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Gepubliceerd in: Geron 1/2015

01-12-2015

The Ageing of the Population: A State of the Art

Auteur: PhD Lieve Vanderleyden

Gepubliceerd in: Geron | bijlage 1/2015

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Abstract

The population in Europe is ageing! This has been going on for a number of decades, but has accelerated because of the generation of baby boomers which is leaving the labour market. Furthermore, within the ageing population we see an increase in the number of very old people.
Opmerkingen
About the author
Lieve Vanderleyden obtained a PhD in Social Sciences at the Catholic University of Louvain and a qualification in Social Gerontology. She is affiliated with the Research Centre of the Flemish Government as a senior researcher and editor. She is also a member of the editorial board of Gerōn and Sociaal.Net (Flanders).
Translation: Angelique van Vondelen
The fact that people are growing older changes the structure of the population and has, without a doubt, far-reaching consequences on society. For some, the ageing of the population poses a threat; according to others it is an opportunity or a challenge because never before in history has mankind experienced so many aged people in such good health (Schoenmaeckers & Vanderleyden, 2009). The structure of the population can differ considerably between the individual countries as a result of demographic changes, for instance in interaction with fertility or migration rates. Other factors, such as lifestyle or the availability and efficiency of health care services are relevant as well. It is impossible to cover all these aspects within the limited scope of this article, so we will confine ourselves to present a set of basic data that will help to explain the ageing of the population in Europe.
Table 1.
Percentage 65+ and 80+ in the EU28 Member States, 2004 and 2014, in %
Countries
2004
Countries
2014
 
Percentage 65+
Percentage 80+
 
Percentage 65+
Percentage 80+
Italy
19,2
4,7
Italy
21,4
6,4
Germany
18,0
4,2
Germany
20,8
5,4
Greece
18,0
3,6
Greece
20,5
6,0
Bulgaria
17,3
3,0
Portugal
19,9
5,5
Sweden
17,2
5,3
Bulgaria
19,6
4,4
Croatia
17,1
2,8
Finland
19,4
5,0
Belgium
17,1
4,1
Sweden
19,4
5,2
Portugal
16,9
3,8
Latvia
19,1
4,8
Spain
16,8
4,1
Estonia
18,4
4,9
Latvia
16,2
2,9
Croatia
18,4
4,5
Estonia
16,2
3,0
Lithuania
18,4
5,0
France
16,2
4,3
Austria
18,3
5,0
UK
15,9
4,3
Denmark
18,2
4,2
Finland
15,6
3,7
Spain
18,1
5,7
Austria
15,5
4,1
France
18,0
5,7
Hungary
15,5
3,2
Malta
17,9
3,9
Lithuania
15,4
2,8
Belgium
17,8
5,3
Slovenia
15,0
2,9
Hungary
17,5
4,2
Denmark
14,9
4,0
Slovenia
17,5
4,7
Romania
14,1
2,0
UK
17,5
4,7
Czech Republic
14,0
2,9
Czech Republic
17,4
3,9
Luxembourg
14,0
3,1
Netherlands
17,3
4,3
Netherlands
13,8
3,4
Romania
16,5
4,0
Malta
13,0
2,7
Poland
14,9
3,9
Poland
13,0
2,4
Luxembourg
14,1
3,9
Cyprus
11,9
2,6
Cyprus
13,9
3,1
Slovakia
11,6
2,3
Slovakia
13,5
3,0
Ireland
11,1
2,6
Ireland
12,6
3,0
EU28
16,4
3,9
EU28
18,5
5,1
Source: Eurostat

The median age increases

A simple indicator for the ageing of the population is the median age. Between 2004 and 2014 the median age within the EU28 increased with 7.7%: from 39.2 years to 42.2 years in 2014. This means that in 2014 half of the total population in the EU28 is older than 42.2 years, while the other half is younger. The increase in the median age occurs in all of the EU Member States (Figure 1).
If one would rank the countries according to median age in decreasing order, Germany tops the list with a median age of 45.6 years, followed by Italy with 44.7 years and Bulgaria with 43.2 years. Ireland, with a median age of 36.0 years is at the bottom and is preceded by Cyprus (36.8) and Slovakia (38.6). These are relatively younger populations. The largest relative increase in median age between 2004 and 2014 occurs in Romania with 15.3%, followed by Lithuania with an increase of 12.5% and Portugal with 11.1%. Germany takes the 5th position with an increase of 10.1%. Sweden, Luxembourg and Belgium show the lowest score (increase somewhere between 2.5 and 3.5%). The Netherlands, which registered a lower median age than Belgium in 2004, show a higher score in 2014 resulting in a larger relative increase in the period under review (+ 9.1%).

