BRUSSELS, August 10, 2005 ( – A European Commissioner warned that the continent’s low birthrate is one of three most pressing issues facing the European Union.

“The collapse of social policies in support of working women and families has increased the burden on women, and contributed to the depression of fertility rates,” a press release from the office of the EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities stated.

At a conference organized by the Commission last month, Commissioner Vladimír Špidla warned, “Between now and 2030, a loss of 21 million people of working age, or 7% of the workforce, will see Europe’s potential growth decline from 2% today to 1.5% as soon as 2015 and to as little as 1.25% in 2040.

“We must pull out all the stops to react to this,” Spidla emphasized. “Either we help out or we lose out.”

“Now is the time to act,” the Commission added. “There are just six years before 2011, when a sharp decline in the active working population (aged 15-64) will coincide with a significant rise in the number of over 65s.”

The conference was part of the Green Paper process, in which the European Commission opened up a public consultation, until October this year, entitled ‘Confronting demographic change: a new solidarity between the generations.’ The consultation is a response to Europe’s demographic trends, which show people having fewer children and living longer, leading to fewer working age people and more elderly people to care for.

The Green Paper, released in March, warns that the fertility rate for all EU member countries is below that of replacement rate – 2.1 children per woman.

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