Ageing of Europe

Percentage of the population over 65 in Europe

The ageing of Europe, also known as the greying of Europe, is a demographic phenomenon in Europe characterised by a decrease in fertility, a decrease in mortality rate, and a higher life expectancy among European populations.[1]

Overall trends

Giuseppe Carone and Declan Costello of the International Monetary Fund projected in September 2006 that the ratio of retirees to workers in Europe will double to 0.54 by 2050 (from four workers per retiree to two workers per retiree).[1][2] William H. Frey, an analyst for the Brookings Institution think tank, predicts the median age in Europe will increase from 37.7 years old in 2003 to 52.3 years old by 2050 while the median age of Americans will rise to only 35.4 years old.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development estimates 39% of Europeans between the ages of 55 to 65 work. If Frey's prediction for Europe's rising median age is correct, Europe's economic output could radically decrease over the next four decades.[3]

Austria's Social Affairs Minister said in 2006 that, by 2010, the 55- to 64-year-old age bracket in the European Union would be larger than the 15- to 24-year-old bracket. The Economic Policy Committee and the European Commission issued a report in 2006 estimating the working age population in the EU will decrease by 48 million, a 16% reduction, between 2010 and 2050, while the elderly population will increase by 58 million, a gain of 77%.

The U.S. Census Bureau estimates the European Union will experience a 14% decrease in its workforce and a 7% decrease in its consumer populations by 2030.[4]


Main article: Population ageing

The causes of population ageing vary among countries.


There have been mixed feelings over their population's higher life expectancy and declining birth rate ever since the European countries were the first to start the demographic transition between the 18th and 19th century and perhaps even more since they've achieved it. Demographic studies and resultant reports conducted by the European Commission[5] point to the declining birth rate of the population of the native European peoples, which would need to be reversed from its present level of about 1.4 in order to preclude a population decline of the native European peoples by nearly half in each generation, back to a replacement level of 2.1. Some have claimed that in order to achieve this reverse, it is necessary to allow migrants to settle in the Europe in order to prevent labour shortages. It has been argued that immigration leads to ethnic conflicts, such as the 2005 civil unrest in France.[6][7][8]



The International Monetary Fund's (IMF) High Council of Finance's (HCF) Study Committee on Aging (SCA) predicted in 2007 that Belgium's population will increase by 5% by 2050 due to immigration, a higher fertility rate, and longer life expectancy. However, the IMF's study indicates Belgium's elderly population will increase by over 63% to over 25% of the country's overall population.

The Belgian government spent 9.1% of its GDP on pensions and 7.1% on health care expenses in 2005. By 2050 total social spending is expected to increase by 5.8%, assuming there is no change in the age of retirement. Most of this higher social spending comes from pension and health care, rising by 3.9% to 13.0% of GDP and 3.7% to 10.8% of GDP respectively.

The decline in the workforce will partly compensate by lowering unemployment which will in turn lower the cost of childcare.[9] The IMF also predicts that by 2050 the percentage of Belgian population over the age of 65 will increase from 16% to 25%.[10]


France overtook Ireland as the European Union member state with the highest birth-rate in 2007.[11] Projected birth rates indicate that France will have the largest population in the EU by 2050, with 75 million citizens, ahead of Germany.[12] In 2011, France was the only European Union member with a fertility rate at replacement level, with an average rate of 2.08 children per woman while Ireland's fertility rate declined to 2.01 children per woman, slightly below replacement level.[13]

"The total fertility rate (TFR) fell to 1.99 children per woman in 2013 from 2.01 in 2012 and 2.03 in 2010. A rate of 2.1 children per woman is considered necessary to keep the population growing excluding migration."[14]


Population of German territories 1800–2000 and immigrant population from 1975 to 2000

With 82 million inhabitants in January 2010,[15] Germany is the most populous country in the European Union. However, its fertility rate of 1.42 children per woman is one of the lowest in the world,[13] and the federal statistics office estimates the population will shrink to between 65 and 70 million by 2060 (65 million assuming a net migration of +100,000 per year; 70 million assuming a net migration of +200,000 per year).[16] With death rates continuously exceeding low-level birth rates, Germany is one of a few countries for which the demographic transition model would require a fifth stage in order to capture its demographic development.[17] In Germany, the population in some regions, especially the former Communist East, is undergoing a current decline and depopulization. The Bauhaus Dessau Foundation came up with comprehensive plans to tear down numerous buildings and replace them with parks in various cities[7] and the Government of Germany developed a plan to reduce at great expense the width of sewer pipes in various cities. The southern states however have net gain in population and Germany as the economic powerhouse of the EU is attracting immigrants overall.


