Being young in Europe today - demographic trends

Data extracted in March 2015. Most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Main tables and Database

This article is part of a set of statistical articles based on the Eurostat flagship publication 'Being young in Europe today' (which can be consulted in order to get a layouted pdf version). It presents a range of demographic statistics for children (defined here as those aged 0–14 years) and young people (defined here as those aged 15–29 years) across the European Union (EU). As Europe continues to age, the historical shape of its age pyramid has moved away from a triangle (associated with an expanding population) and has been reshaped, with a smaller proportion of children and young people and an increased share of elderly persons.

This analysis begins with a set of basic statistics that portray the existing demographic structure of the EU-28, focusing on the relative importance of children and young people. It continues with some international comparisons, which highlight the relatively small share of the EU’s population that is accounted for by children and young people when compared with many other countries. It then moves on to examine a range of demographic phenomena that may be linked to the falling share of children and young people in the EU’s population, such as: the rising median age of the population; the low level of fertility rates; the increased longevity of the EU’s population; and the potential impact that these drivers of demographic change could have on the EU’s population in the coming decades.

EUROPE’S DEMOGRAPHIC CHALLENGE

Numerous studies have concluded that the EU’s population is likely to shrink in the coming decades as a result of a prolonged period of relatively low fertility rates (assuming no change in migratory patterns). This falling number of children and young people in the total population could result in labour market shortages in specific countries / regions and in particular occupations. By contrast, life expectancy (for both men and women) in the EU continues to rise and the baby-boom generation [1] is in a transition into retirement. As such, the number and share of the elderly in the total population continues to increase and this will probably drive demand for a range of specific services catered to the needs of the (very) old. These two changes at either end of the age spectrum will affect the structure of the EU’s population and could lead to a number of challenges, for example:

  • how to propagate sustainable economic growth during a period when the number and proportion of working-age people will decline; a lower number of working-age people could lead to a reduction in revenue-raising powers, for example, from income tax and social security contributions;
  • how to safeguard social welfare models, such as pensions and healthcare, if there are a growing number of (very) old people who are making increasing demands on these systems.

Main statistical findings

Past, present and future demographic developments of children and young people

Table 1: Children and young people in the population, EU-28, 1994, 2004 and 2014 (1) - Source: Eurostat (demo_pjangroup)
Figure 1: Population structure by five-year age groups and sex, EU-28, 1994 and 2014 (1)
(% share of total population) - Source: Eurostat (demo_pjangroup)
Table 2: Share of children (0–14 years) in the population, 2000 and 2010 (1) - Source: Eurostat (demo_pjangroup) and the United Nations, 'World Population Prospects: The 2012 Revision'
Table 3: Share of young people (15–29 years) in the population, 2000 and 2010 (1) - Source: Eurostat (demo_pjangroup) and the United Nations, 'World Population Prospects: The 2012 Revision'
Figure 2: Share of children and young people in the population, 1 January 2014
(%) - Source: Eurostat (demo_pjangroup) and the United Nations, 'World Population Prospects: The 2012 Revision'
Table 4: Highest and lowest shares of children and young people (0–29 years) in the total population, by NUTS 2 regions, 1 January 2014 (1)
(%) - Source: Eurostat (demo_r_pjangroup)
Map 1: Share of children (0–14 years) in the population, by NUTS 2 regions, 2014 (1)
(%) - Source: Eurostat (demo_r_pjangroup)
Map 2: Share of young people (15–29 years) in the population, by NUTS 2 regions, 2014 (1)
(%) - Source: Eurostat (demo_r_pjangroup)
Figure 3: Current and projected shares of children and young people in the total population, EU-28, 2013–80 (1)
(%) - Source: Eurostat (proj_13npms)
Figure 4: Median age of the population, EU-28, 1990–2013 (1)
(years) - Source: Eurostat (demo_pjanind)
Figure 5: Median age of the population, 1990 and 2013
(years) - Source: Eurostat (demo_pjanind)
Figure 6: Life expectancy at birth, EU-28, 2002–12
(years) - Source: Eurostat (demo_mlexpec)
Figure 7: Fertility rates, EU-28, 2000–12 (1)
(number of live births per woman) - Source: Eurostat (demo_find)
Figure 8: Fertility rates, 2002 and 2012
(number of live births per woman) - Source: Eurostat (demo_find)
Figure 9: Fertility rates by age of mother, 2012
(number of live births per woman) - Source: Eurostat (demo_frate)
Figure 10: Mean age of women at birth of first child, 1995, 2000, 2005 and 2012
(years) - Source: Eurostat (demo_find)
Figure 11: Mean age of women at birth of first child and total fertility rate, 2012 - Source: Eurostat (demo_find)
Figure 12: Development and projections of young and old-age dependency ratios, EU-28, 1990–2080 (1)
(%) - Source: Eurostat (demo_pjanind) and (proj_13ndbims)

