25 Percent of Europeans Will Be Above Age 65 in 2030, Says New Data Sheet

(July 2006) Europe—which already has 19 of the world’s 20 oldest countries in terms of population age—will see its populations continue to age to unprecedented levels over the next 25 years, according to a new data sheet co-published by the Population Reference Bureau.

The aging trend will mean increased strain on European health care and pension systems as well as the continent’s economies, many of which are already struggling under employment rates averaging around 10 percent and old-age dependency ratios that are the highest in the world.

Written by Wolfgang Lutz, director of the Vienna Institute of Demography and leader of the World Population Project at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, the European Demographic Data Sheet 2006 provides 26 indicators—ranging from life expectancy at birth to average retirement ages to net migration totals—for each of the 25 countries of the European Union and 46 European countries in all.

Among the highlights of the Data Sheet:

  • Nearly 25 percent of people in the European Union in 2030 will be above age 65, up from about 17 percent in 2005.
  • There is an 80 percent chance that Europe’s old-age dependency ratio—the number of people age 65 and older compared with the number of working-age people (ages 15-64) will more than double by 2050, from one in every four to one in fewer than every two.
  • As much as 20 percent of Europe ‘s population could be above age 80 by 2050.
  • Unemployment in Europe averaged 9.1 percent in 2004—and 19.9 percent for youth under age 25.
  • While the European Union’s overall population is projected to increase slightly between 2005 and 2030, the bulk of that increase will come from net immigration. Natural increase (the ratio of births over deaths) will turn negative for the EU in 2010. And the vast majority of Europe’s countries—including Belgium, the Czech Republic, Germany, Italy, Poland, and Russia—are projected to lose population in the next 25 years.


  1. Kevin Kinsella and David R. Phillips, “Global Aging: The Challenge of Success,” Population Bulletin 60, no. 1 (2005).
  2. Wolfgang Lutz, European Demographic Data Sheet 2006 (Vienna and Washington, DC: Vienna Institute of Demography, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, and Population Reference Bureau, 2006).