Main article: Demographics of Italy

Italy will need to raise its retirement age to 77 or admit 2.2 million immigrants annually to maintain its worker to retiree ratio.[18] About 25% of Italian women do not have children while another 25% only have one child.

The region of Liguria in northwestern Italy now has the highest ratio of elderly to youth in the world. Ten percent of Liguria's schools closed in the first decade of the 21st century. The city of Genoa, one of Italy's largest and the capital of Liguria, is declining faster than most European cities with a death rate of 13.7 deaths per 1,000 people, almost twice the birth rate, 7.7 births per 1,000 people, as of 2005.

The Italian government has tried to limit and reverse the trend by offering financial incentives to couples who have children, and by increasing immigration. While fertility has remained stagnant, immigration has minimised the drop in the workforce.[19]


Portugal's population census of 1994 found that 13.1% of the population was above the age of 65. Average life expectancy for Portuguese increased by eight years between the 1980s and the first decade of the 21st century.[20]

In the 1960s life expectancy for men ranked comparatively low in relation to other Western European nations, with 61.2 years for men and 67.5 years for women. As of 2006, the average for both sexes was at 77.7 years. In 1999 demographers predicted the percentage of elderly Portuguese would increase to 16.2% and 17.6% in 2010.[21]

Recent studies in the newspaper "Público" showed that the population may shrink to 7.5 millions (−29% of the current population, −0.7% of average populational growth per year) in 2050, if the fertility rate continues at 1.45 children/woman; taking into account the almost stationary emigration due to the economic crisis. In 2011, Portugal's fertility rate reached 1.51 children per woman, stemming the decline in the nation's fertility rate, although it is still below replacement level.[13]


Main article: Demographics of Spain

In 1970, Spain's TFR, 2.9 children per woman, ranked second in Western Europe after Republic of Ireland's 3.9 children per woman. By 1993 Spanish fertility declined to 1.26 children per woman, the second lowest after Italy.

In 1999, Rocío Fernández-Ballesteros, Juan Díez-Nicolás, and Antonio Ruiz-Torres of Autónoma University in Madrid published a study on Spain's demography, predicting life expectancy of 77.7 for males and 83.8 for females by 2020.[22] Arup Banerji and economist Mukesh Chawla of the World Bank predicted in July 2007 that half of Spain's population will be older than 55 by 2050, giving Spain the highest median age of any nation in the world.

In recent years, Spain's fertility rate has grown from 1.15 children per woman in 2000 to 1.48 in 2011.[13]

United Kingdom

The UK had a fertility rate of 1.94 in 2008 according to World Bank and a rate of 1.92 children per woman in 2010 according to the CIA Factbook.[13][23] The second highest fertility rate of the European powers just below France at 2. It is expected that the United Kingdom's population will rise to 76.8 million by 2050.[24]

The Russian Federation

Population (in millions) of Russia 1950 – January 2015.

The current Russian total fertility rate of 1.7 children per woman.[25] While this represents an increase over previous rates, it remains sub-replacement fertility, below the replacement rate of 2.10 - 2.14.

The population of the Russian Federation declined from its peak of 148,689,000 in 1991, to about 143 million people in 2013, a 4% decline. The World Bank predicted in 2005 that the population was set to decrease to 111 million by 2050, a 22% decline, if trends did not improve.[26] The United Nations similarly warned that the population could decline by one third by mid-century.[27]

In 2006 a national programme was developed with a goal to reverse the decline by 2020. A study published shortly after in 2007 showed that the rate of population decrease had slowed: According to the study, deaths exceeded births by 1.3 times, down from 1.5 times in the previous year, thus, if the net decrease in January–August 2006 was 408,200 people, in the same period during 2007 it was 196,600. The decline continued to slow in 2008 with only half the population loss compared to 2007. The reversal continued at the same pace in 2009 as death rates continued to fall, birth rates continued to rise and net migration stayed steady at about 250,000; in 2009 Russia saw population growth for the first time in 15 years.[28][29]

Year Population growth[30][31]
2000 −586,000
2001 −655,000
2002 −685,000
2003 −796,000
2004 −694,000
2005 −720,000
2006 −554,000
2007 −212,100
2008 −121,400
2009 +23,300
The trend in the number of births and deaths 1992–2010.