Just under 170 million children and young people in the EU-28 in 2014

Figures for 2014 suggest that there were just under 507 million inhabitants in the EU-28. Of these, 79 million were children (aged 0–14), which was 10 million fewer than the number of young people (aged 15–29). As such, one third of the EU-28’s population - almost 170 million inhabitants - were under the age of 30 in 2014, with children accounting for a 15.6 % share of the EU-28’s population and young people for a slightly higher share, 17.7 %.

The combined share of children and young people (those aged 0–29) in the EU’s population fell from a high of 40.6 % in 1994, through 36.1 % in 2004, to 33.3 % by 2014 (see Table 1). The rate of change in the number of young people was relatively constant over the period under consideration, while the decline in the proportion of children slowed somewhat during the period 2004–14.

As the share of children and young people in the EU’s population decreased, the relative importance of the elderly (= 65 years old) grew. In 2014, those aged 65 or more accounted for almost one in five (18.5 %) of the EU-28’s population. The proportion of elderly persons in the total population climbed at a steady pace from 14.5 % of the population in 1994, through 16.4 % in 2004 to reach its relative high of 18.5 % at the end of the time series. The pace of demographic ageing quickened somewhat during the period 2004–14, as the relative share of the elderly rose at a slightly faster pace than it had done over the period 1994–2004.

The number of elderly people in the EU exceeded the number of children for the first time in 2004

To give some idea of the speed of demographic change, 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 in the intervening years (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 % of the EU-28’s population in 1994 rising to 47.5 % by 2004 and increasing further still to reach 48.2 % by 2014; these increasing shares may be attributed to the impact of ageing among the baby-boomer generation, as those born in the 1960s accounted for a growing share of the EU’s working-age population. Population 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.

Reshaping the population pyramid: a decreasing share of children and young people

Figure 1 presents the EU’s age pyramid (a graphical representation of its population structure), with information shown for the proportion of men and women within each five-year age group as a share of the total population. The two pyramids, for 1994 and 2014, provide evidence of the ageing of the EU’s population: there is a clear bump present in both pyramids, which can be associated with the tail end of the baby-boomer generation. In 1994, the highest share of the population was accounted for by those aged 25–29 — in other words, children born towards the end of the 1960s. By 2014, this same group had aged an additional 20 years and moved into the age group of persons aged 45–49 years old and again accounted for the highest share of the population among any of the five-year age groups.

In 2014, the three five-year age groups that together cover the aggregate for children (those aged less than 5, 5–9 years and 10–14 years) accounted for the smallest shares of the EU population in terms of five-year age groups, apart from the elderly (see below for more details). Among these young people, those aged 15–19 were the least represented; they corresponded to a smaller share of the EU population than each of the two other age categories covering 15–29 years (those aged 20–24 and 25–29).

Figure 1 shows a reduction in the relative share of children and young people in the total EU population between 1994 and 2014. Nevertheless, the reduction is more important for the two five-year age groups covering 20–29 years than for the youngest age groups. This may be linked to the postponement of childbirth, thereby causing a decrease in the number of births which has subsequently stabilised.

The other notable difference between the pyramids for 1994 and 2014 is the increasing share of the elderly in the total population. This was particularly true among elderly women (defined here as those aged 85 or above), their longevity increasing at a rapid pace over the last two decades.

Boys outnumbered girls in the EU

There were more male (than female) children in the EU-28 in 2014; boys accounted for 51.3 % of the population aged 0–14. This is consistent with the time series for births which shows higher numbers of boys being born than girls. There were also more young men (aged 15–29) than there were young women, although the difference across the EU-28 narrowed to 50.9 %:49.1 % in 2014.

