Confronting Demographic Change

Confronting Demographic Change is the title of a two day conference currently being organised by Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities Commissioner Vladimir Spidla. The emphasis of the conference is on gender and family impact issues.

You can find a background briefing paper here.

This is also an interesting presentation.

Here’s a summary of the objectives. It’s very ‘commission speak’ of course, but at least it marks a growing recognition of the problems we are all going to face. I’m also intrigued by something: “Demographic changes, globalisation and rapid technological change are the three major challenges facing Europe today”. I’m intrigued to know when the hell they figured this out, especially since (if for globalisation you read China) it is something I have been arguing for over five years now, in this precise combination.

To balance work and family life better, the European Social Model needs to be modernized and the EU’s economy needs to pick up. Europe’s demographic changes means it needs more children, a higher percentage of working women and care for the increasing number of elderly. The EU can tackle this ‘magic triangle’ if everyone helps share the burden, through new ways of balancing work/family life. But failure to do so would directly hit Europe’s future economic growth, as well as putting a potentially unbearable burden on women’s shoulders. President Barroso and Commissioner ?pidla will be talking about possible new ways at the Brussels conference ‘Confronting demographic changes: a new solidarity between generations’, which started today.

Demographic changes, globalisation and rapid technological change are the three major challenges facing Europe today. Vladim?r ?pidla, EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities, highlighted the potential economic impact of not addressing demographic change. ‘Between now and 2030, a loss of 21 million people of working age, or 7% of the workforce, will see Europe’s potential growth decline from 2% today to 1.5% as soon as 2015 and to as little as 1.25% in 2040. We must pull out all the stops to react to this. Either we help out or we loose out,’ he said at the conference organised by the Commission.

Now is the time to act. There are just six years before 2011, when a sharp decline in the active working population (aged 15-64) will coincide with a significant rise in the number of over 65s. It will also be the 65th anniversary of the beginning of the baby boom which started after the Second World War.

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About Edward Hugh

Edward 'the bonobo is a Catalan economist of British extraction. After being born, brought-up and educated in the United Kingdom, Edward subsequently settled in Barcelona where he has now lived for over 15 years. As a consequence Edward considers himself to be "Catalan by adoption". He has also to some extent been "adopted by Catalonia", since throughout the current economic crisis he has been a constant voice on TV, radio and in the press arguing in favor of the need for some kind of internal devaluation if Spain wants to stay inside the Euro. By inclination he is a macro economist, but his obsession with trying to understand the economic impact of demographic changes has often taken him far from home, off and away from the more tranquil and placid pastures of the dismal science, into the bracken and thicket of demography, anthropology, biology, sociology and systems theory. All of which has lead him to ask himself whether Thomas Wolfe was not in fact right when he asserted that the fact of the matter is "you can never go home again".