may weaken growth prospects but  over 85 percent of global economic activity and 78 percent of global growth over the last 15 years can be attributed to these late- and post-dividend countries.


Policies will need to have a long-run perspective that is tailored to context. Specifically,  lower income countries will need to accelerate the demographic transition, invest in the youthful population and lay the foundation for sustained growth in order to eradicate extreme poverty. Improving services and empowering women are just two potential policy options to achieve this.

By contrast, richer countries with lower fertility rates need to address the issue of a shrinking labour force through policies that:

  • foster health and productive ageing
  • mobilise savings for productive investment
  • strengthen welfare systems
  • ensure ficscal sustainability and protection for the elderly and vulnerable.

Opportunities for global action will rely on international cooperation and may include: capital flowing to rising consumer markets; countries with ageing populations can benefit from legal immigration and those countries with youthful populations can seek to produce labour-intensive products.


World Bank. (2015). Global Monitoring Report 2015/16: Development goals in an era of demographic change. Washington, DC: World Bank