Europe's population is shrinking with experts predicting grave economic and social implications if the trend is not reversed.
In some regions of Spain, deaths outnumbered births 2 -1 and experts say this could rise to 3-1 in the coming years. The country’s falling population growth is not helped by its economic situation, which has brought a mass exodus of young people migrating for better career prospects, something also being experienced in other southern European countries.
As we’ve covered previously, entire villages are for sale as populations continue to shrink.
Experts say that if the exodus of young people continues there could be shortages of skilled workers, especially in health services, which would affect the providing of care for rapidly growing numbers of elderly.
Portugal, similar to Spain, has a population that’s been shrinking since 2010. Projections suggesting it could drop from to 6.3 million from the current 10.5 million by 2060. Portugese Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho acknowledged the crisis, saying “we’ve got really serious problems.”
Coelho said the next 10 to 15 years will be a crucial time and if no action is taken to reverse the trend “these issues will only be solved by a miracle.”
Eurostat agency predictions show that by 2050, Portugal will have the smallest proportion of children of any country in Europe - 11.5% of the population will be under the age of 15. Hundreds of schools, toy shops and other stores which in the past have catered for children are already shutting their doors and motels are being converted into nursing homes.
Coelho has asked the the European Union to make falling birthrates a priority.
“This question has a dimension that is not strictly national --- the manner in which urban life is organised," he said
Last year Coelho formed a commission to look into methods of reversing the dwindling birthrate. Commision head Professor Joaquim Azevedo said research shows that if the trend is not reversed it could leave the country “unsustainable in terms of economic growth, social security and the welfare state.”
“We are losing our population, as we know. These matters are crystal clear. It is a reality. Facts are facts and that is what is happening, ” said Azevedo.
In Italy the Government is encouraging Italians to have children. Last year Prime minister Matteo Renzi announced plans to give low-income couples a monthly “baby bonus” of $94.
Germany last week received a rare bit of good news population wise - the country's birth rate was found to be at its highest for 13 years - but experts say this effort will have to be maintained because, according to government predictions, the population is on course to dwindle from 81 million to 67 million, with the workforce dropping by 7 percent to just 54 percent, by 2030.
Only Scandinavia appears to be bucking the downward population trend and experts attribute this to stable economies, generous parental leave systems, and high net immigration, especially in Sweden and Norway.
Immigration has also propped up the population in France and Britain but their growth figures are also dropping.
Ironically record numbers of refugees are risking their lives to enter Europe illegally from Africa and the middle east. Perhaps Europe may revise their thinking on migrants and embrace instead of discourage them.