The EU stands to lose about a sixth of its younger working-age population by 2025 if there is no further immigration to the region, according to a report from a European think tank.
Some countries such as Italy and Spain see a drop of 30 per cent, according to the report from the European University Institute. The study pointed to rising longevity at older ages and sharply declining fertility as the reasons why, without new immigrants, the EU’s younger working age population – defined as those under 45 – will decline from 131.2m in 2010 to 109.8m by 2025.
The paper noted that across the region, skills are “ageing”. That means the proportion of the workforce that is over 45, and for whom formal learning is a more distant memory, occupies an increasingly significant share of workers.
The paper concluded that, in order to keep employment at its 2010 level and the proportion of those below age 45 at that 2010 level, an additional 21.5m workers are needed.
The report comes as new data from Eurostat highlight the effects that falling fertility and rising emigration are having on the 28 countries in the EU.
The population of the bloc grew by 1.1m inhabitants in 2012, the bulk of the increase due to immigration. Only 200,000 of the increase came from “natural” causes, defined as the number of births that exceeded deaths.
For some countries, however, deaths significantly outpaced births, and in these, emigration also contributed to a loss of population. Lithunia and Latvia, for example, saw population declines of 10.6 and 10.3 per 1,000 of population respectively just in the space of a year, with net emigration accounting for the greatest part of the loss in each country.
Economists view net population loss through emigration as particularly damaging because those leaving are almost always of working age who will contribute to the nations’ output and pay taxes to support current retirees.
Portugal, which has had significant outflows of working-age people in recent years, saw a population drop of 5.2 per 1,000 of population, with emigration accounting for a bigger decline than deaths which exceeded births.
Ireland has also had a significant net outflow of workers, but its relatively high fertility rate meant its population was able to grow in 2012. Natural population growth expanded by 9.5 people per 1,000 of population but that was nearly offset by the 7.6 per 1,000 who left.