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19th Jun 2021

East Europe will see EU's oldest and fastest-declining population

  • Fewer working people means fewer taxes collected by the state, as pensions are usually tax-exempted (Photo: Garry Knight)

By 2050, Romania, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Poland and the Baltic countries will all see the age of their populations increase by at least eight years, according to latest Eurostat projections.

Together with parts of Spain, Portugal and Italy, eastern Europe will go well above the median age increase of four years projected for most of the regions in EU and EFTA (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland) between 2019 and 2050.

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Amongst EU's fastest-ageing regions one particular example is Romania. Some 36 of its 42 counties have more pensioners than youngsters. In Teleorman county now, for every 100 young people (14-years old or younger), there are 203 senior people (65-years of age or older), instead of 163, a decade ago.

Data provided by Romania's Institute for Statistics shows how rapidly the population has aged over the past few years. Vâlcea county went from having 126 seniors for every hundred young people, to 185 seniors, just 10 years later.

An older population can translate into a shortage of available workforce, as there are fewer active citizens physically able to work.

It also can mean tax increases, as authorities require more money in order to sustain an older population. As the number of pensioners increases and that of younger people decreases, the governmental expenses for pension schemes and healthcare inevitably goes up.

Also fewer working people means fewer taxes collected by the state, as pensions are usually tax-exempted.

Demographic decline?

The fastest-ageing regions in Europe are also the ones that will have a smaller population in 2050, than in 2019.

Eastern Europe is not only ageing fastest - but also has a faster-shrinking population than anywhere else on the continent.

According to Eurostat, all the regions in Latvia and Lithuania will record a negative population growth over the next three decades.

Bulgaria, Estonia, Romania, Slovenia and Slovakia have only one region with a projected positive population change by 2050.

Poland, Estonia, Hungary, Czech Republic and Croatia have a large majority of regions with a projected decrease of population.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, Cyprus, Switzerland, Sweden, Belgium, Germany see either an increase in population or a positive change in median age by 2050.

These are also amongst the countries receiving the greatest number of immigrants, both EU and non-EU.

Germany, which has received the largest number of immigrants in the EU, has eight of the 10 regions in Europe where a younger population is projected for 2050.

On the other hand, eastern Europe has ranked amongst the lowest in receiving immigrants but highest in terms of number of people living in other EU countries.

According to World Health Organization the number of people aged 60 and older will reach 2.1 billion by 2050.

Longer life-expectancy means that not only Europe, but also the Americas and Asia will have to adapt their societies to cope with the demographic change.

It would mean not only dealing with a potential fiscal burden, but also providing a more age-friendly environment with better health and social care, transportation, housing and urban planning, seizing also the opportunity to restructure the economy and include new jobs, goods and services for the elderly.

Author bio

Cristian Gherasim is a freelance journalist contributing to EUobserver, Euronews, EU Reporter, Katoikos, Von Mises Institute, and bne IntelliNews, with a particular focus on European and regional affairs.

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