Why should the EU care about a growing population of the 'very old'?

Publishing date
22 April 2024
David Pinkus
Picture of a stack of newspapers

In 2022, 2.9% of the population in the European Union were at least 85 years old. This share is projected to more than double by 2050 and almost triple by 2100, reaching about 10% of the total population. The 85+ group — or the ‘very old’ — will be the driver behind ageing populations on the continent. While longer life should be seen as a victory for past policies, the demographic shift will have significant repercussions across the economy. 

The Twin Transition will not be successful without considering an ageing and changing workforce. But a growing share of the ‘very old’ will have consequences for social security systems, notably pensions and long-term care (LTC). Pay-As-You-Go pension schemes are increasingly coming under financial pressure. Healthcare and LTC systems, already stretched today in many countries, will face a surge in demand. 

Today, countries largely rely on informal care for the elderly, which is predominantly supplied by women. This is unlikely to be possible in the future due to people having fewer children and because more women are participating in the labour force than in the past. Without any action, we risk losing progress made on gender equality. Moreover, ageing workforces will have implications for labour market dynamics, requiring investments in up-skilling and re-skilling programmes. 

To address this, policymakers must reform pension systems, invest in LTC infrastructure, increase the number of care workers and provide support for informal carers. Additionally, there is a need for EU-wide coordination to establish best practices and ensure equitable support across member states.  

Keep an eye out for the paper by David Pinkus and Nina Ruer on the topic of demographic change and ageing populations, coming soon.

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About the authors

  • David Pinkus

    David Pinkus joined Bruegel as an Affiliate fellow in May 2023. He is an applied economist with a strong interest in social welfare policies, as well as the intersection of financial markets and the real economy.

    His work focuses on the challenges social security systems face due to an ageing population. He is also interested in the wider economic effects of funded pension systems and institutional investors. From 2014 to 2016, he worked as a consultant at the OECD’s Long-Term Investment Project, researching policies to enable institutional investors to finance infrastructure under a G20 mandate.

    David holds a PhD in Economics from Copenhagen Business School and is affiliated with the university’s Pension Research Centre (PeRCent). David also holds an M.Sc. in Economics from Bocconi University in Milan and a B.Sc. in Economics from Ludwig-Maximilians-University in Munich.

    David is fluent in German, French and English.

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