The percentage of the world’s population aged 65 or older will soar to 16.4 percent in 2050 from 6.9 percent in 2000, according to a white paper submitted and approved at Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting.

The fiscal 1999 white paper on the aging of society, reported by Management and Coordination Agency chief Kunihiro Tsuzuki, also says the graying of society will rapidly accelerate in developing countries, including South Korea and China.

The paper emphasizes Japan’s role as an “advanced country” because of the rapid pace at which its population is aging, and calls on Japan to extend cooperation to other countries grappling with the various problems associated with the aging of society.

As of last Oct. 1, elderly citizens in Japan totaled approximately 21.19 million, accounting for 16.7 percent of the entire population, up 0.5 percentage point from a year earlier, according to the paper.

As of 1995, Sweden had the highest percentage of elderly in the world, with them accounting for 17.6 percent of the population. The paper warns that Japan will surpass Sweden in the beginning of the 21st century.

The white paper points out that Japan will be witnessing the aging of its population on an unprecedented scale.

It suggests that instead of treating the rapidly aging society as a burden, Japan should view this development as a chance to change society, and specifically proposes that people be permitted to work until the age of 65.

12 million Tokyoites

The population of metropolitan Tokyo has topped the 12 million mark, its highest level since statistics were first accumulated in 1956, the metropolitan government said Tuesday.

Metropolitan Tokyo’s population as of May 1 was 12,001,269, up 52,147 from a month before.

Women comprised 6,018,613 of the total, slightly more than men, at 5,982,656.

Tokyo’s population moved above 10 million in 1962, and hit 11 million five years later.

It took another 34 years for the population to increase another million. Tokyo’s population began falling in 1987, but started rising again in 1997.

The increase in recent years has been attributed to a decrease in the number of people moving out of Tokyo. The number of those moving into Tokyo from other prefectures, at least 400,000, has remained constant, according to statistics.