28th Feb 2024

EU to discuss impending demographic crisis

No country in the EU currently has a birth rate sufficient to renew its population, according to a report set to trigger a public debate on the demographic trends in Europe.

The European Commission's paper, to be published on Thursday (17 march), points to the serious consequences of an ageing population on Europe's economies.

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In terms of the workforce, the EU will need to exceed its target employment rate of 70 percent because of the rate that people will drop out the job market. The working age population is expected to fall by almost 21 million in the next three decades.

The paper points out that whilst immigration can help the situation, it is "no substitute for economic reforms", including modernising the pension systems, raising the retirement age and getting more people into jobs.

More babies wanted

Europeans have fewer children than they would actually like, according to the report, which also argues that public authorities should provide better conditions for Europe's citizens in terms of family benefits, child care or parental leave provisions.

Of the five largest member states, only Britain and France are set to grow in population in the coming years, while in some countries, the population will start falling by 2015, with a drop of more than 10-15 percent by 2050.

Across the EU, only Ireland, France and Denmark approach the fertility rate necessary to renew the population.

And the lowest birth rates are found in the new member states, with Cyprus, the Czech Republic and Slovakia at the bottom of the table.

Here are the facts, what can we do?

Social affairs commissioner Vladimir Spidla, presenting the Commission's paper, will pose a number of questions in a bid to provoke debate on what the EU can do in the face of these trends.

However, Brussels currently does not have much power to influence social or pension policies in the member states.

Instead, the countries co-operate in these areas by comparing their systems and introducing their own policies to achieve better results.

According to several experts, national governments should remain in charge of their own measures to counter the demographic crisis.

"I don't see any particular argument for assuming that the EU as such could take any particular role in dealing with these problems", Jørgen Mortensen from the Brussels-based think-tank Center for European Policy Studies told the EUobserver.

"Policies introduced to face the demographic crisis must be accompanied by democratic decisions on taxes and budgetary spending which are very intimately embodied in the competences of member states".

Mr Mortensen argues that the problems of ageing population will need to lead to reforms in social security and healthcare systems which would make them more sustainable.

A boost to immigration will not help in the long-run because its positive effects will be only temporary, according to the expert.

On the other hand, he welcomed Commission suggestions that more EU money should be used for dealing with demographic issues.

"I hope that something will be done for redirecting EU money to get more in line with modern society. The structural funds could then be used also for training to keep people in jobs or similar measures, and not only on hard investment in undeveloped countries".

As EU birth-rates plummet, nativist family politics ascend

At 1.5 children-per-woman, the EU cannot ensure a sufficient population replacement rate — which threatens welfare models and care of an ageing population. So ahead of the European elections, far-right candidates are offering Orbán-style nativist family policies.

EU needs to mobilize senior workforce, says report

Companies operating in the EU should recruit more "mature workers" and retain existing ones as the EU population is set to become older, argues an IBM Business Consulting Services study.


Far-right MEPs least disciplined in following party line

In a fractious parliamentary vote, the level of party discipline often decides the fate of legislation. Party discipline among nationalists and far-right MEPs is the weakest, something potentially significant after the June elections. Data by Novaya Gazeta Europe and EUobserver.

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