The share of children and young people in the EU’s population was considerably lower than the world average

Children and young people (0–29 years) accounted for just over one third (34.4 %) of the EU-28 population in 2010, while their share in the world population was considerably higher, at 52.4 % — see Tables 2 and 3. Children accounted for 15.7 % of the EU-28’s population in 2010, which was nearly 11 percentage points lower than the world average, while young people represented 18.7 % of the EU-28’s population, which was slightly closer to the world average, 7 percentage points lower. The relative importance of children and young people across the world was influenced, to some degree, by relatively high birth rates in Africa and some parts of Asia.

The relative weight of children and young people in the EU-28’s population was considerably lower than in many of the industrialised and rapidly emerging economies presented in Tables 2 and 3. For example, children accounted for almost one third (30.2 %) of the total population in India, a quarter (25.5 %) of the population in Brazil and one fifth (19.8%) of the population in the United States. There were, however, a couple of exceptions: as the relative share of children in the Japanese population in both 2000 and 2010 was lower than the EU-28 average, while the same was true in Russia in 2010.

Signs that the fall in birth and fertility rates is spreading to other developed and emerging economies

Worldwide, there was a general decline in the relative share of children in the global population between 2000 and 2010. Their share decreased by 3.5 percentage points, which was a much larger decline than in the EU-28 (-1.6 percentage points). The largest decrease (among those countries shown in Table 2) was observed in China, where the share of children in the total population fell by 7.5 percentage points during the period under consideration. With the exceptions of Japan and the United States, the decline in the share of children in the total population was more substantial for each of the countries shown in Table 2 than for the EU-28.

The global share of young people in the population declined by a relatively small amount (down by 0.2 percentage points) over the period 2000–10. The share of young people remained relatively stable in the majority of the countries shown in Table 3, as Japan and Brazil were the only countries where the share of young people fell faster than it did in the EU-28. Japan was the only country to record a share of young people in its total population (15.9 %) that was lower than the EU-28 average (18.7 %) in 2010.

The information presented in Tables 2 and 3 confirms that the pattern of decreasing birth and fertility rates observed across the EU-28 and Japan appears to be in the process of establishing itself across a range of other industrialised and emerging economies. As this is often a relatively new phenomena, the most rapid changes in population structure are apparent among populations of children, although in the coming years the lower number of children will gradually impact upon the number of young people too, as the effect of lower birth and fertility rates moves up through each national population pyramid.

Ireland and Cyprus: the most youthful Member States

Ireland and Cyprus stood out as the most youthful nations in the EU-28, as the share of their population aged less than 30 accounted for around 4 out of every 10 people in 2014 (Ireland 40.1 % and Cyprus 39.0 %). At the other end of the spectrum, the share of children and young people was lowest in Italy (29.2 %) and Germany (30.1 %).

Children accounted for more than one in five (22.0 %) of the Irish population in 2014 — the highest share — while France (18.6 %) and the United Kingdom (17.6 %) recorded the second and third highest shares. By contrast, children accounted for 13.1 % of the German population in 2014, while they also represented a relatively small share of the population in Bulgaria (13.7 %) and Italy (13.9 %).

Cyprus (22.7 %) and Slovakia (20.4 %) recorded the highest proportions of young people in their respective populations in 2014, while young people also represented at least one in five of the total number of inhabitants in Poland and Malta (both 20.2 %). Each of these four countries was characterised by children accounting for a much lower share of the total population than young people, suggesting that the birth rates and fertility rates of these countries had fallen over the last 15 years. At the other end of the scale, the share of young people in the total population of Italy fell to 15.3 %, while there were also comparatively low shares in two other southern EU Member States, namely Spain (15.6 %) and Portugal (16.3 %).

Among the EU Member States, Ireland had the highest share of children in its population in 2013.
© Fotolia

Children and young people accounted for a low share of the population in many eastern German and northern Italian and Spanish regions

While there was a considerable degree of variation in the share of children and young people between the EU Member States, the differences were even more pronounced across Europe’s regions. Among NUTS level 2 regions, Guyane (a French overseas department) was the only region in the EU where children and young people represented more than half of the population in 2014, some 56.8 % of the total number of inhabitants being aged less than 30. The second highest share was also recorded in a French overseas department, namely, Réunion (44.8 %), while the Spanish Ciudad Autónoma de Melilla (44.5 %) and two urban conurbations in the United Kingdom — Inner London (43.4 %) and the West Midlands (41.8 %) — made up the top five in the ranking (see Table 4). More generally, those regions which featured near the top of the ranking with the highest shares of children and young people in their respective populations were often from France, Ireland, the United Kingdom or Belgium.

