Is Europe’s ageing population a ticking time bomb? With its low birth rate and ageing labour force, the continent faces a demographic crisis that could impact its economic competitiveness and public finances.
The number of people of working age – those between 20 and 64 – peaked in Europe in 2010. By 2035, there will be about 50 million fewer people of working age in Europe than in 2010. Demographically, this makes Europe the oldest continent on the planet.
With a shrinking labour force and an ageing population increasingly retiring and drawing on their pensions, European policymakers will soon face an unenviable task of maintaining economic growth while expanding Europe’s labour pool. And in many cases, they will do this against a backdrop of hostile public opinion on using migration as a means of balancing the demographic and economic decline.
To surmount this challenge, the European Union just announced 2023 as the European Year of Skills (EYS) to provide new momentum to reach the EU 2030 social targets of at least 60 percent of adults in training every year and at least 78 percent in employment. But can the EU really achieve this without harnessing the potential of the continent’s largest minority group?
There are about 6 million Roma in the EU’s 27 countries and millions more in the wider EU candidate countries. Contrary to the region’s ageing population, the demographic potential of the Roma is immense and, in many cases, primed to plug the holes coming down the road.
For example, the percentage of Roma under 30 years old in North Macedonia is almost double that of the majority population. In Romania, 59.9 percent of Roma are under 30 years of age, and for the majority population, this rate is just 32.8 percent.