European population structures

European population structures

Many countries in Europe have an ageing population, eg Germany, Italy, Spain, France and the UK. The reasons for this are:

  • The fertility rate is declining. This means that people are having fewer children than before.
  • Life expectancy is increasing because of improvements in health care and food.

There are implications of an ageing population, eg in the UK there is:

  • greater pressure on funding the state pension
  • increasing demands on the NHS as the elderly tend to require more NHS services
  • greater dependency on the population of working age
  • more demand for suitable housing for the elderly

What might the solutions be?

  • helping people save to help fund some of their pension
  • increasing the retirement age, so people remain economically active for longer
  • increasing immigration of skilled labour
  • raising the productivity and contributions from those who work, to help contribute to society
  • increasing maternity and paternity leave to encourage people to have more children

Europe’s birth rate

Europe’s average birth rate in 2010 was 11 births per 1,000 population. Compare this to the birth rate in Africa for the same year, when the average rate was 36 per 1,000 population. This rate does vary among countries within Europe, however the overall rate is low.

Reasons for a low birth rate are:

  • family planning is more freely available
  • women have developed their career paths and may postpone motherhood, or put it off altogether
  • a greater desire for material possessions and homes
  • people are marrying later

It is important to remember that not all areas within a country have the same birth rates. There are big differences even within one country – because areas may have different socio-economic groups or different levels of past migration. Birth rates also change over time.


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