A New Type of Baby Boomers on the Rise

Edition 20 June 2017, by Benjamin B. Roberts

When demographers and sociologists speak about the growing numbers of Baby Boomers, we are inclined to think about the generation born roughly between 1946 and 1964, after the Second World War. Last month the Dutch National Bureau of Statistic (CBS) announced that Dutch society has another Baby Boom generation to contend with, namely the baby boomers born before the First World War. Since 1997, the number of centennials and those who live beyond 100 years old in the Netherlands has more than dubbled, and in 2020 is expected to grow rapidly. Between 1997 and 2017, the number of eighty-year old increased to 642,000 in the Netherlands.That is an increase of 52% in comparison to the period before. The age group ninety-year olds is 112,000, an increase of 90%. The increase in these age groups is based on two developments.

One, during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century the infant mortality dropped drastically due to medical improvements and social and economic factors. Before that in the early part of the nineteenth century, in some regions on the Netherlands the infant mortality rate was more than 300 deaths for every 1000 live births. A second factor for the current rise in centennials is a steady rise in births from the mid-nineteenth century until the early twentienth century.

Gender inequality

As of April 2017, the Netherlands has 2,160 centennials. The gender inequality in the total number of those making it to one hundred years old is astounding. Today there are only 305 men that are hundred years old and older. Women on the otherhand account for the remaining 1,905 centennials. In general, the life expectancy rate for women worldwide is higher than men. In the ranks of oldest living, women dominate the list. The oldest verified was Jean Calment who died in 1997 at the age of 122, and claimed to have met Vincent van Gogh. Until April 2017, Emma Morano of Italy, who was born in 1899, held the crown of oldest woman in the world. When she died at the age of 117, it was passed to Violet Brown of Jamaica, who was born in 1900. The oldest man on record was Jiroemon Kimura of Japan, who died in 2013 at the age of 116.

Life Expectancy

Currently in the Netherlands, the life expectancy for men is 80 and women 83 years old. For every one million inhabitants, there are 128 people that are 100 years or older. From 2020 the number of centennials will grow faster, as the cohort born after 1920 is larger. During the twentieth century the standard of living and improvements in medical science have made quantum leaps. This will have a great impact on life expectancy in the next twenty years. According to the CBS prognosis, in 2035 there will be 1,201 male and 3,799 female centennials living in the Netherlands, while the general population is only expected to slighly grow to 18 million (the population 2015 was 16.9 million). The prognosis for life expectancy rate in 2035 will be 86 for men and 90 for women.


According to Rutger Bregman, the 2017 TED Talk speaker and bestselling author of Utopia for Realists. How We Can Build the Ideal World (2016), the fact that more people are living longer and will continue to do is a development that started already after the Second World War. While the evening news and most newspapers portray a doom and gloom image of the world, Bregman argues that in the last fifty years more people have access to fresh water, education, medicine, and living longer than ever before. Humans are resourceful beings that when we put our minds to it, can also overcome many obstacles, and a short life span happens to be one of them