Saturday 16 May 2020

The biggest problem Europe faces goes unmentioned

“We are losing a city of 15,000, 16,000 people per year just by the fact that we have 15,000, 16,000 more deaths than births. For a country of around 4m, that is a lot, right? Plus we have freedom of movement now."

'"We really did a lot in terms of demographic politics, tax, childcare, amounts of money that we give to parents for motherhood, etc — we are doing as much as we can. But I think we should do something at the European level."

These words are those of Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković in an interview at the end of last year with the Financial Times. You may be forgiven for not knowing that Croatia holds the EU presidency. Croatia is the fifth-fastest shrinking country in the world and wanted to put demographics and declining birth-rates at the centre of her presidency but no-one noticed, even before the virus came upon us. They gave a party and nobody came.

The average age of women in the EU at first childbirth is 29. Only in Romania and Bulgaria is it as low as 26. In Spain and Italy it is 31.  Greece 30. The post-Communist countries have the youngest average ages. In Russia, by marked contrast, it is 24.6.

In 1990 it was 25 in Romania, Hungary, East Germany, 26 in Greece, Poland, the USSR and Czechoslovakia and lowest in Bulgaria at 25.

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