By contrast, those regions with the lowest shares of children and young people in their total number of inhabitants included the northern Spanish Principado de Asturias (23.6 %) and the northern Italian region of Liguria and (24.2 %), as well as the eastern German regions of Chemnitz, Sachsen-Anhalt and Brandenburg (each within the range of 24.7 % to 25.6 %). These regions were quite representative of a more general pattern, as many of the regions at the bottom end of the ranking were from Germany, Spain and Italy, with children and young people often accounting for less than 27 % of the total population.

Outside of overseas departments and autonomous cities, the two Irish regions had the highest shares of children in their respective populations

Map 1 presents the relative share of children in the regional populations of NUTS level 2 regions in 2014. Excluding the French overseas departments of Guyane (33.8 %) and Réunion (23.9 %) and the Spanish Ciudad Autónoma de Melilla (23.6 %), the highest shares were recorded for the two Irish regions of Border, Midland and Western (22.9 %) and Southern and Eastern (21.7 %). There were four other regions in the EU-28 where children represented more than one fifth of the regional population in 2014: Ciudad Autónoma de Ceuta (the second autonomous Spanish city), Guadeloupe (another French overseas region), the Dutch region of Flevoland and the mainland French region of Nord-Pas-de-Calais.

At the other end of the range, the Principado de Asturias (Spain) recorded the lowest share of children (11.0 %). In line with the general patterns observed at a national level, some of the regions with the lowest shares of children were located in Germany: for example, Sachsen-Anhalt (11.3 %), Saarland (11.4 %), Chemnitz (11.6 %) and Thüringen (11.7 %).

Inner London had the highest share of young people

Map 2 presents a similar set of information to the previous map, but this time based on the share of young people in the regional populations (again for NUTS level 2 regions). Inner London had the highest share of young people (25.7 %) in 2014, which can probably be explained not only with its above average birth rate, but also because of the appeal of this city to younger generations; the presence of numerous higher education institutions may also have an impact on the proportion of young adults living in this region. The next highest shares were recorded in the French overseas region of Guyane (23.0 %) and in Cyprus (22.7 %). They were followed by several Polish regions and several other metropolitan regions from the United Kingdom, as well as the Dutch region of Groningen and the Slovakian regions of Východné Slovensko for which this share was more than 21 %.

By contrast, the share of young people was particularly low in the northern half of Italy, northern Spain and eastern Germany, the lowest shares were recorded in the Italian regions of Liguria and the Spanish Principado de Asturias (both 12.6 %).

The proportion of children and particularly young people in the total population of the EU-28 is projected to slightly fall in the coming decades

According to the main scenario of EUROPOP2013, which corresponds to the latest Eurostat population projections round, by 2080 the number of children and young people in the EU-28 is likely to be 162.2 million, which is 7.8 million less than in 2013. Although the EU-28 total population is projected to keep growing through to 2050, reaching 525.5 million, the share of children and young people in the total projected population will decrease from 33.5 % in 2013 to 30.8 % in 2050. Then, from 2050 to 2080, the share of children and young people is projected to slowly and continuously increase (reaching 31.2 % in 2080) although it will likely remain below its current level (33.5 % in 2013).

EUROSTAT’S POPULATION PROJECTIONS

Population projections give a picture of what the future population may look like based on a set of assumptions for fertility and mortality rates as well as for migration.

EUROPOP2013 is a set of population projections produced by Eurostat based on the cohort-component method. These are essentially ‘what-if’ scenarios, providing information about the likely future size and structure of the population at national level, by sex and single-years of age. EUROPOP 2013 covered the time period from 1 January 2013 to 1 January 2080.

The projections presented in this article relate to what is referred to as the ‘main scenario’, based on a set of assumptions relating to future fertility, mortality and net international migration. The main scenario is one of five main variants (different what-if scenarios) presented by Eurostat. The other scenarios concern variants for no migration, higher life expectancy, reduced migration and lower fertility.

Figure 3 shows the share of children and young people in the projected population of the EU-28 up to and including the year 2080. The share of children is projected to decrease from 15.6 % (or 79.2 million children) in 2013 to a relative low of 14.6 % (or 76.3 million children) by 2035, followed by a slight increase up to 15.0 % (or 78.6 million children) in 2050, after which their share is projected to remain relatively constant until the year 2080.

