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Ageing Europe

Kirjoittanut: Marcos Homar Heinonen - tiimistä SYNTRE.

Esseen tyyppi: Yksilöessee / 2 esseepistettä.
Esseen arvioitu lukuaika on 4 minuuttia.

Europe is among the oldest populations in the world.  Particularly in Europe, the demographic shift towards population stabilisation is about to come to a stop. Rather than an increase in lifespan, the rise in average age is mostly due to a decline in fertility. Currently, the average life expectancy at birth is 73 years, which is 10 years behind Eastern Europe and three years less than in East Asia. The emigration of young people from Europe has also accelerated the ageing of their societies. The ageing of a population is frequently a source of concern, due to the possibility of greater healthcare and pension expenditures, increased reliance, slower development, unsustainable fiscal deficits, and intergenerational conflict. Demographic trends are usually seen as an unavoidable source of rising economic expenses. Individuals and businesses, on the other hand, adjust their behaviour in reaction to changing circumstances, and policy can help or prevent adaptation to demographic fluctuations.

Many nations and areas are anticipated to see fast ageing demographics, with the EU being a major example. By the end of the century, more than 30% of the region’s population is predicted to be 65 years or older.

The old-age dependency ratio graphic highlights the people who are over 65 years and older, and generally retired or in need of supplemental income, compared to the number of people that are working age, meaning people between 15-65 years old. The EU´s dependency ratio was 32, meaning that for every 100 working-age people, there were 32 elderly people. By the year 2100, this number is expected to climb up to 57. As the population ages, taxes may increase to assist fund rising expenditures. Additionally, a decline in a region’s working-age population can have a major influence on the workforce’s overall innovation and experience.


Numbers differ between countries

Looking at the percentage of people aged 65 and older in the overall population, Italy (23%), Greece, Finland, Portugal, Germany, and Bulgaria had the largest amounts (22% each), while Ireland (14%) and Luxembourg (15%) had the lowest. Over the period 2001-2020, a rise in the percentage of people aged 65 and older was seen in all Member States, with the biggest increase in Finland (+7 percentage points) and the lowest in Luxembourg (+1 percentage points).

Between 2001 and 2020, the number of people aged 80 and over grew in every Member State except Sweden, where it stayed stable (5%). In several EU nations, this percentage has more than doubled: Lithuania and Croatia went from 2% in 2001 to 6% in 2020, while Romania, Bulgaria, and Slovenia went from 2% to 5%.


People below 20 years

In terms of youth, Ireland (27%), France (24%), and Sweden (23%) had the largest proportions of those under the age of 20, while Malta, Italy, and Germany had the lowest proportions (18%). During the time frame of 2001-2020, a reduction in the percentage of young people was recorded in every member nation, with the biggest decrease in Malta and Cyprus (-9 %) and the lowest in Sweden (nearly -1 %) and Belgium (-1 %).

Children and adolescents’ percentage of the EU population has declined during the previous two decades. In 2020, 15% of the population was under the age of 14, compared to 17% in 2001, a 2 percentage point decline (pp). In 2020, people aged 15 to 19 made up 5% of the EU population, down from 6% in 2001, representing a 1% decline.

In 2020, the proportion of children under the age of 14 was greatest in Ireland (20%), followed by France and Sweden (18%), and lowest in Italy and Malta (13%). Ireland, France, the Netherlands, Denmark, Cyprus, Sweden, and Belgium had the largest proportion of individuals aged 15 to 19 in 2020, each with over 6%. Malta had the lowest share (4%).


Median age in Europe

Measuring the population’s median age is another method of assessing how the EU population is ageing. Between 2001 and 2020, the average age grew to be 38 years old in 2001, 41 years old in 2010, and 44 years old in 2020. This indicates that throughout this time, the median age in the EU increased by six years.

The greatest median age in 2020 was seen in Italy (47 years), Germany and Portugal (both 46 years), Bulgaria and Greece (both 45), and the lowest in Cyprus, Ireland (both 38) and Luxembourg and Malta (both 40). Romania, Lithuania, Portugal, Italy, Slovakia, Spain, and Greece saw a 7-year or more increase in median age between 2001 and 2020.



To summarise, Europe is undergoing a significant demographic shift characterized by an ageing population, primarily driven by declining fertility rates and the emigration of young people. This trend poses numerous challenges, including increased healthcare and pension expenditures, slower economic development, and intergenerational conflicts. As the population ages, the old-age dependency ratio is expected to rise substantially, with projections indicating that over 30% of the EU’s population will be 65 years or older by the end of the century.

Significant variations exist among European countries regarding the proportion of elderly citizens and youth in their populations. Italy, Greece, Finland, Portugal, Germany, and Bulgaria exhibit the highest percentages of elderly individuals, while Ireland and Luxembourg have the lowest. Conversely, Ireland, France, and Sweden have the highest proportions of youth, with Malta, Italy, and Germany having the lowest.

The median age of the European population has been steadily increasing, indicating an overall ageing trend. Italy, Germany, Portugal, Bulgaria, and Greece have the highest median ages, while Cyprus, Ireland, Luxembourg, and Malta have the lowest.

Addressing the issues created by an ageing population demands effective policies that reduce economic pressure, promote innovation, and maintain fairness between generations. Understanding and reacting to demographic transitions will allow Europe to handle the problems of an ageing society while also pursuing long-term development and prosperity.





Eurostat, An ageing population, read 7.4.2024

The World Bank, Golden Aging: Prospects for Healthy, Active and Prosperous Aging in Europe and Central Asia, read 7.4.2024

World Economic Forum, Here is what the EU population could look like by 2100,2022



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