Forum on Migration, Citizenship and Demography, Conference on Demography

The Migration Policy Centre, in collaboration with the European University Institute’s Forum on Migration, Citizenship and Demography (EUI’s Forum), is organising a Conference on Demography, which will take place at the EUI on 4–5 February 2016.

The EUI’s Forum provides a frame to reflect on migration-related issues in the current context of the mass movements of refugees and migrants. It seeks to bring together academics, experts, stakeholders and practitioners in order to explore – and draw practical lessons from – unique challenges that these movements pose for both Europe and the world. Beyond the immediate crisis, the Forum will concentrate on migration’s far-reaching impact in four domains: demography; integration management; the repercussions for Europe’s fundamental premises; and the global governance of population flows.

The conference will focus on the links between migration and demography in Europe. It will, look into the present and future of Europe’s population – with a particular emphasis on: population decline and ageing and their consequences for the economy and society; the role of migration in population reproduction; and the tools and policies that address immigration in its relationship with demography.

Everyone is welcome to attend. Registration (no fee) is required – click here to register

Please click here for the final programme.

Practical Information – How to get to Villa La Fonte.

Note for the media
The media is very welcome to attend the conference and time has been allocated in the programme at 17:15 on Thursday 4th February for media interviews with the conference speakers. Any journalists wishing to attend and who request a media interview should write to Please kindly note that expenses will not be covered.


For the first time in history, Europe is about to experience a durable reduction in its population which is not the result of wars, famines or epidemics as in past depopulation phases, but the aggregate outcome of free individual choice regarding the procreation of children. Moreover, below-replacement fertility combines with continuous gains in life expectancy, to generate rapid population ageing. While this process is potentially universal, it will affect Europe more quickly and more acutely than any other part of the world. Demography challenges Europe’s weight in the world as well as its wealth and welfare.

Europe’s weight in the world

The world’s population will continue to increase steadily through the twenty-first century, but the population of Europe will decrease or at best stabilise, depending upon migration scenarios. Europe (without Russia) will represent less than 6% of the world’s population in 2050 (Table 1).  Germany which is at present the most populated country of the European Union and ranks sixteenth in world population, in 2050 and 2100 will only be respectively the world’s twenty-fifth and fortieth largest country. The relative weight of European nations will dwindle in world population terms, endangering their influence in world affairs and the institutions of global governance.

Considering geographic entities such as Europe and its countries provides only part of the picture, however. Looking at the European Union as a political entity under construction delivers another message. Indeed, the aggregate population of EU member states comes third in the world today, after China and India. Were the EU to become one state, despite its decreasing population, this state would still be the world’s third largest in 2050 and the fourth (after Nigeria) in 2100.

Table 1: Europe in world population  1914 – 2050
Year 1914 2015 2050
Population (million)
Europe (without Russia) 360 595 578
World 1,825 7,350 9,725
Share of Europe (%)
In the world’s population 19.7% 8.1% 5.9%


In the world’s output 37.9% 25.7% 11.1%
Sources: UNDESA, World Population Prospects: The 2015 Revision; Angus Maddison, The World Economy: Historical Statistics, OECD Development Centre 2004; OECD Long-term scenarios


In sharp contrast with Europe, its closest neighbour, Africa, has had, over the last half century, and is expected to keep through the twenty-first century, the world’s fastest rate of population growth (Table 2). Africa is projected to have eight times as many people as Europe by the end of the century, the result of a late take-off in terms of education and economic output. Potential migration from African countries may rise accordingly. While most international African migration has been intra-continental in the twentieth century, the emergence of African nations has already started to make intra-African migration more difficult. Migration out of Africa must, therefore, be expected to increase.

Table 2: Past, present and projected population of Europe and  Africa for 1950-2100
Region / Year 1950 2015 2050 2100
Population (millions)
Europe (excluding Russia) 446 595 578 528
Africa 229 1,186 2,478 4,387
Africa/Europe 0.5 2.0 4.3 8.3
Source: UNDESA, World Population Prospects: The 2015 Revision


EU’s wealth and welfare

The EU workforce is entering a period of fast ageing and decline that may hamper its ambitious economic goals. In the last two decades, the EU has already lost 8% of its young working age population (20-44 years). However, a much deeper loss of 19% (-32 million) must be expected in the next two decades if no migration takes place. Demographic decline will also affect older workers (45-64 years) and it is only at post-working age (currently 65 and above) that the population will continue to grow for some time (Table 3). This will have two consequences.

First, the shift in age structure may trigger a process of skills ageing and affect the EU’s capacity to develop as a post-industrial economy. Indeed, a reduction in the number of young workers amounts to a reduction in absolute terms in the mass of: recently acquired education; formal knowledge; and skills in the fields where up-to-date knowledge matters more than experience.

Second, the rise of an elderly population combined with shrinking numbers at working-age alters the generational contract and will put Europe’s welfare systems at risk.  Growing numbers entitled to a pension combined with shrinking numbers of taxpayers will soon make current welfare schemes financially unsustainable, unless dramatic revisions in the respective levels of pension and taxation take place.

Table 3: Population aged 20 + in the EU28  in the no-migration scenario   2015-2035


Population (millions)


Change 2015-2035


2015 2035


In millions in %
20-44 years 166 134 -32 -19%
45-64 years 139 131 -8 -6%
65 years and above 96 134 38 39%


A not so wide range of responses

In order to curb negative population trends and their consequences, governments can have recourse to the non-exclusive but complementary strategies below:

  • Pro-birth policies to check below-replacement fertility;
  • Labour policies to increase the rate of economic participation;
  • Social and fiscal policies to change the ratio of social benefits/tax revenue;
  • Pro-immigration policies to replace missing natives.

Changes in population numbers and structures are so slow that they are imperceptible in real time and politicians rarely feel accountable for long-term transformations. Demography is, then, absent from most political agendas. On the contrary as immigration has become a major concern among public opinion in European countries, few politicians would advocate immigration as an appropriate response to demographic trends. Population ageing and shrinking call for replacement migration and, yet, paradoxically, the ageing of citizens might translate into increasing intolerance towards immigrants (Table 4). 

Table 4: Negative feelings towards immigration from outside the EU
Age group 15 – 24 years 25 – 39 years 40 – 54 years 55 years & +
Aggregate EU28 52% 58% 63% 68%
Source: Eurobarometer 2015

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