NEWS

Fewer Europeans after 2025

BRUSSELS (AFP) – The European Union’s current 25 members will see the bloc’s population start declining in 2025 with new member states in the East experiencing the fastest drop, a study released yesterday by the EU’s statistics branch projected. The EU would gain 13 million inhabitants from the 456.8 million registered in 2004 to peak at 470.1 million in 2025. The increase was mainly attributed to immigration, since the total number of deaths was expected to exceed births as soon as 2010, Eurostat said. Between 2025 and 2050, the 25-nation EU will shed 20 million inhabitants to 449.8 million. Over the coming decades, the EU is also set to lose masses of working-age people, defined as between 15 and 65 years old, while the number of elderly people, defined as 65 years old and above, is expected to rise quickly. Eurostat calculated that the number of working-age people will fall from 67.4 percent of the total population in 2004 to 56.7 percent in 2050, representing a drop of 52 million people. At the same time, the percentage of elderly people is expected to nearly double from 16.4 percent of the population in 2004 to 29.9 percent in 2050. The study found that the EU’s new, eastern members were already seeing their populations decrease. In 2004, the populations of the Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia were already on the decline. By 2024 the populations of Germany, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Slovenia and Spain will also have stopped growing and by 2050 Austria, Belgium, Britain, Denmark, Finland, France, the Netherlands will have begun to decline as well. By mid-century only Cyprus, Ireland, Luxembourg, Malta and Sweden will still have growing populations. Separately, a report released Thursday by the Council of Europe in Strasbourg found similar prospects for Europe’s population, predicting that it would decline by more than a fifth by the middle of the century unless fertility rates improve sharply.