Europe’s share of the global population is declining and its population is ageing. Unemployment is still high, although rates vary between Member States, as well as within them. Women, young adults and older workers have a higher risk of unemployment, while the number of part-time workers is increasing. Migrants represent 7% of the European population and account for around 7% of total employment. They are usually younger and more likely to face disproportionately heavy housing costs, to live in overcrowded households and to be more materially deprived than nationals, although, within the group, trends diverge between migrants from other EU Member States and third-country migrants. Differences in the distribution of income are observed, although they are still lower than in many other parts of the world. Almost a quarter of Europeans face the risk of poverty or social exclusion, a risk which has a strong geographical dimension and varies among social groups.
If current trends persist, there will be an increasing mismatch, with fewer low-skill jobs on offer to growing numbers of low-skilled workers and fewer qualified candidates to meet increasing demand for high-skilled labour. A shrinking workforce will have to provide for a growing number of retired persons. Migration, which is still substantial, may slow down and possibly shift towards developing countries with strong growth. Finally, the middle class may shrink and more wealth be concentrated in the hands of the richest.
These trends present an opportunity for debate on concepts such as ‘working age’, and the adoption of well-designed comprehensive policies that will strengthen social cohesion and promote solidarity between generations.
The central task of the Members Research Service is to ensure that all Members of the European Parliament are provided with analysis of, and research on, policy issues relating to the European Union, in order to assist them in their parliamentary work.
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