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Europe’s Ageing society – the implications for me?


High life expectancy and low fertility rates combined with Baby Boomers entering retirement, means that Europe’s population is ageing and young people are becoming a minority. An ageing population is a happy story about societal progress and medical development, but at the same time, it challenges the structure of our society for generations to come and will affect the younger generations politically, socially and economically.

The roundtable discussion unearthed many views on the implications of Europe's ageing society for today's young professionals. Participants voiced their opinions on possible solutions while others stumbled across questions that still need some pondering. Some highlights from the discussion are listed below. 

Implications for the young generation

  • If Europe’s role in the world declines alongside its projected decline in population, we will be living in a very different world order. Political structures are already changing. As older people tend to vote for their peers, the younger generation (often the more politically inactive group) will be become arguably less represented in national and European parliaments. This will mean perhaps that the interests and concerns of the younger generation will be politically undermined.
  • The social contract will break: the younger generations will be taxed heavily in order to support the ageing population. The younger generation will be caring and paying for the elderly, themselves and their children.
  • Our work and work environment will change. In longer term, younger people will need to start working earlier, and work later, which will mean that our career structures will have to change, allowing also for downshifting. 
  • The labour markets will become more mixed with women, immigrants and older people. Many are likely to leave their home country and perhaps even Europe to look for better job opportunities and working conditions. 
  • Social and family lives will change. People move to cities, and caring for the elderly will take place at communes and at homes.

Possible solutions

  • Pensions and salaries should be based more on productivity.
  • Social and healthcare will need to change. We need new carers (communal care, volunteers, private operators), technological developments and more focus on prevention and healthy aging rather than care.
  • More (short-term) immigration, alongside appropriate integration measures.
  • In order to lengthen the careers and to continue to have productive workers, European labour markets will need to become flexible: allowing for part-time work, life-long learning, better vocational training, better mix of work and leisure and thepossibility to change jobs easily inside Europe. The older generation has knowledge and expertise. Many are active and healthy, and willing to contribute to the society even after their retirement age has paased. They are potential consultants, teachers, carers for the elderly and children, and tax payers. We need to find ways to involve this group in managing the demands on our ageing societies.
  • A more proactive role in politics for the youth in order to get their voice heard.

Some questions to ponder

What are the reasons for high youth unemployment in Europe?

How can we prevent that this generation will not become ‘the lost overqualified generation’ who will continue to suffer from unemployment also after the crisis?

To what extent could migration be the answer, and how could we better promote integration of foreigners?

How should social and healthcare be changed in order to manage better the demand– with the public finances we have available?

Should voting aging de reduced to 16 as in Austria? Or should families with underaged children be given more voting power (e.g. proportionate to the number ofchildren)?

What financial incentives and infrastructures would be needed to increase fertility and to support working mothers? Would they be enough to change the current trends and allow women to maintain their careers and lifestyles?

Could we envisage a time when elderly people are cared for by technology (computers and robots)?


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