NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

As Europe Ages

July 2, 2003

A study by the Brookings Institution finds that by 2050, the median age in the United States will be 35.4 years, nearly what it is now. But in Europe the median age will be 52.3 years -- a vast increase which holds considerable implications for future policies.

It suggests, for example, that:

  • American power -- military as well as economic -- will continue to grow relative to Europe, and European power will also decline relative to such other areas as China, India and Latin America.
  • Europe will have to compensate for its population shortfall either through increased immigration -- or accept being older, smaller and less influential in world affairs.
  • Europeans are now retiring well before the official retirement age of 60 or 65, depending on the country, but some experts suggest raising the retirement age as high as 80 years.

Only 39 percent of European men age 60 to 65 still work. That means, given "old" Europe's low birth rates, that a decreasing number of young people are paying into pension systems that have to support a larger number of people. And those same larger numbers will also be in retirement for increasing numbers of years, demographers warn.

Source: Richard Bernstein, "An Aging Europe May Find Itself on the Sidelines," New York Times, June 29, 2003.


Browse more articles on International Issues