Europe is getting older. Today, almost 20% of people in the EU are aged 65 or older. This number is steadily creeping up, however, and by the year 2080 it’s predicted to increase to almost 30%. What will European society look like if nearly one-in-three people are older than 65 (and 12% over 80)?

Europe’s ageing population is a long-term trend that began several decades ago, as life expectency has increased and birth rates have started to decline. It could have serious consequences for the sustainability of the economy (not to mention pension systems and public healthcare). Younger Europeans will have to support an ever-increasing cohort of older Europeans, meaning their productivity will have to radically increase. Could technology hold the key?

Our sister think tank Friends of Europe has launched a report including 7 key recommendations on how to meet the challenges that come with ageing populations, unhealthy lifestyles, shortages of healthcare workers and increased demand for care. You can read the full report here.

Curious to know more about technology and an ageing Europe? We’ve put together some facts and figures in the infographic below (click for a bigger version).

What do our readers think? We had a comment from PG, who is convince that the problem of an ageing population is “false”, as most jobs in the EU will be automated in the future. Is he correct?

We spoke to David Sinclair, Director of the International Longevity Centre – UK, a think-tank focused highlighting the challenges of an ageing society and demographic change. What would he say to PG?

Our ageing society means we’re likely to have fewer people of working age relative to the number of older people. This presents big problems and worries for European policymakers as to how we fill some of the skills gaps. Some people think that actually we don’t need to worry because technology will solve the problem, that actually automation will deliver new sorts of solutions to the problems of skills shortages. I think automation will change the sort of jobs we’re doing, and may actually result in a need for more skilled than unskilled workers, rather than actually necessarily solving the need for work. People have been promising for decades that automation would mean none of us have to work as much as we have in the past. The reality is, though, that automation will probably just deliver new and different sorts of jobs that we’ll have to do. We are going to need a workforce for these jobs.

We also had a comment from Bastian, who thinks that Japan is the perfect model for Europe. He argues they have an ageing population but a very comfortable standard of living, and part of this is down to the fact that they have been “developing sophisticated technology”. Should Europe also start experimenting with using robots to care for old people (or is that just another way of “dying even more miserably”)?

People have been looking to Japan as a model for Europe and the rest of the world for years because Japan has been ageing quicker than the rest of us. But let’s not forget that in Japan they’ve faced decades of pretty terrible economic growth, and I don’t think that’s the sort of model that Europe wants to follow.

I think there are very real fears for Europe that ageing will result in lower growth, lower returns on investment, and lower inflation over the next twenty to thirty years. Clearly, what we don’t want to do is follow Japan’s example. Now, there are interesting lessons to lean from Japan in terms of their use of technology, but I think Europe will have to come up with its own solutions to some of the problems that we’ve been identifying.

Can technology meet the challenge of Europe’s ageing population? Could automation and digitisation help people work longer (and more productively) with a higher quality of life? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

IMAGE CREDITS: BigStockPhoto – denisfilm
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25 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. avatar
    Paul X

    You would need to harmonise “working age” first. Currently a 61 year old in the UK is still working and paying tax some of which goes to the EU and into CAP to subsidise French Farmers….meanwhile the 61 year old in France is putting his feet up drinking wine and smoking Gauloise

  2. avatar
    Maria Paix

    Stop spending money making wars, paying big bosses, giving politicians huge pay rises and stop letting big companies off the hook from paying their taxes! Universal revenue would be easy!

  3. avatar
    Heidi Springer

    Forced euthanasia on the horizon for the useless eaters as the pensioners treated as unproductive surplus?

    • avatar
      Paul X

      At least many pensioners have been productive and paid taxes into the economy for most of their life………….how about euthanasia for anyone who reaches the age of 25 without doing a days work?……they are a much less deserving “unproductive surplus”

    • avatar
      EU Reform- Proactive

      Hi there,

      Heidi probably ponders & may just wonder what EU leaders & politicians are capable of, to further their (opaque, step by step) EU agenda!? Maybe 4th Reich fears?

      To be precise & use Europe when the CoE is meant- not mixing EU & CoE when suited to create confusion- would assist many minds to “rest peacefully”!

      More importantly to me- than the OBVIOUS choice for a responsible, sensible, informed & healthy personal lifestyle- is the politics around it. DE is after all a political forum, not a health advisory service.

      In order to fully trust the EU & its agendas would be for them to- unambiguously- clarify & explain its official relation with the Council of Europe (CoE).

      Must/should/can the EU be seen & understood as the 2nd step within a multi step European integration, or does the EU intend to replace the CoE by stealth over time?

