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Regions 2020 - Demographic Challenges for European Regions

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There is a great diversity of demographic dynamics across the globe. Some world regions will experience steady population growth, whilst others will face severe population decline. Population growth in Europe will slow down considerably relative to the United States and the emerging economies of China and India and Europe is the second most rapidly ageing world region, after Japan. Europe's immediate neighbourhood, the Middle East and North Africa region has the world's second fastest growing population, after sub-Saharan Africa. Demographic developments in South East Europe and in the European CIS countries will be similar to that in the EU. Future migration flows towards the EU will mainly arrive from the Mediterranean region, in view of differences in living standards and population trends exacerbated by natural resource constraints.

There are however wide variations in demographic patterns between and within Member States. Regional variability will depend on various factors such as fertility rates, migration flows, gender, health, disability and the demographic patterns of ethnic groups. Three important processes – notably population decline, shrinking working-age population and an ageing population - will have a marked effect on regions. These variables have been combined in a demographic vulnerability index, mapping the regions which will be particularly vulnerable to demographic challenges. Around one third of European regions will face population decline, located mainly in Central and Eastern Europe, Eastern Germany, Southern Italy and Northern Spain. The highest shares of elderly population will be found in Eastern Germany, North-West of Spain, Italy and some parts of Finland. In Central and Eastern Europe, the impacts of
ageing will be delayed owing to their younger population. However, significant increases in their old-age population are expected in the long run.

The share of working-age population is expected to be particularly low in several of the Finnish, Swedish and German regions. The magnitude of decline in the working-age population shows significant variations. Some regions in Bulgaria, Eastern Germany and Poland will be particularly hardly hit, with a decline exceeding 25% by 2020. Demographic change will potentially impact on regional growth through a shrinking labour force. The extent to which a shrinking labour force will constitute a drag on growth will largely depend on the educational attainment, productivity of the labour force and on future participation rates. Ageing will lead to significant increases in public expenditure, in particular on pension, health and long-term care. Ensuring access to high quality public services will constitute a major challenge for European Member States and regions. Increasing urbanisation will impact on environmental sustainability, in particular on the use of natural resources and eco-systems. The socio-economic integration of migrants and marginalised groups of society will be precondition to mitigate the complex effects of an ageing population.

The significant regional divergence in demographic patterns will most likely generate a substantial asymmetric socio-economic impact on European territories, which might further increase regional disparities in Europe.
Regions 2020, Demographic Change, Regional Demographic Patterns, World Demography, Demographic Challenge for Europe
Country of publication: 
European Union
Publication date: 
Saturday, November 1, 2008