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if the population is getting older, that means that the young dependents are gettign scarce, which means that the total dependency ratio may not change that much (focusing only on the old dependents gives a wrong picture - you can transfer funding from schools to pensions); DoDo provided some numbers on that earlier.
First, I agree that this is also a useful way to look at the issue.  The challenge after all, is that the working population needs to support all of the dependents.  I would think the following questions, accepting your framework, would be helpful to better understand this.
  1.  What is the relative cost of different types of dependents, and let's focus on children versus the 65+.  Studies on healthcare in the US have shown that the majority of healthcare spend occurs in the last few years of life,,,,,and my guess is on a per capital basis, child versus senior, this would be heavily weighted to the senior.  Second, how would government spending on children for education compare to a government pension, on a per capita basis?  I don't know the answer to this, but intuitively I would guess that the pension is far more costly.  What other areas of government spending are influenced by these two dependency groups?
  2.  How is this ratio forecasted to change?  We know the percentage of seniors is going to climb.  We know that the children become the youth, but do new births effectively replenish the children?, so that the end result of the calculation is that more working people support more overall dependents?
I don't have data to answer either of these questions at this point.

To recap, percentage of the entire (not just working-age or adult) population working, Q4/2006:
thriving Anglo-Saxon economy USA: 48.2%
chronically ill Old European economy Germany: 47.2%
roaring New European economy Hungary: 39.0%
Jerome you referred me to some of Dodo's comments which were useful.  However they are addressed at different issues than I'm addressing.  I am more focused on the effect of demographic changes on the economic structure of an individual country.  So the most important issue is to address how statistics, for France for example, have changed in the past and are forecasted to change in the future.  This is the data that will tell us what lies ahead for France (as an example, or the US, or Japan).  
IMO, the main usefulness for comparing to other countries, is to see if there might be areas of opportunity for an individual country to change, if they need to, or so choose.  It's not a "mine is bigger than yours" kind of thing.  So IMHO it's useful to know that the participation rate in France is significantly lower than in the US.  It shows, as you suggested earlier, that there may be an opportunity here to address a negative trend in demographics.  But that doesn't mean the US is in someway better than France.  France has chosen to allow earlier retirement, and potentially a higher quality lifestyle for its citizens.  As I've read on this site many times before, many Europeans think the Americans spend too much of their lives working, and focused on wealth.  Each society makes its own choices--what's wrong with that?

Apologies for the bolding, but I wanted it emphasized.

by wchurchill on Tue Apr 4th, 2006 at 04:31:56 PM EST
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Agreed.

I'm pretty sure that kids are more expensive than pensioners to society (fully dependent, plus schooling costs, no contribution to associations and the like)

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Tue Apr 4th, 2006 at 06:32:34 PM EST
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Our own kid cost us about £100 a week, all things considered. When I think that, by GDP per capita, he should be bringing in £20k a year...

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Apr 4th, 2006 at 06:45:05 PM EST
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but I'm focusing on the cost out of the government coffers for children.  If you know, how much is the government paying for your child, which I would guess would be mainly education and health care.

And how would that compare to the average pensioner?  and I guess his costs would be the pension itself, and then the average spent on healthcare for he/she?

My guess is that the pensioner is much more expensive, particularly because the average pensioner's use of healthcare is, I think, far higher than the average child.  At least that is what all the studies I have seen show.

by wchurchill on Tue Apr 4th, 2006 at 07:02:30 PM EST
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The pensioner has also paid taxes all his life, hasn't he?

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Apr 4th, 2006 at 07:03:47 PM EST
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yes, but it's a timing thing from the government's perspective.  they didn't take the pensioner's money and invest it in stocks/bonds so they had it available to pay to him when he retired.  his taxes partially went toward paying the pensions of pensioners when he was working.  his pension is coming out of current taxes.  it's a pay as you go system.
by wchurchill on Tue Apr 4th, 2006 at 07:31:46 PM EST
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