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Help, Europe is aging!

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From: EU Observer. Europe is aging and the EU is not ready for this radical demographic change, said Dubravka Šuica, the EU’s first demography commissioner, in Brussels on March 25. “This [verandering] requires a thorough rethinking of institutional, political, economic and cultural frameworks, we have to change the mindset,” she told a conference in Brussels.

The EU commissioner warned that while this change is slow and often invisible to EU citizens in their daily lives, it is also very powerful and very difficult or impossible to reverse, especially in rural areas. Today, a growing proportion of the EU population is over 65 and a significant number over 80. By 2100, the EU working-age population is expected to decline by 57.4 million.

At the same time, about half of the babies born in Europe today will live past 100. “The challenge is to ensure that people stay active in the labor market for as long as they can or want to and that our welfare states remain in balance,” said Belgian Foreign Minister Hadja Lahbib.

To take just one example, government spending is already expected to rise from 24.6% of GDP in 2019 to nearly 27% in 2040. “If we do not take demographic trends into account and mitigate them where possible, we may end up sleepwalking into dark scenarios,” Šuica said, referring to the pressure on public services and pensions, the potential for unfulfilled jobs, the pressure on budgets or the negative impact on competitiveness.

Addressing these demographic challenges will require a long-term effort and cooperation at all levels of government and society, said the commissioner, who admitted that the EU institutions must also take on this task to raise the portfolio to a higher level during the next mandate. “We need special structures to deal with demography in all its aspects, collect data, analyze and propose policies,” said Šuica, who added that the commission also needs “natural counterparts” in the Council and the European Parliament to continue the work.

In mid-October, the EU executive proposed a “toolbox” to address demographic change in Europe, following concerns from member states about the potential impact of an aging population on public finances and labor markets.

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