Towards a growing number of over 65s and over 80s

During the period 2004-2014, the proportion of over 65s increased within the EU28 from 16.4 to 18.5%. This increase occurs in all EU Member States, except for Luxembourg where the share of over 65s remains stable somewhere around 14% (Table 1).
In accordance with the data about the median age, Italy and Germany are on top of the list of over 65s in terms of percentage. In both countries already 2 out of 10 people are over 65. This also holds true for Greece. Other countries such as Portugal, Bulgaria, Finland, Sweden and Latvia come close (between 19.9 and 19.1%). In Ireland, which has a high birth rate and a large share of younger people, the number of over 65s is 1 in 10. In 2014, for example, Ireland was the only EU28 country with more than 20% younger people in the age group of 0-14 years. In Belgium the share of over 65s did not increase by much during this period (from 17.1 to 17.8%). In comparison with Flanders and Wallonia, the Brussels- Capital Region has a younger population, partly because of a large number of immigrants; the share of over 65s decreased between 2003 and 2013 from 15.9 to 13.4% whereas the other two regions showed an increase (Vanderleyden, 2014). The Netherlands, characterized by a young population in 2004, was quickly confronted with the ageing of the population (increase from 13.8 to 17.3% in ten years’ time).
Another phenomenon is an increase in the number of very old people within the ageing population, or the ageing of the population at the top. The share of the oldest generation especially, is growing. In the EU28, the share of over 80s increased from 3.9 to 5.1%. In countries such as Italy, Greece, Spain and France the over 80s comprise about 6% of the total population. Belgium comes close with a percentage of 5.3%. In the Netherlands the percentage is somewhat lower (4.3%). In comparison with 2004, the share of the over 80s has increased with one-third in many countries.

More females than males in old age

The average EU28 population, regardless of age, shows a slight predominance of females over males: 105 females for 100 males to be precise (2014). The predominance of females, however, increases with age, which can be explained by the fact that women live longer (see further on). In 2014 there are 120 females for 100 males in the age group of 65-79 years within the EU28 (for Belgium the figure is 118; for the Netherlands 108). In the age group of 80 years and over, there are almost twice as many females: 185 females for 100 males (183 for Belgium; 180 for the Netherlands).
In comparison with the data for 2004, the predominance of females over males has decreased (see figure 2). In 2004, the age group of 65-75 showed 129 females for 100 males within the EU28; in the age group of over 80s, there were 214 females for 100 males, in other words, more than twice the number of males.

Relation between the generations: stronger dependency of older persons on persons of working age

In order to determine to which extent the younger or older generation is supported by the working population, we make use of dependency ratios. The old-age dependency ratio reflects the relation between the number of over 65s and the number of people between 15-64 years.
On 1st January 2014, the old-age dependency ratio in the EU28 was 28.1%, a rise of 3.8 percentage points in comparison with 2004 (Figure 3). In essence, this means that in 2014 there are about 4 working persons for every older person. A high ratio can be seen in countries such as Italy, Greece, Germany, Sweden, Portugal and Finland, with levels above 30%, which comes down to about 3 working persons for every person over 65. A low ratio can be found in Slovakia, Ireland, Cyprus and Luxembourg with levels around 20%.
In all EU Member States, the old-age dependency ratio has increased between 2004 and 2014, except for Luxembourg which shows a slight decrease (from 20.8 to 20.4%). In most countries the old-age dependency ratio has risen considerably in the course of the decade; in some countries even with 25 to 40%. Examples are Malta (+ 39.0%), Czech Republic (+ 30.5%), Finland (+ 29.6%), the Netherlands (+ 28.8%). Only Croatia (+ 7.8%) and Belgium (+ 4.6%) show a modest increase.
Despite the rise, which is unmistakably present, it should be noted that not all people over 65 could be regarded as a ‘burden’. The older generations today are a lot fitter and healthier than their peers in previous generations. What is more, a not unimportant number of older people engage in activities such as voluntary work, informal care and the care for grandchildren (Vanderleyden & Heylen, 2015). In order to measure dependency, the remaining life expectancy seems a better indicator than the pension age. Moreover, within the active age group of 15-64 years not everyone is employed. The actual working population is smaller than the potential working population. This calculation method, in which dependent people are defined as people with a remaining life expectancy of 15 years or less, and which takes into account the number of people that actually work, leads to a less drastic increase in the old-age dependency ratio. The calculation method for this ‘adapted’ old-age dependency ratio in the Netherlands and some other European countries can be found in Spijker & Macinnes (2014).
Table 2.
Life expectancy at birth (total for male and female) in the 5 countries with the highest and the 5 countries with the lowest life expectancy in EU28, 2004 and 2013, in years
Life expectancy in 2004
Life expectancy in 2013*
Highest
 
