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Europeans are richer, travel more, own and spend more, and live longer than they did fifty years ago. But instead of seeking to pass on their good fortune, the European Union’s citizens have shown a marked disinclination to have childen.
The most striking change to emerge in Europe’s statistics in the last fifty years is in its population. While the total population in all member states has drifted up only slowly, the age structure has changed beyond recognition. Europe has aged. It is almost as if the continent stopped having babies when the European Community, as it was then known, was formed. In 1960, the under fives was the most numerous age group, now it is the over forties - the same group, but older.
The number of people in each age group in the population pyramid reveals something of the EU’s history. The birth of the union in part reflected the desire of the era’s leaders to avoid a repeat of the disruption - the loss of life and missed births - resulting from two world wars. This is underscored by data for 1960 which show a clear drop in the number of 40 somethings and teenagers.
The challenges facing Europe in the decades ahead - funding pensions and health care as today’s shortage of children diminishes the labour force in the future - are clear from the latest and increasingly top heavy population pyramid. The symbolism is clear too - the EU is no longer the young and hopeful alliance it was at its birth.
View our interactive chart showing the change in the European Union’s age demographic from 1960 to 2003.