By Hilary White

BRUSSELS, August 29, 2008 ( – Population statistics and projections were released yesterday showing that European countries are dying out, even with immigration, their populations aging and shrinking.  A report released this week by Eurostat, the European Union’s statistical service, showed that by 2015, the number of deaths in Europe will have outstripped the number of births.  By 2060, the ratio of people of working age to those over age 65 will be two to one.

  None of the countries of Europe currently have a general fertility rate above replacement level and it is predicted that what is being called a “demographic winter” will strike Europe within thirty years. The report showed that the growth momentum of Europe’s 27 member states will continue to carry it until 2035; after this the population will begin to decline drastically from a predicted 521 million to 506 million by 2060.

  The report says that until 2035, “positive net migration would be the only population growth factor.”

“However, from 2035 this positive net migration would no longer counterbalance the negative natural change, and the population is projected to begin to fall.”

  All of the countries studied in the report, with the exceptions of the Republic of Ireland, Andorra, Poland, Malta, the Principality of Monaco, allow abortion with few or no restrictions. Nearly all the countries of the European Union maintain state funded contraception programmes.

  The report showed that by 2060, Britain would have the largest population with a current fertility rate, according to the Office for National Statistics, of 1.91 children per woman and nearly restrictionless immigration policies. The ONS predicts a population of 70 million by 2031, but says that at least 70 per cent of the rise will be attributable directly to immigration. Germany, currently the biggest country in the EU with more than 82 million people, will see its population shrink by 14 per cent according to the Eurostat report.

  ONS figures released last week showed that there are now more pensioners than children in the UK. Even so, given the situation of other countries, the report revealed that Britain will have the youngest population in Europe. By 2060, 24.7 per cent of people in Britain will be 65 or older but in Poland, the proportion will be 36.2 per cent. About 17 per cent of Europeans are currently aged 65 or older; by 2060 the numbers will have risen to 30 per cent.

  The average age for Britons is 39 and will be 42 in 2060, but this will be the lowest age in Europe with the exception of Luxembourg. The average age of Europeans is now just over 40; this will be 48 by 2060. The current median age for women in France, 40.7 years, is already over that at which women can easily conceive

  Desperate countries have begun implementing various schemes to try to convince their populations to continue the species but these have yielded small results and overall fertility rates have continued to fall. Sweden offers one of the most generous government child benefits and maternity leave programmes in Europe, with women able to take as many as 15 months on 80 per cent pay. The efforts, however, have yielded only a tiny increase in the birth rate from 1.5 children per woman in 1999 to 1.71 in 2004.  Meanwhile the government of Sweden continues to fully fund contraceptive programmes and 36,045 Swedish children died by abortion in 2006.

  With population growth and economic growth closely connected, some are predicting that the demographic crisis will begin to exacerbate historic tensions between countries and regions and various ethnic groups. Barry McLerran, producer of the film “Demographic Winter: the decline of the human family”, said Russia’s population crisis was an overlooked factor in its recent invasion of Georgia.

  McLerran noted that due to Russia’s low birth rate, 1.17 children per woman, and the shortened lifespan due to disease, Russia’s population is declining by approximately 750,000 people a year. Efforts by the Russian government to boost its population, including paying parents the equivalent of US $9,200 for every child after the first one, are failing.

  McLerran asks, “So, where does a nation with a plummeting birth rate find people?” One answer, he suggests, is territorial expansion. 

  And the problem is not limited to Europe. In 1989, 11.6 per cent of Japan’s population was over 65. Less than 20 years later, seniors are 21.1 per cent of the Japanese people.

  The documentary points out that in less than 40 years, fertility rates have fallen by over 50 per cent worldwide. In 1970, the average woman had 6 children during her lifetime. Today, the global average is 2.9. Worldwide, there are 6 million fewer children under six years of age today than there were in 1990.

  To watch a trailer for the film Demographic Winter:


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