The projected development of the share of young people in the EU-28’s total population shows an initial decline followed by a period of relative stability until 2080. From 90.8 million young people in 2013, representing 17.9 % of the total EU-28 population, the population aged 15–29 is projected to decrease to 84.4 million, or 16.3 % of the total population, by 2025. A slight increase is projected for the following decade, 2025–35, as the share of young people is predicted to reach 16.6 % (or 86.3 million young people) by 2035, followed by a slight decrease, to around 16 % of the population (or 83.5 million young people) by 2080.

Changes in numbers of children and young people: causes and consequences

Median age — the greying of the EU’s population

Ageing is one of the EU’s main demographic challenges which may result in considerable political, economic, budgetary and social challenges. The median age of the EU-28 has risen in recent years as a direct consequence of two principal factors: a reduction in the share of children and young people in the total population (resulting from lower fertility rates and women giving birth to fewer children at a later age in life) and a gradual increase in life expectancy that has led to increased longevity.

HOW TO DETERMINE IF A POPULATION IS AGEING?

The ageing, or greying, of the EU’s population can be measured by an analysis of the median age of its population. The median age of the population is the age that divides a population into two numerically equal groups; that is, with half the people younger and half older. In other words, if all of the people in the EU were ranked according to their age, the person standing in the middle of the line dividing those into two equal groups would have the median age.

The median age of the EU population rose, on average, by almost four months each year over the last three decades

The median age of the EU-28 population was 41.9 years in 2013. It rose at a relatively rapid and consistent pace from 35.2 years in 1990 (for the EU-27), as shown in Figure 4.

At a national level, the median age of the EU Member States in 2013 was lowest in the relatively youthful societies of Ireland (35.5 years) and Cyprus (36.5 years), while Slovakia, Poland, Luxembourg and the United Kingdom were the only other EU Member States to record median ages of less than 40 years. By contrast, there was a more rapid greying of society in Germany, where the median age was 45.3 years, while Italy (44.4 years) was the only other EU Member State to record a median age that was over 43 years.

The median age of the population within each EU Member State rose between 1990 and 2013. This ageing of the population was particularly stark in Lithuania, where the median age rose by almost 10 years over the period under consideration, while there were increases of more than 8 years in Portugal and Slovenia. By contrast, the median age of the population rose in Sweden and Luxembourg at a relatively slow pace, up by 2.5 and 2.8 years respectively between 1990 and 2013 - see Figure 5.

Life expectancy — people are living longer

As noted above, increasing longevity is one of the principal reasons why there has been an increase in the median age of the EU’s population. Between 2002 and 2012 there was an increase of more than 2.5 years in life expectancy at birth (see Figure 6). The life expectancy of men increased at a somewhat faster pace than that of women, rising by 3.0 years compared with an increase of 2.2 years for women. These increases in life expectancy may be attributed to a range of factors, including medical progress and different types of health and community care, a general increase in health education, or people making different lifestyle choices (for example, stopping smoking, reducing alcohol intake, paying more attention to their diet, or exercising more) [2]. There has also been a gradual change in workplace occupations, whereby fewer people (mainly men) are employed in labour-intensive activities, for example, agriculture, mining or heavy manufacturing industries.

Life expectancy steadily rising in the EU

The EU’s future population size and age structures will, to some degree, be determined by the pace at which life expectancy continues to increase. While higher levels of life expectancy and increased longevity result in a higher median age across the population, at the other end of the age spectrum the fertility rate has the potential to provide a counterbalance to the on-going ageing process — this is analysed in more detail in the next section.

Fertility rates — less children are being born

MEASURING FERTILITY

The total fertility rate represents the number of children that would be born to a woman if she were to live to the end of her childbearing years and bear children in accordance with the current age-specific fertility rates.

Age-specific fertility rates are computed as the ratio of the number of live births from women of a given age to the number of women of the same age exposed to childbearing (usually estimated as the average number of women in that year).

The replacement level represents the average number of live births per woman that would keep the population level stable and its age structure unchanged (in the absence of migratory flows or any change in life expectancy). It is generally agreed that the replacement level is about 2.1 children per woman in developed world economies.

Figure 7 shows that while fertility rates in the EU-28 rose at a modest pace during the period 2000–08, they remained well below the replacement level. Having peaked in 2008 at an average of 1.61 children, the fertility rate subsequently fell by a small margin, perhaps reflecting economic hardships and a decline in real incomes in the period following the global financial and economic crisis. In 2012, the EU-28 fertility rate stood at 1.58 children.

