As of midyear 2016, Zambia has a current population of 16.6 million, annual population growth rate of 3.0%, and 45.4% of Zambia’s population was under age 15.  Between 1990 and 2015, there has been only a slow decline in the Total Fertility Rate, or the average number of children per woman over the course of her lifetime, has declined from 6.5 children in 1990 to 5.5 children per woman in 2015.  In order for Zambia, to realize a demographic dividend, fertility must decline significantly. Combined with the right investments in health, education, and job creation, a decline in fertility could open a window of opportunity for economic growth.

Population pyramids can be used to show change to age structure over time as well as projected changes to age structure in the future. Looking at Zambia’s population pyramids, not much change to age structure is evident until “Zambia 2050”.

Zambia’s population pyramids, from 1970 to 2010, reveal only a slight narrowing at the base of the pyramid. Indeed, between 1970 and 2010, fertility did decline from 7.4 children per woman to 6.0 children per woman. However, Zambia’s population age structure hasn’t changed significantly in the last 40 years, total fertility rates remain high and, in general, each working age adult supports several dependents. “Zambia 2030” shows another slight narrowing of the bottom of the pyramid, based on United Nations projections that assume a decline in total fertility to 4.8 children per woman over her lifespan. “Zambia 2050” shows a more noticeable narrowing of the base of the population pyramid, based on the assumption that fertility will decline further to 3.9 children per woman.  In this 2050 scenario, Zambia would have a larger proportion of the population working-age and, if able to secure employment, able to contribute to economic growth.

Working Towards a Demographic Dividend in Zambia

If Zambia makes substantial investments in reproductive health and family planning, then fertility levels may begin to decline more significantly, and  children will be more likely to achieve better basic levels of health. With additional investments in health and education and economic initiatives to facilitate job creation, Zambia may be able to experience the rapid economic growth known as a demographic dividend. There is some ongoing work on the topic of a demographic dividend in Zambia.


Population Reference Bureau, 2014 World Population Data Sheet, (Washington, DC: Population Reference Bureau, 2014).

United Nations Population Division, World Population Prospects: The 2012 Revision, (New York: United Nations, 2013).

World Bank Group. (2014) World DataBank. Retrieved from

Education statistics were taken from the most recent Demographic and Health Survey for each country.

World Bank Group. (2014) Worldwide Governance Indicators. Retrieved from

World Economic Forum, Global Competitiveness Report 2014-2015, (Geneva: Switzerland, 2014).


Gini index measures the extent to which the distribution of income or consumption expenditure among individuals or households within an economy deviates from a perfectly equal distribution. Thus a Gini index of 0 represents perfect equality, while an index of 100 implies perfect inequality.

Dependency ratio is the ratio of dependents--people younger than 15 or older than 64--to the working-age population--those ages 15 to 64. Although each country’s experience is different, countries that have realized a demographic dividend typically have a dependency ratio of less than 50 dependents for every 100 working-age adults.

Worldwide Governance Indicators are measured on a scale from -2.5 to +2.5. The closer to 2.5 the rating is, the stronger the governance. Government Effectiveness is a composite governance indicator with data from multiple sources. Political stability and Absence of Violence/Terrorism is a composite governance indicator with data from multiple sources More information on methodology available at:

Global Competitiveness Index defines competitiveness as the set of institutions, policies and factors that determine the level of productivity of a country. The level of productivity, in turn, sets the level of prosperity that can be earned by an economy. The different aspects of competitiveness are captured in 12 pillars, ranging from institutional strength to market size.