Proportion of young people declining

LB – 05/2022

In 2019, about one-third of the EU population was under 30 years old, while about 20 percent were 65 or more. By 2025, the proportion of children and young people in the total population is expected to decline further.

Proportion of under 14s below 20 percent almost everywhere in the EU

A current paper of the European Parliament Research Service (EPRS) describes the demographic change within the EU Member States in recent years.

Accordingly, of the total population of 447 million in 2019, about 68 million were children (under 14 years of age) and 91 million were elderly (65 years of age and older). One third of the total EU population – around 142 million – was below 30 years of age. In a country-wise comparison, Ireland has the "youngest population" in the EU – with 39 percent of the total population being 29 years of age or younger. More than one in five was a child (20.5 percent); France and Sweden follow in second and third place here with about 18 percent. In terms of the other end of the scale, the lowest proportion of children was recorded in Italy - followed by Germany, Malta and Portugal, each with 13 to 14 percent.

Regional differences

At the regional level, particularly high proportions of children and adolescents even tend to be found outside the continent – among the "TOP 10" are three French overseas departments (Mayotte, Guiana and La Réunion) and two Spanish exclaves in North Africa (Mellila and Ceuta). Young people even account for more than half of the population in Guiana and Mayotte (56 and 67 percent, respectively). Within the continental regions, most children and young people were found in the Belgian and French capital regions, with a maximum of 40 percent.

Proportion of young people to decline further

According to recent forecasts, the population of the EU-27 will initially continue to grow in the coming years but peak at 449 million by 2026. A decline to 440 million is then forecast by 2052. Compared to 2019, this is lower by around 1.6 percent. However, the proportion of young people is expected to fall by 3 percent from 32 to 29 percent during this period.

Need for action in the social security systems

For the social security systems of the Member States, this means that today's younger generation will probably have to shoulder a greater financial burden when they have grown up and are in the workforce in order to contribute their share to the European community of solidarity. In the previous generations, this task could still be distributed to a broader mass. For example, in Germany, one person receiving a pension is currently financed by two contributors – about 60 years ago, there were more than twice as many.

As a result of these developments, policy makers need to look for solutions to ensure the long-term sustainability of financing of social security systems in the future.