By Constantinos Psillides
EUROPE’S population is aging with the number of children up to 14 and young people aged 15-29, on a steady decline, a Eurostat report said yesterday.
Whereas Ireland and Cyprus boasted a younger population share of around 40 per cent, other countries such as Italy or Germany were around the 30 per cent mark. The proportion of children and young people also varied significantly between EU regions.
These proportions are projected to keep decreasing until 2050, to slowly rise later until 2080 without, nevertheless, reaching their actual rate. As a consequence, the median age has risen on average by four months each year over the last two decades in the EU. It stood at 35 years in 1990 and had grown to 42 years in 2013. This was the result of the combination of decreased fertility rates and increased life expectancy.
The combined share of children and young people in the EU’s population fell from a high of 40.6 per cent in 1994, to 36.1 per cent in 2004, and 33.3 per cent by 2014. According to the report, “the rate of change was relatively constant during the period, while the decline in the proportion of children slowed somewhat during 2004-14.”
As the share of children and young people in the EU’s population decreased, the relative importance of the elderly (over 65) grew. In 2014, those aged 65 or older accounted for nearly one in five (18.5 per cent) of the EU population.
The proportion of elderly persons in the total population climbed at a steady pace from 14.5 per cent in 1994, to 16.4 per cent in 2004 to reach a high of 18.5 per cent.
“The pace of demographic ageing quickened somewhat during 2004-14, as the relative share of the elderly rose at a slightly faster pace than in 1994-2004,” the report said.
Eurostat noted that the number of elderly people in the EU exceeded the number of children for the first time in 2004.
The report also noted that due to increased health awareness infant mortality rates have decreased by 90 per cent since 1961 and that young people opt to delay their entry to the job market in favour of higher education, in an attempt to improve employment.
While children in the EU generally grow up in favourable conditions, Eurostat found that three out of every ten were at risk of poverty and social exclusion in 2013.
Out of all the forms of poverty and social inclusion, monetary poverty was the most widespread among children in the EU in 2013. It was also on the increase, especially since the onset of the 2008 global financial and economic crisis.
Regarding the aging population, there were 88.6 million children in the EU-27 in 1994 compared with 68.9 million elderly persons. Nine years later, in 2003, the gap between the number of children and the number of elderly persons had narrowed considerably to 2 million for the EU-28, with 81.5 million children and 79.6 million elderly.
By 2004, there were, for the first time ever, as many elderly people as children in the EU-28 (80.7 million). The growth in the number of elderly people continued (while the number of children remained relatively unchanged) and by 2014 there were 93.9 million people in the EU-28 aged 65 or more, compared with 79.1 million children.
This rapid acceleration in the share of the elderly was accompanied by an increase in the share of persons aged 30–64. People in this age group accounted for 44.9 per cent of the EU-28’s population in 1994 rising to 47.5 per cent by 2004 and increasing further still to reach 48.2 per cent by 2014.
Projections suggest that the share of the working-age population in the total population will start to decrease in the coming years, as more of the baby-boomer generation moves into retirement.