An age card for Europe

Map shows population structure on our continent

This map shows the age structure of the European population: the yellowing of comparatively ancient regions, the pink of the especially young © I. Kashnitsky / J. Schöley
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Forgotten or young? Researchers have created a map of Europe that shows the age distribution of the population at a glance. Their analysis of demographic data shows where our continent looks particularly old and where relatively many young people still live. This not only reveals clear differences between the West and the East of Europe, but also regional differences within individual countries.

Demographic change is more advanced in Europe than on any other continent on earth. We Europeans have the lowest birth rates worldwide and live the longest. According to United Nations data, half of our population is already 43 years or older. However, this aging does not appear in all countries equally. So how does it look in the individual regions of Europe?

This question has now been investigated by scientists led by Ilya Kashnitsky of the demographic research institute NIDI in The Hague. The team evaluated data from the European Union's statistical office and used this information to create an age map for Europe: where is our continent relatively young and where is it particularly old? Thanks to a differentiated color scheme, this can now be recognized at a glance.

South and west look old

The results show that, among other things, the south of Europe already looks quite old. For example, the average number of births per woman in Spain, Portugal and Italy is around 1.3. In order for the population to remain constant, theoretically 2.1 children per woman would have to be born.

Western Europe is also aging rapidly. As the data reveal, older people make up a large part of the population in France and Germany, for example. One striking exception in the West is Ireland. Although in the island state, the birth rates also go back. However, with 1.81 children per woman, the Irish are well above the European average and are therefore still comparatively young. According to the researchers, this is also due to the influence of the Catholic Church, which consistently rejects abortions. display

The population is also relatively young in many Eastern European countries. For example, many people of working age between 15 and 64 years live in Poland and Slovakia.

Regional differences

But the age map does not only make clear the differences between the states. Even within individual countries age differences can be discovered - for example in Belgium. "If you take a closer look at the map, you can clearly see the border between Flanders in the north and Wallonia in the south, " says Kashnitsky. According to this, the population in the Walloon Region is younger, while Flanders is closer to the European average.

Another demographically striking spot on the map is in Finland: it stands out within the country as the only pink-colored region, which means that the population there is much younger than the europ ische average. What is behind it? According to the researchers, so-called Laestadians live in this part of the country. These extremely conservative Lutherans are sometimes referred to as the European Amish and traditionally have many children.

City vs. City country

In Spain, differences in age, especially between the coastal regions and the interior of the country, become apparent. So live on the coast significantly more middle-aged people. This is because Spain experienced a major wave of immigration in the 2000s, the scientists report.

In addition, the age map also reveals very fundamental trends: Almost everywhere in Europe, the population structure in the cities differs, for example, from that in the countryside. Capital cities and other urban centers have always attracted people of working age, as shown on the map.

"Highly urbanized areas are particularly attractive to young professionals. In contrast, families with small children often move from the city center to the suburbs, "the researchers write. (Lancet, 2018; doi: 10.1016 / S0140-6736 (18) 31194-2)

(National Research University Higher School of Economics, 20.09.2018 - DAL)