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4 elderly people around a table playing cards © EU

Report projects that nearly one third of Europeans will be 65 or over by 2060, in a total EU population of 517 million.

The age profile of the EU is expected to change dramatically in the coming decades, according to the EU's latest report on ageing, out today.

While the overall population will be slightly higher in 2060 (517 million, up from 502 million in 2010), it will be much older – 30% of Europeans are projected to be 65 or over. While this is a major achievement, having more people living longer poses significant challenges for European economies and welfare systems.

The other side of the coin is, of course, that there will be fewer people of working age – the share of those aged 15-64 is projected to decline from 67% to 56%. Roughly, this would mean a shift from having 4 working-age people for every pensioner to having just 2.

These demographic changes are expected to have substantial consequences for public finances in the EU. Based on current policies, “strictly”-age-related public expenditure (pensions, health- and long-term care) is projected to rise by 4.1 percentage points of GDP between 2010 and 2060 from 25% to around 29% of GDP. Spending on pensions alone is projected to rise from 11.3% to nearly 13% of GDP by 2060. However, the report shows great variation across countries, largely depending on the progress each has made with pension reforms.

In sum, the report confirms that coping with the challenges posed by an ageing population will require determined policy action.

The extent and speed of ageing depend on future life expectancy, fertility and migration. Life expectancy at birth is projected to increase from 76.7 years in 2010 to 84.6 in 2060 for men and from 82.5 to 89.1 for women. The fertility rate in the EU is projected to climb modestly from 1.59 births per women in 2010 to 1.71 in 2060. Cumulated net migration to the EU is projected to be about 60 million until 2060.

More on the EU’s approach to ageing

European year for active ageing 2012

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