Europe’s ageing societies must make it easier for young people to start a family

Europe’s baby deficit is becoming impossible to ignore. In Rome on Friday, Italy’s prime minister, Mario Draghi, and Pope Francis were the star attendees at a special conference to discuss the country’s declining birthrate. According to latest figures, 2020 saw the lowest number of births recorded since Italian unification in 1861. Spain is ageing at a similar pace, as is much of eastern Europe. In Britain, it is the same story. The Centre for Population Change recently predicted a post-pandemic decline in annual births, deepening a secular trend that has already taken the birthrate to “historically low levels”.

The social implications of these downward trajectories, exacerbated by Covid, are many and various. Assuming current demographic trends continue, Eurostat has calculated that the number of European over-65s will have grown by over 40% by 2050. Fewer people will be in work paying taxes when their pension and care bills arrive. Against that backdrop, rightwing nationalist parties fantasising about a future without migrant labour may as well howl at the moon. Immigration seems likely to continue to be a structural necessity in western democracies, as well as a source of innovation and renewal.

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Sunday, May 16, 2021 - 1:25pm