A Portrait of Europe's Aging Population

EU residents over age 65 outnumber those under 14, a Spanish study says, as the bloc's young population has fallen 21% in 25 years

There are currently more elderly people than children living in the EU, as Europe's young population has decreased by 21 percent - or 23 million -- in 25 years, 10 percent of which in the last ten years alone.

Only 16.2 percent of today's EU population is less than 14 years old, while one sixth (16.6 percent) is 65 years or more. In addition one out of every 25 EU citizens is over 80 years old.

Italy has the least young people (14.2%) and one out of every five Italians is more than 65 years old. At the other end of the scale, Ireland has the most youngsters (20.7%), according to a recently-released report by the Institute for Family Policies based in Spain.

However, the decrease in numbers has been greatest in Spain, where the young population has diminished by 44% in the 1990 to 2005 period.

Despite these figures, the EU population has grown by 8.2% over the last 27 years, now reaching almost 500 million.

This paradox can mostly be explained by an ever increasing number of immigrants coming to the EU. Last year alone, 75% of the population growth was the result of immigration flows, says the report.

France and the Netherlands are the only member states where the natural population growth has been higher than the immigration inflow.

A relative population growth can be noted only in Western European countries, however, while in central and eastern Europe it has either remained the same (Slovenia and Slovakia), or decreased.

The decrease has been most significant in new member state Bulgaria, which has lost almost 8% of its population (7.94%) in the last ten years.

Currently, around 7.6 million people live in Bulgaria -- but if its demographic trend continues, they will be 5.1 million by 2050.

USA catching up fast

Meanwhile, if the tendencies in the 27-member bloc as a whole continue, it is very likely that the US and the EU will have the same number of inhabitants by 2060, says the report.

Currently around 300 million people live in the US -- almost 200 million less than in the EU.

But the natural increase of the American population is 12 times greater than that of Europe.

On top of that, the number of births across the EU has been decreasing and in some member states, the birth rate is almost two times lower than in the US (2.09 children per family in 2006).

In Greece, Spain and Italy birth rates have reached a critical level of 1.28 to 1.34 children per family, while among the new member states, none but Cyprus has a birth rate of above 1.30.

One divorce every 30 seconds in the EU

The report which focuses on the Evolution of the Family in Europe in 2007 also points at the decreasing number of successful marriages.

From 1980 to 2005 the number of marriages in Europe decreased by 22.3 percent, while divorces increased by 55 percent in the same period.

Spain presents the most radical case-study, as the number of divorces there has increased by 183 percent in the last 25 years.

Currently, a couple divorces every 30 seconds in Europe and over 13.5 million marriages affecting more than 21 million children ended between 1990 and 2005 in the enlarged EU, according to the document.

The Institute for Family Policies is a nongovernmental organisation whose aim is to make family policies a priority for the EU.

Its figures are based on member states' official statistics and on those of the EU statistics office Eurostat.

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