Written by Vasileios Margaras,
The EU faces a number of demographic challenges such as ageing, a declining birth rate and depopulation in some of its regions. The EU represents an ever-shrinking proportion of the world population, at just 6.9 % today (down from 13.5 % in 1960), and is projected to fall further to just 4.1 % by the end of this century. This is explained by the low fertility rates as the numbers of children being born has fallen from an EU-28 average of around 2.5 children per woman in 1960, to a little under 1.6 today. This is far below the 2.1 births per woman considered necessary to maintain a stable population in the long term. Ageing is also another population trend in the EU. Due to advances in medicine and quality of life, the average life expectancy the EU has increased considerably and now stands at about 81 years on average.
Demography matters. The economy, labour market, healthcare, pensions, regional development, and election results – all are driven by demography. EU Member States have their own strategies and policies in order to counteract demographic decline. The EU also has an auxiliary role when it comes to tackling demographic challenges. Nevertheless, the EU has limited legal powers when it comes to dealing with issues that are related to demography.
The coronavirus epidemic also has an impact on demography. Covid-19 has caused many deaths of elderly people. Certain EU regions have been affected more than others from the spread of the coronavirus. Studies suggest that coronavirus has a considerable impact on EU population trends (such as number of deaths per country, reduction of life expectancy and family planning).
Both the European Parliament and the European Committee of the Regions are preparing their own reports and opinions on issues that are related to demography.
Read the complete briefing on ‘Demography on the European agenda: Strategies for tackling demographic decline‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.
Listen to policy podcast ‘Demography on the European agenda: Strategies for tackling demographic decline’ on YouTube.