The number of Russians living in poverty has halved since the economic crisis following the breakup of the Soviet Union, and the improving economy has had a positive impact on the country's low birth-rate, as it rose from its lowest point of 8.27 births per 1000 people in 1999 to 11.28 per 1000 in 2007.[15][32] Russian Ministry of Economic Development hopes that by 2020 the population will stabilise at 138–139 million, and that by 2025 it will begin to increase again to its present-day status of 142–145, also raising the life expectancy to 75 years.[33]

The two leading causes of death in Russia are heart disease and stroke, accounting for about 52% of all deaths.[34] While cardiovascular disease-related deaths decreased in Japan, North America, and Western Europe between 1965 and 2001, in Russia CVD deaths increased by 25% for women and 65% for men.

The percentage of infertile, married couples rose to 13% in the first decade of the 21st century, partially due to poorly performed abortions. According to expert Murray Feshbach 10–20% of women who have abortions in Russia are made infertile, though according to the 2002 census, only about 6–7% of women have not had children by the end of their reproductive years.[35][36]

Provincial governments have begun offering special incentives to couples who procreate. In 2005 Sergei Morozov, the Governor of Ulyanovsk, made 12 September a provincial holiday, the "Day of Conception," on which couples are given half of the work day off to copulate.

Mothers who give birth on 12 June, Russia's national day, are rewarded with money and expensive consumer items. In the first round of the competition 311 women participated and 46 babies were born on the following 12 June. Over 500 women participated in the second round in 2006 and 78 gave birth. The province's birth rate rose 4.5% between 2006 and 2007.[37]

Large-scale immigration is suggested as a solution to declining workforces in western nations, but according to the BBC, would be unacceptable to most Russians. Organizations like the World Health Organization and the UN have called on the Russian government to take the problem more seriously, stressing that a number of simple measures such as raising the price of alcohol or forcing people to wear seat belts might make a lasting difference.[27] In January 2010, in an effort to combat bootlegged vodka, the government set a minimum price for vodka, more than doubling the cost of the cheapest vodka on the market which is often much more hazardous to consume than legal vodka.[38]

Then-President Vladimir Putin said in a state of the nation address that "no sort of immigration will solve Russia's demographic problem". Yevgeny Krasinyev, head of migration studies at the state-run Institute of Social and Economic Population Studies in Moscow, said Russia should only accept immigrants from the Commonwealth of Independent States, a view echoed by Alexander Belyakov, the head of the Duma's Resources Committee.

Migration in Russia grew by 50.2% in 2007, and an additional 2.7% in 2008, helping stem the population decline. Migrants to Russia primarily come from CIS states and are Russians or Russian speakers.[39] Thousands of migrant workers from Ukraine, Moldova, and the rest of the CIS have also entered Russia illegally, working but avoiding taxes.[40] There are an estimated 10 million illegal immigrants from the ex-Soviet states in Russia.[41]


Central Europe and the Former USSR

The World Bank issued a report on 20 June 2007, "From Red To Grey: 'The Third Transition' of Aging Populations In central Europe and the Former Soviet Union," predicting that between 2007 and 2027 the populations of Georgia and Ukraine will decrease by 17% and 24% respectively.[42] The World Bank estimates the population of 65 or older citizens in Poland and Slovenia will increase from 13% to 21% and 16% to 24% respectively between 2005 and 2025.[26]

See also


Demographic economics:

