With the recent influx of migrants from Ukraine to the European Union, the role of migration in solving the problem of an aging population in the EU has been brought up for discussion once again. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that from February 24 till the 5th of May, 5.7 million people have left Ukraine to enter its neighboring countries. Among this group of countries, 4 countries members of the European Union are included, