Demography matters. The economy and the labour market, but also social protection, intergenerational fairness and healthcare, the environment, food and nutrition are all driven by demography. The population of EU countries has grown substantially – by around a quarter since 1960 – and currently it stands at almost 450 million. The numbers are now beginning to stagnate however and are expected to decline from around the middle of the century. With the world population having risen still more substantially and growth continuing, the EU represents a shrinking proportion of the global population.
The EU population is also ageing dramatically, as life expectancy increases and fertility rates fall below past levels. This has serious implications across a range of areas including the economy, healthcare and pensions. Free movement within the EU and migration from third countries also play an important role in shaping demography in individual Member States and regions.
The ‘in-focus’ section of this year’s edition of the demographic outlook examines food and nutrition-related demographic challenges. It shows that, even if improving food quality and healthier eating habits lead to higher life expectancy, the EU still has to tackle the harmful consequences and prevent the causes of diet-related chronic conditions, such as obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.