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The Axis Powers Are Aging

Are the old “Axis Powers” Germany, Italy and Japan up to something again?

March 31, 2000

Are the old "Axis Powers" Germany, Italy and Japan up to something again?

It appears that Japan, Italy and Germany — in that order — sit atop the list of countries ranked by how rapidly their populations are aging. Recent research by Merrill Lynch suggests that between 20% and 22% of these countries populations will be 65 years of age or older within just ten year’s time.

Those with a keen sense of history will recognize Japan, Germany and Italy as the Axis Powers of World War II. Interestingly, none of those countries’ wartime leaders ever actually made it into the 65-and-over age group.

Hitler was 56 when he committed suicide in 1945. Mussolini was massacred by his not-so-emotionally controlled fellow Italians at the age of 62. And the Japanese leader Tojo, condemned by the Allies’ International Military Tribune for crimes against humanity, was hanged in a Tokyo prison at the age of 63.

Postwar reconstruction and the Marshall Plan helped the former Axis Powers get back on their feet and, eventually, achieve a standard of living equal to or higher than their former enemies.

But while high living standards usually imply a healthy and thriving population that slowly turns gray, the fact that the Japanese and Italians are growing older than the Germans is perhaps an indication that sushi and pasta are more conducive to growing old than pork knuckles.