The EU has just released its new demographic projections (pdf, 4 pages)
The conclusion is simple: France and the UK are the next power couple of Europe.
faute de combattants, as they say in France (for lack of fighters – elsewhere)…
So will they fight or will they talk?
Over the next two decades the total population of the EU25 is expected to increase by more than 13 million inhabitants, from 456.8 million on 1 January 2004 to 470.1 million on 1 January 2025. Population growth in the EU25 until 2025 will be mainly due to net migration, since total deaths in the EU25 will outnumber total births from 2010. The effect of net migration will no longer outweigh the natural decrease after 2025, when the population will start to decline gradually. The population will reach 449.8 million on 1 January 2050, that is a decrease of more than 20 million inhabitants compared to 2025. Over the whole projection period the EU25 population will decrease by 1.5%, resulting from a 0.4% increase for the EU15 and a 11.7% decrease for the ten new Member States.
This will be the first time ever that you have a peace time decline in the population of a significant polity, so it is an event with fairly unpredictable consequences.
It is usually addressed either by people who worry about the financial balance of the pensions plans, as the number of older people grows in absolute and relative terms, and by demagogues who fuel the fears about immigration.
Isn’t it time that we had a real debate about what kind of society we want? How will we care for our elders? Who will care for them? Will they even need to be cared for (as all studies show that people live older AND healthier until the last few months of their lifes)? And what kind of politics will that bring?
And as far as France and the UK are concerned, the fact that they will be the only two large countries in Europe (possibly with Turkey) with populations still growing will give them a lot more clout then the declining powers like Germany, and it is going to lead to interesting realignments of interests within the union. We’ll see, especially as I am doubtful of the population growth of the UK in virw of their recent natality rates, which have declined significantly in the past 5-10 years. We’ll see.