The impact of demographic change on European Regions

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

The demographic changes that Europe is going through constitute a major challenge in terms of public policy-making. The ageing of the population, its concentration in urban areas and the corollary depopulation of rural areas and migratory pressures from within and outside Europe are remodelling the map of the continent and generating stark contrasts between “metropolitan areas and regions perceived as offering attractive living environments on the one hand, and declining areas on the other.”

These observations were published this month by the Committee of the Regions who emphasizes the necessity to tackle these challenges through the adaptation of public services and infrastructures in order to face a new reality. The main concept behind this adaptation is that of the Work Ability of the population, that is, “the combination of abilities and policies that make people stay active longer.”

Regions and Local Intermediate Governments have limited capacity when it comes to legislating on labour policies or healthcare related issues. They can, nonetheless, positively strive for the development of specific services such as teleassistance/telecare to prevent further depopulation in rural areas or of initiatives such as the ones related to lifelong learning which promote continuous education for the elderly and  better transfer of knowledge between generations through conseuling programs for entrepreneurs and mentoring for the youth.

In other words, “continuous professional development is a key way through which high-skilled professionals can be retained locally”.

“The development of a so-called ‘silver economy’ is an opportunity for regions and cities to improve the quality of life of seniors by offering more attractive products and services better tailored to their specific needs. In addition to this, new employment opportunities, impulses for entrepreneurship and new forms of value creation arise, which can positively influence growth and create jobs”.

In a nutshell: This nexus of inter-related factors can be fuelled by LRAs to influence are:

  • Healthcare: an efficient healthcare system has the benefits of stimulating fertility rates, as well as decreasing care costs for ageing citizens.
  • Education/Lifelong learning: More educated people tend to remain active longer in their profession and community, while also becoming more active. In the short-run, lifelong learning programmes encourage local retention of skills and improved job satisfaction.
  • Labour services: Policies aimed at preserving a better work-life balance encourage the entry into the labour force of youngsters, while they help retain older people longer in employment.

 You can read the full report via the following link