Europe needs baby boom to avert a population disaster: Report

London: As authorities in Europe struggle to keep asylum-seekers at bay, a demographic crisis is unfolding in many countries in the continent as they desperately need more young people to populate its rural areas and look after its elderly because its societies are no longer self- sustaining, according to a media report.

Spain has one of the lowest fertility rates in the EU, with an average of 1.27 children born for every woman of childbearing age, compared to the European Union average of 1.55. Spain’s crippling economic crisis has seen a net exodus of people from the country, as hundreds of thousands of Spaniards and migrants leave in the hope of finding jobs abroad.

The result is that, since 2012, Spain’s population has been shrinking, The Guardian reported. In Portugal, the population has been shrinking since 2010. For many analysts, the question now is how low can it go, with projections by the National Statistics Institute suggesting Portugal’s population could drop from 10.5 million to 6.3 million by 2060.

According to Portuguese Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho: “We’ve got really serious problems.” In Italy the retired population is soaring, with the proportion of over-65s set to rise from 2.7 per cent last year to 18.8 per cent in 2050. Germany has the lowest birthrate in the world: 8.2 per 1,000 population between 2008 and 2013, according to a recent study by the Hamburg-based world economy institute, the HWWI.

The UK’s population reached 64.6 million by mid-2014, a growth of 491,000 over the previous year, according to the Office for National Statistics. On average, Britain’s population grew at a faster rate over the last decade than it has done over the last 50 years.

For southern Europe, migration within the EU has become a grave problem. Hundreds of thousands of Portuguese have left, hoping to find better opportunities abroad. Coelho has said the next 10 to 15 years would be decisive in reversing the trend. If no action is taken, he said last year, “these issues will only be solved by a miracle.”

The EU’s Eurostat agency estimates that by 2050, Portugal will be the country in Europe that is home to the smallest proportion of children, with just 11.5% of the population expected to be under the age of 15. Toy shops and hundreds of schools are closing while petrol stations and motels are being converted into nursing homes.

Coelho has called on the EU to make falling birthrates a priority in the next five years. “This question has a dimension that is not strictly national,” he said, pointing to labour legislation and “the manner in which urban life is organised,” The Guardian quoted Coelho as saying. Ad hoc political solutions at a national level are failing. Italy has tried to overcome its bleak demographic outlook with initiatives ranging from pension cuts to a baby bonus, but the statistics are not on their side, the report said.