Highest
 
Italy
80,9
Spain
83,2
Sweden
80,7
Italy
82,9
Spain
80,4
Cyprus
82,5
France
80,3
France
82,4
Malta
79,4
Sweden
82,0
Lowest
 
Lowest
 
Latvia
70,9
Lithuania
74,1
Romania
71,4
Latvia
74,3
Lithuania
72,0
Bulgaria
74,9
Estonia
72,4
Romania
75,2
Bulgaria
72,5
Hungary
75,8
EU28
78,4
EU28
80,6
* 2014 not available.
Source: Eurostat

Positive developments in life expectancy at birth

During the course of one decade the life expectancy has increased with more than 2 years: from 78.4 years to 80.6 years. This increase can be seen in all EU Member States, but is more apparent in some countries than in others.
When ranking the 5 countries with the highest life expectancy and the 5 countries with the lowest life expectancy, it appears that the ranking is almost identical in 2013 compared with 2004 (Table 2). In 2004 Italy showed the highest life expectancy with almost 81 years; in 2013 Spain reaches the top with a life expectancy of 83.2 years; Italy takes a second place with 82.9 years. France and Sweden belong to the top 5 both in 2004 and 2013. At the bottom we find the Eastern European countries. In 2004 Latvia was at the bottom with a life expectancy of 70.9 years; in 2013 this questionable position is reserved for Lithuania with 74.1 years. Romania and Bulgaria are also near the bottom in this ranking. The gap in life expectancy between the top and bottom countries in 2004 is exactly 10 years; in 2013 this gap has been reduced with - more or less - one year.
According to the 2013 data, Belgium takes the 16th place out of 28 when ranking the countries from highest to lowest life expectancy; this is in line with the EU28 average rate. The Netherlands do better and are ranked 9th, with a life expectancy of 81.4 years.

Gains in life expectancy at 65

At age 65, gains in life expectancy are still possible. For the EU as a whole, the increase amounts to one year and a half: from 18.3 years in 2004 to 19.8 years in 2013 (both males and females). If we take a look at the countries that score high in the ranking for 2013, we see that France, Spain, Italy, Luxembourg and Greece belong to the top 5 with a remaining life expectancy at age 65 which varies between 21.6 and 20.2 years. For the Netherlands and Belgium the remaining life expectancy is close to 20 years. At the bottom we see nearly the same Eastern European countries as for life expectancy at birth, with Bulgaria as the Member State in last position. The difference between France (21.6 years) and Bulgaria (16.2 years) equals 5.4 years.

Do women still have a higher life expectancy?

It is widely known that females have a higher life expectancy than males. There is no clear-cut answer as to why this is the case. The difference in life expectancy between the sexes appears to be smallest in the developing countries and largest in the industrialized countries, which could indicate that environmental conditions could play a role. Researchers assume that the difference in life expectancy is influenced by both biological and social factors (see: http//michielhaas.nl/waarom-vrouwen-langer-leven-dan-mannen/ ).
The difference in life expectancy at birth between females and males tends to become smaller in the EU28: in 2004 it was 6.3 years and in 2013 5.5 years. In 2013 Italy shows the highest life expectancy for males with 80.3 years, followed by Spain and Sweden (80.2 years each), Cyprus (80.1 years); Luxembourg (79.8 years) completes the top 5. As for females, Spain is ranked on top with 86.1 years, subsequently followed by France (85.6 years), Italy (85.2 years), Cyprus (85.0 years) and Finland (84.1 years). A woman in Spain lives 7.5 years longer on average than her counterpart in Bulgaria (figure for 2013).
Even at age 65, there is a considerable difference in life expectancy between males and females. For females the life expectancy in 2013 varies from less than 18 years in Bulgaria to more than 23 years in France and Spain. For males it varies from less than 14 years in Latvia to more than 19 years in France, Spain and Luxembourg. The largest differences in life expectancy between males and females at age 65 are registered in Estonia and Lithuania (5.1 years each) and also in Latvia (4.7 years). The smallest differences can be seen in the United Kingdom (2.3 years), Sweden (2.5 years) and in Denmark and Ireland (2.7 years each).

