New findings from the European Parliamentary Research Service (EPRS)

LB – 06/2022

The EPRS has published a new study that describes the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on demographic development, digital transformation and possible interactions of both processes in the EU.

The latest data initially show that previously existing demographic trends continue to prevail. These include increasing age, shrinking birth rates and declining proportions of the working-age population.

Excess mortality increased

However, specific effects of the pandemic also become clear, which were even stronger in 2021 than in the previous year: For example, "excess mortality" increased, especially during the particularly high infection waves in April and November; life expectancy declined in many Member States.


The pandemic has also accelerated the digital transformation. In addition to increasing automation and digitisation of processes and services, this has, for example, increased the proportion of people working from home and the number of platform workers.

Digital technologies have the potential to improve or fundamentally change living standards, life expectancy and quality of life. However, this also potentially increases the dependency on technology. In addition, the use of digital technologies requires a certain level of digital skills. According to the study, however, there are sometimes significant differences between different demographic groups. "Digital natives" (born 1997 or later) are used to smartphones and tablets, and most of them have Internet access at home. Compared to older people, they not only have better technical skills, but also spend more time on the Internet or in front of a screen.

This trend has been exacerbated among current cohorts of students by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has seen school closures and distance learning and contact restrictions. At the same time, those who have no or only limited access to the internet, technical equipment or digital tools are at risk of exclusion when it comes to social participation.

Risks of digitisation

Within the EU, digital transformation is taking place at different speeds. Increased use of digital technologies is creating new risks, such as cybercrime and digital fraud, which can affect different groups – demographically as well as socially or regionally – in different ways.

The EU is aware of the multifarious problems. The new working conditions, ethical and data protection issues have been taken into account and various laws have already been passed. It also supports relevant initiatives, projects and targeted assistance, e.g. to overcome the so-called "digital divide". The authors of the EPRS study recommend continuing to prioritise the development of digital capabilities, in particular.