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Governments around the world must work out how to cope with an ageing population, a UN report says.

The study by the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and private group HelpAge International has warned that developing economies with lots of young workers may one day find their populations a drag.

It also said countries needed to improve medical provision to extend the years of health that older people can enjoy.

The report, which was released on Monday to coincide with International Day of Older Persons, says that of the seven billion people who live on the planet, 893 million or 12.8 per cent are elderly — older than 60.

In just one decade, the elderly population will swell by 200 million taking it well beyond one billion people, and potentially putting a greater strain on welfare and medical systems around the world, the report said.

The report was accompanied by a symposium on ageing in Japan, the world’s fastest-greying country, where around a quarter of the population is over 65 already, a proportion the government forecasts will rise to 40 per cent within half a century.

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