      By referring to its “Sister think tank Friends of Europe” raises the question of who is the parent to whom all sisters (& brothers?) were born to. Is the lucky parent the CoE or are all “children” orphans?

  4. avatar
    Dimitris Orfanoudis

    Idiots …Instead to create jobs for the young people to have a job make maoney and get married you go through technology to imove the ageing population the stupidity in all its splendity

  5. avatar
    catherine benning

    How can technology help support an ageing population?

    This is asking for our permission to put us to sleep, similar to our pets, once we reach pension age and are no longer filling the billionaire coffers.

    As I see it, each person who agrees to this notion should be free of paying taxes for the upkeep of Parliaments of any kind. They must pay for themselves. It also frees us from paying in for pensions as we will not be in receipt of them. And any and all related use of our money for the upkeep of us in old age. As we shall not be having any old age unless we can continue to work.

    It’s all reminiscent of Boxer in Animal Farm, George Orwell.

    This is a scam.

  6. avatar
    Martin Walker

    As jobs change, we need a more technically minded workforce, but younger people are not going into science and technology – this is a really worrying trend. Also, it is of serious concern that there is a shift in wealth, with fewer people controlling more money. Unlike during the previous era of automation (around 1970-80), we are not seeing a general increase in standards of living, but rather the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. Our economic systems need to deal with this if we are to avoid increasing social unrest. The solution is not to look around for someone to blame (immigrants, the young, Jeremy Corbin) but deal with the cause (inequality of wealth distribution).

  7. avatar
    Gloria McGregor

    Quality of life can be enhanced in many ways. Whilst I have had several severe health problems, fortunately I have been able to overcome them with support from the medical staff. The single most difficult area for me was my hearing loss which I have had since my early 30’s. l took early retirement aged 51 and later learned to lipread – the best decision I had ever taken. It helped me immensely and restored some of my confidence. I am now in my 70’s and am active in supporting those who wish to practise lipreading, through support groups and through my website. Recently I took another decision and had a cochlear implant. I have been “switched on” for three weeks and I practise recognising what I am hearing regularly. This is now the best decision I have made as even though I still have some distortion the difference it is has made is amazing. Support from technology takes two forms for me, in respect of hearing, – one is the cochlear implant that I have had and the support of the technician who is retuning it for me and two is my free website which gives anyone who wishes to practise lipreading but is unable to go to a class, an opportunity to do so. I have been fortunate to have tuition from a wonderful tutor to learn to recognise what I am hearing, and also I have used the videos on my website for additional audiology practice. At a recent conference I was told that a university was using my website to support those who had had a cochlear implant. This was fantastic!- meeting others at a group is helps as well.
    Given the link between dementia and hearing loss it would be wonderful to increase the support both in the form of tecnology and through personal contact at groups for those who are hard of hearing. This is not exlusive to an ageing population but obviously many older people lose their hearing. I look forward to seeing what can be done in the future to support those with hearing loss.

  8. avatar
    Gloria McGregor

    This is a post scipt to my previous post. I forgot to say what a difference hearing aids make to the life of those of us with hearing loss. Today’s hearing aids are amazing pices of equipment. My current hearing aid enables me to be put staight through to my mobile phone.
    With my implant and my hearing aid I can be much more interactive in group situations. Techology can do much to enhance our lives.

  9. avatar
    Merc Jackowski

    For one, we can put real money into gerontology studies, in order to find a way to fight back ageing process itself. Instead of having growing population, we can make current population to live longer.
    Also, I fail to see why people should work longer, when automation is an option. According to best case scenario, automation will actually help us to put an end to work itself. One can ask “but how people will earn money to live?”. Well, they wouldn’t have to EARN it, they can simply be granted money from the government. This idea is called universal basic income and Finland will be testing it in 2018-2020 period.

  10. avatar

    Bastian has only seen one side of the coin. Japan has grows a new job type, which is to clear away rotten corps of old people. They have to disinfecting the apartment, to locate relatives or friends for the funeral, and disposal of relic and remaining assets, etc.

  11. avatar

    It is true that technology can help with elderly care works, thus reduce the manpower need. However, isn’t unemployment a common problem of many European states? How we can turn the challenge of an ageing population to business opportunity appears to be the key. In addition, how we can mobilize unemployed people to serve the elderly can also turn challenge to opportunity. More importantly, the productivity of the aged people can also be explored. As in Japan, it has been talking about to abandon the retirement age limit. It is necessary to know why people have refused to give birth to children? Is the concept of traditional family breaking down a negligence of government or a consequence of modernity, commercialization and materialism, individualism, and other isms ?

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