Future developments

In general, it is to be expected that the ageing of the population will continue due to a persistent reduction in fertility rates and an increase in life expectancy. At the occasion of the International Day of Older Persons, the headlines of the Eurostat ‘Newsrelease’ of 29 September 2015 shouted: ‘One out of every eight persons in the EU could be 80 or above by 2080’. The year 2080, however, is still far away and can be regarded as long term. Here, we will focus on the medium term.
It is probable that within the next 35 years, a considerable ageing of the European population will take place (Eurostat, 2014). The most important scenario of Eurostat for population projections (EUROPOP 2013) offers a context for likely developments. These projections show that the demographic shift towards an older population will result in an increase of the proportion of the over 65s in the EU28 from 18.2% at the beginning of 2013 to 28.1% in 2050. At the same time, the share of the people at working-age will decrease from 66.2% to 56.9 %. There will be nearly 40 million people less in the working-age group. The number and share of the over 65s will continue to grow fast during the entire projection period, to almost 150 million people in 2050. For the number of over 80s, an even more rapid growth is predicted. As a result of these developments in the age groups, the old-age dependency ratio - i.e. the number of people over 65 in relation to the number of people in the age group of 15-64 years - is predicted to increase by 27.5% at the beginning of 2013 to almost 50% in 2050. This means that within 40 years there will be 2 persons at working-age for every person at age 65, whereas at this moment there are still 4 persons at working-age for every person over 65. Although migration plays an important role in the dynamics of the population of the European countries, migration alone probably cannot stop the continuous process of the ageing of the population which is happening in many parts of the European Union.
Literatuur
go back to reference Spijker, Jeroen & Macinnes, John (2014). Hoe grijs is Nederland eigenlijk? Demos, 30 (4). Spijker, Jeroen & Macinnes, John (2014). Hoe grijs is Nederland eigenlijk? Demos, 30 (4).
go back to reference Schoenmaeckers, R.C. & Vanderleyden, L. (red.) (2009). Population Ageing. Towards an Improvement of the Quality of Life. Brussels: Research Centre of the Flemish Government. Schoenmaeckers, R.C. & Vanderleyden, L. (red.) (2009). Population Ageing. Towards an Improvement of the Quality of Life. Brussels: Research Centre of the Flemish Government.
go back to reference Vanderleyden, Lieve (2014). Europa in snel tempo grijs. St@ts-bericht, (4). Vanderleyden, Lieve (2014). Europa in snel tempo grijs. St@ts-bericht, (4).
go back to reference Vanderleyden, L. & Heylen, L. (2015). Het combineren van meerdere rollen op oudere leeftijd: een lust of een last? In L. Vanderleyden & M. Callens (red.). Arbeid en Gezin: een paar apart (pp. 175-201). Brussel: Studiedienst van de Vlaamse Regering. Vanderleyden, L. & Heylen, L. (2015). Het combineren van meerdere rollen op oudere leeftijd: een lust of een last? In L. Vanderleyden & M. Callens (red.). Arbeid en Gezin: een paar apart (pp. 175-201). Brussel: Studiedienst van de Vlaamse Regering.
Metagegevens
Titel
The Ageing of the Population: A State of the Art
Auteur
PhD Lieve Vanderleyden
Publicatiedatum
01-12-2015
Uitgeverij
Bohn Stafleu van Loghum
Gepubliceerd in
Geron / Uitgave bijlage 1/2015
Print ISSN: 1389-143X
Elektronisch ISSN: 2352-1880
DOI
https://doi.org/10.1007/s40718-015-0104-5