Yet it is the EU’s greying population that will present the biggest challenges in the next 20 years. Europe is currently the oldest region in the world, and the upward trajectory of European ageing has been linear for more than 150 years. The share of the population aged 65 and over is set to rise from 17 percent in 2010 to 30 percent in 2060, with those aged 80 and over being the fastest-growing age group, increasing from five percent to 12 percent over the same period. Population ageing is undoubtedly going to be a key demographic challenge in many European countries over the next 50 years. Its implications for socioeconomic systems such as public pension programmes, health care or kinship structures, may be considerable. The latest Eurostat projections (Europop2010) show that, over the next 50 years, population ageing is likely to reach unprecedented levels in 31 European countries, though the magnitude, speed and timing are likely to vary One of the primary concerns for world leaders gathered at Davos in January 2011 was how to handle the financial challenge of the world’s ageing population and understand the risk it poses for future economic and political stability. Published ahead of the conference, the World Economic Forum’s report, ‘Global Risks 2011’, warned of huge unfunded liabilities created by ageing populations. The problem is so great that some of the world’s most advanced economies – including the UK – would be insolvent if they accounted properly for the pension and health promises they have made to their ageing populations, according to the WEF. The report outlined a sobering scenario in which demographic imbalances could contribute to a “systemic risk” to the entire financial system. EU governments are trying to push through unpopular reforms to raise retirement ages in a bid to contain their pension liabilities.
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