The general increase of the fertility rate during the period 2000–08 may, in part, be attributed to a catching-up process, following a postponement of the decision to have children [3]; when women postpone giving birth until later in life, the total fertility rate first decreases and then subsequently recovers.

Ireland and France: the highest fertility rates

Among EU Member States, the highest fertility rates in 2012 were recorded in Ireland and France, both recording rates of 2.01 live births per woman. Figure 8 shows they were followed by the United Kingdom (1.92 live births per woman) and Sweden (1.91 live births per woman). The lowest fertility rates were registered in Portugal (1.28 live births per woman), Poland (1.30 live births per woman) and Spain (1.32 live births per woman).

Looking at women under 30 years old, their fertility rate in the EU-28 was 0.76 live births per woman in 2012, which is slightly less than half of the EU-28 total fertility rate that year (1.58 live births). This means that on average in the EU just under half (48 %) of all babies were born to mothers who were below the age of 30.

Among EU Member States, Romania, France and Bulgaria recorded the highest fertility rates for women aged less than 30 (with 1.00 live birth or more). By contrast, Portugal, Greece, Italy and Spain recorded the lowest fertility rates for women aged less than 30 (with 0.60 live births or less).

In Bulgaria and Romania, the fertility rate of women aged less than 30 corresponded to more than two thirds (67 %) of the national fertility rate in 2012. By contrast, the fertility rate of women aged less than 30 represented less than 40 % of the national fertility rate in Spain, Ireland and Italy, meaning that less than 40 % of babies on average in these countries were born to mothers aged less than 30.

Among the EU Member States in 2012, Portugal, Greece, Italy and Spain recorded the lowest fertility rates for women aged less than 30.
© Fotolia

The mean age of women giving birth to their first child was over 30 years in Spain and the United Kingdom

The mean age of women at the birth of their first child increased across all EU Member States in the last three decades. This can be explained, in particular, by a higher proportion of women continuing their studies into higher education, a larger proportion of women entering and remaining in the workforce, as well as changes in traditional family units (less people getting married, getting married later, etc.) [4].

Figure 10 provides information on the mean age of women at first childbirth. There were only two EU Member States where the mean age of women at the birth of their first child was above 30 years in 2012: the United Kingdom (30.8 years) and Spain (30.3 years). By contrast, the lowest mean ages for women at the birth of their first child were recorded in Bulgaria (25.6 years) and Romania (25.7 years).

The average age of women when giving birth to their first child rose in each of the EU Member States (for which data are available) on the basis of a comparison between 1995 and 2012. This pattern was particularly pronounced in central and eastern regions of the EU, the largest increases being recorded in the Czech Republic (4.6 years higher), followed by Hungary (3.9 years). By contrast, the pace of change was generally much slower in other parts of the EU, especially in those Member States where the average age of giving birth to a first child was already relatively high. The smallest increase was recorded in Belgium, where the mean age of women at the birth of their first child rose by 0.7 years between 1995 and 2010, with a slightly larger increase (0.9 years) recorded in the Netherlands between 1995 and 2012.

Highest fertility rates among several EU Member States where women gave birth to their first child at a relatively late age

There appears to be little evidence to support the view that higher fertility rates may be expected in those EU Member States where the mean age of women at the birth of their first child was low. Rather, while women in central and eastern EU Member States were more likely to give birth at a relatively young age, they were also more likely to have fewer children, as their total fertility rates were below the EU-28 average.

By contrast, Figure 11 shows that the only EU Member States that had fertility rates that were close to the replacement level were also characterised by women, on average, giving birth to their first child at a later age (above the EU average). This group — in the top right quadrant of Figure 11 — was composed of EU Member States from northern and western Europe.

The bottom right quadrant of Figure 11 contains most of the southern EU Member States, as well as Germany, Austria and Luxembourg. These countries were characterised by women giving birth to their first child at a relatively late age and by relatively low fertility rates.

Dependency ratios — an increasing responsibility for those of working age

Age dependency ratios may be used to analyse the potential support that may be provided to children and to the elderly by those of working age. In 2013, the EU-28 young-age dependency ratio was 23.6 %, while the old-age dependency ratio was 27.5 %. This difference of almost 4 percentage points is likely to increase in the coming years, as the proportion of elderly people in the EU’s population rises, while the share of children will continue to fall before stabilising (as presented above).