Further reading


  1. 1 2 Giuseppe Carone and Declan Costello (2006). "Can Europe Afford to Grow Old?". International Monetary Fund Finance and Development magazine. Retrieved 15 December 2007.
  2. "Europe's Aging Population Faces Social Problems Similar to Japan's". Goldsea Asian American Daily. Retrieved 15 December 2007.
  3. Richard Bernstein (29 June 2003). "Aging Europe Finds Its Pension Is Running Out". The New York Times. Retrieved 15 December 2007.
  4. Paul S. Hewitt (2002). "Depopulation and Aging in Europe and Japan: The Hazardous Transition to a Labor Shortage Economy". International Politics and Society. Archived from the original on 27 December 2007. Retrieved 15 December 2007.
  5. Eurostat, Population Projections, European Commission, 2012
  6. Steyn, Mark (2006) America Alone: The End of the World As We Know It Washington D.C., Regnery Publishing. On pages 10 and 54, birth rates among people of European ancestry populations in various nations are indicated that show all populations of European ancestry are reproducing at an average birth rate of only about 1.4, almost half the replacement rate of 2.1, and thus their population has a negative (declining) growth rate that will decline by almost half every generation.
  7. 1 2 "Childless Europe: What Happens to a Continent When it Stops Making Babies?"--New York Times Magazine Sunday, June 29, 2008:
  8. Himmelfarb, Milton, and Victor Baras (eds). 1978. Zero Population Growth-For Whom?: differential fertility and minority group survival. Westport, CT: Praeger; Leuprecht, C. 2011. "'Deter or Engage?:Demographic Determinants of Bargains in Ethno-Nationalist Conflicts'." in Political Demography: identity, conflict and institutions ed. J. A. Goldstone, E. Kaufmann and M. Toft. Boulder, CO: Paradigm Press
  9. Rodolfo Luzio and Jianping Zhou (2007). "March 2007, IMF Country Report No. 07/88, Belgium: Selected Issues" (PDF). International Monetary Fund. Retrieved 15 December 2007.
  10. Rudolf Luzio (2007). "Belgium: Time to Shift to Higher Gear". International Monetary Fund. Retrieved 15 December 2007.
  11. Caroline Wyatt (16 January 2007). "France claims EU fertility crown". BBC News. Retrieved 15 December 2007.
  12. "France has a baby boom". International Herald Tribune. 2005. Retrieved 15 December 2007.
  13. 1 2 3 4 5 "The World Factbook 2009". Washington DC: Central Intelligence Agency. 2009. Archived from the original on 28 October 2009. Retrieved 7 December 2009.
  14. Jan 14, 2014 (Reuters) "French birth rate falls below two children per woman"
  15. 1 2 Russia's population down 0.17% in 2007 to 142 mln RIA Novosti Retrieved on 15 March 2008
  16. Destatis. "Im Jahr 2060 wird jeder Siebente 80 Jahre oder älter sein" (in German). Archived from the original on 7 January 2010. Retrieved 31 January 2010.
  17. "Demographic Transition Model". Barcelona Field Studies Centre. 27 September 2009. Archived from the original on 27 May 2010. Retrieved 23 May 2010.
  18. Unknown (2000). "Aging Populations in Europe, Japan, Korea, Require Action". India Times. Archived from the original on 1 December 2007. Retrieved 15 December 2007.
  19. "Empty playgrounds in an aging Italy". International Herald Tribune. 2006. Archived from the original on 30 October 2007. Retrieved 15 December 2007.
  20. "Esperança de vida à nascença por sexo". Pordata. Retrieved 23 February 2011.
  21. Schroots, J. J. F.; Rocío Fernández Ballesteros; Georg Rudinger (1999). Aging in Europe. pp. 101–102.
  22. Schroots, J. J. F.; Rocío Fernández Ballesteros; Georg Rudinger (1999). Aging in Europe. pp. 107–108.
  23. "World Bank, World Development Indicators - Google Public Data Explorer". Retrieved 2013-03-25.
  24. Archived 11 May 2011 at the Wayback Machine.
  25. Russian Birth Rate above Regional Average, Euromonitor International, retrieved on 26 March 2013.
  26. 1 2 "The Demographic Transition in Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union" (PDF). World Bank. Retrieved 22 December 2007.
  27. 1 2 Steven Eke (23 June 2005). "Russia's population falling fast". BBC News. Retrieved 22 December 2007.
  28. Russia sees first population increase in 15 years BBC Retrieved on 18 February 2009
  29. 2009 demographic figures Rosstat Retrieved on 18 February 2010
  30. Historic population growth of Russia Retrieved on 26 May 2009
  31. Population of Russia 1989–2008 Retrieved on 26 May 2009
  32. Российская газета. Где в России жить хорошо – Основные показатели социально-экономического положения субъектов Российской Федерации в I полугодии 2007 года. (Rossiyskaya Gazeta, Rates of the socio-economic conditions of the regions of Russian Federation in the first half of 2007), 19 September 2007
  33. Newsru, Население России за пять лет уменьшилось на 3,2 миллиона до 142 миллионов человек, 19.Oct.2007 Retrieved same date
  34. Mortality Country Fact Sheet 2006 WHO Archived 13 March 2008 at the Wayback Machine.
  35. Nicholas Eberstadt (2004). "The Emptying of Russia". The Washington Post. Retrieved 22 December 2007.
  36. World Bank report on Russia's demography World Bank Retrieved on 3 May 2008
  37. Masha Stromova (12 September 2007). "Have Sex, Make A Baby, Win A Car?". CBS News. Archived from the original on 30 December 2007. Retrieved 22 December 2007.
  38. Russia raises price of vodka to combat alcoholism The Guardian Retrieved on 8 March 2010
  39. Демография Archived 25 February 2008 at the Wayback Machine.
  40. Fred Weir (2002). "Russia's population decline spells trouble". The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 22 December 2007.
  41. "Russia cracking down on illegal migrants". International Herald Tribune. 15 January 2007.
  42. "East: 'If Countries Don't Act Now, It's Going To Be Too Late'". RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty. 2007. Retrieved 22 December 2007.

External links

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