What is a Working-Age Population?

The working-age population is the total population in a region that is considered able and likely to work based on the number of people in a predetermined age range. The working-age population measure is used to give an estimate of the total number of potential workers within an economy.

The Basics of the Working-Age Population

The working-age population is determined based solely on the number of people that fall into a specified age range to give an estimate of the number of capable workers available within a particular economy, country or other specified region. The measure does not differentiate between those who are working and those who currently are unemployed within the range. The working-age population is designed to consider how many people are likely willing and able to work.

The working-age population also does not account for certain outliers, such as those who are working but who fall outside of the predetermined age range. For example, some individuals work beyond the standard retirement age, or some individuals within the age range are incapable of working due to illness or disability.

The working-age population of an economy is always shifting as the demographics of a region change. Large changes have the potential to significantly impact the economy. A region with more people at the extreme older range of its working-age population and few teenagers about to enter the workforce eventually could have trouble filling jobs. On the flipside, a region with many teenagers and young adults entering the working-age population and fewer people in their 50s and 60s could soon see fierce competition for jobs. Additionally, a region with a disproportionate number of people outside the working-age population will rely on a smaller population to generate revenues for the entire region.

Ideally, a local economy should have a steady flow of people both entering and exiting the working-age population each year, as well as a healthy balance between those in the determined age range and those outside of it.

Fast Facts

  • Local employment laws and other considerations may impact the specific parameters of a region's working-age population.
  • The working-age population is different from the working population, which is based on the number of people who are employed regardless of age.
  • People can be part of both the working-age and working populations, part of one or the other or part of neither.

Real World Example of a Working-Age Population

If a region has a working-age population that is declining or otherwise insufficient to meet employment demands in the area, that region will have difficulty attracting new industries or convincing existing industries to expand. A business is less likely to open a new branch or a new factory in an area where it might have difficulty filling jobs. On the other hand, areas with larger or growing working-age populations may be more attractive to companies seeking to expand or relocate.

When Foxconn reached a deal with the state of Wisconsin in 2017 to open a plant in Racine County, it promised it would add 13,000 jobs by as early as 2022. By January 2019, Foxconn had backed away from that number, which had been one of many sources of criticism for the deal. Critics argued that the area simply did not have a large enough working-age population to fill 13,000 jobs in such a short period of time.