AGE DEPENDENCY RATIOS

The young-age dependency ratio is the ratio of persons aged 0–14 years divided by the number of persons conventionally considered to be of working age (15–64 years).

The old-age dependency ratio is the ratio of the number of persons conventionally considered to be economically inactive due to retirement (those aged 65 or over) divided by the number of persons conventionally considered to be of working age (15–64 years).

The size of the working-age population in the EU-28 will start to fall once the baby-boom generation have completed their move into retirement. As the working-age population declines and the number of children is likely to remain relatively unchanged, population projections suggest that the young-age dependency ratio will start to rise, while the number of elderly people (especially those aged 85 and above) will increase at a rapid pace in the coming decades, such that they will account for a considerably larger share of the total population.

Figure 12 shows the development of age dependency ratios and their projected path from 1990 until 2080, and provides a clear picture of the challenges that lie ahead concerning how the projected working-age population will be able to support the young and the elderly.

Conclusions: What consequences from a declining share of children and young people?

Adding up the share of young and old-age people who will depend on the working-age population, today’s generation of children are facing an increased burden in relation to supporting the remainder of the population as they move into work. For example, maintaining welfare systems, pension schemes and public healthcare systems is likely to pose a challenge, while the overall demand for such services is likely to increase, due to the rising number of elderly people. As such, policymakers are concerned about how to ensure the long-term sustainability of public finances in the face of a declining share of economically active people.

Data sources and availability

The data presented in this article are principally drawn from Eurostat’s population statistics, and more specifically from a range of demography indicators at a national and regional level (providing information on the structure of populations), fertility measures, and population projections (EUROPOP2013).

In this article, children are considered as those persons aged 0–14 years. Although there is no clear-cut definition of ‘youth’ or ‘young people’ since these terms are often used to describe the transitory phase between childhood and adult life, the EU’s youth strategy has confirmed that for statistical purposes the most useful definition is to cover those aged 15–29. Demographic statistics have a wealth of information for this age breakdown, while they can also provide statistics at a more detailed level, for example, by five-year age groups (such as less than 5 years, 5–9 years and 10–14 years).

Eurostat carries out annual collections of demography data from national statistical authorities, including statistics concerning population and vital events, the latter including for example live births, deaths, marriages and divorces. These data are used to compute and disseminate demographic indicators at a country and regional level. Population data refer to the situation on 1 January of the reference year and are generally based on the usual resident population.

Context

European Demography Forum

The EU frequently reviews and adapts its policies in relation to demographic challenges, such as the ageing population, relatively low birth and fertility rates, atypical family structures and migration.

The European Demography Forum (held every two years since 2006) gives policymakers, stakeholders and experts from all over Europe the opportunity to share their knowledge and discuss how to address demographic change. To underpin these debates, the European Commission presents a biennial European Demography Report; this sets out a range of facts and figures concerning demographic change and discusses appropriate policy responses.

The fourth forum took place in 2013 and covered, among other issues:

  • supporting youth opportunities;
  • improving the work–life balance;
  • enabling people to be active longer;
  • successful inclusion of second-generation migrants;
  • regions in rapid demographic and economic decline and inequalities within regions.

For more information: http://ec.europa.eu/social/BlobServlet?docId=10228&langId=en see here.

See also

Further Eurostat information

Main tables

Database

Population on 1 January by five years age group and sex (demo_pjangroup)
Population on 1 January by five years age group, sex and NUTS 2 region (demo_r_pjangroup)

Dedicated section

Methodology / Metadata

Source data for tables, figures and maps (MS Excel)

Excel.jpg Demographic trends: tables and figures

External links

Notes

  1. The baby-boomer generation is a demographic phenomenon describing a period marked by considerably higher than average birth rates within a certain geographical area. The baby-boomer generation is often used to refer to those people who were born post-World War II, between the years 1946 and 1970 in Europe and the United States.
  2. See ’Health at a glance 2014’, ‘Health at a glance 2011’ and Sassi, F. (2010), Obesity and the Economics of Prevention – Fit not Fat, OECD Publishing, Paris.
  3. Demography Report 2010, European Commission, Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion and Eurostat.
  4. See ‘Why do people postpone parenthood? Reasons and social policy incentives’, Melinda Mills, Ronald R. Rindfuss, Peter McDonald, Egbert te Velde, 2011.