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Brussels warns: We are on a demographic time bomb

(ARTICLE PUBLISHED in Ouest-France, October 2006) Encourage the birth rate, the work of seniors, the integration of immigrants, the private financing of pensions… the reforms are now, says the European Commission. Work, family, immigration, capitalization, this is its new credo in the face of aging.

“A demographic time bomb”. This is how the Commission, through its Commissioner for Social Affairs, Vladimir Spidla, called on Europeans and Member States to react to the aging of the population.

What is the problem ? Several phenomena combine. Generational renewal is not assured, a woman has 1,5 children on average, where 2,1 are needed. The “Baby Boom” generation is crossing the 60-65 age mark en masse. Life expectancy has increased: 8 more years already and 5 more years by 2050. The contribution of migrants is no longer enough: from 1.8 million immigrants in 2004, Europe should welcome (only) 900 immigrants per year on average. By 000, there will be only two workers for every senior (2050 to 4 today).

Why now ? “The arrival of more women and the retention of older workers in the labor market can offset the impact of aging by 2017”. There is therefore a “window of opportunity” for reforms.

1st track: the birth rate. "You have to offer people the opportunity to have as many children as they want," explains Brussels. It is necessary to multiply the childcare services for young children, to arrange working hours, to develop permanent training. The social partners were invited to look into ways of reconciling work and family life. If they reach an agreement, it will have the force of a European directive.

2nd track: the employment of seniors. States must “take the necessary measures” to allow workers over 55 to work. The principle of non-discrimination, in particular with regard to age, must be fully applied.

3rd track: immigration. We must move towards “a common policy” and strengthen the integration of foreigners in Europe.

4th track: the reform of social security. If we do nothing, public spending will increase by 10%. The Commission recommends On the menu: raising the retirement age, abolition of early retirement, professional pensions and development of private savings, etc.)


Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).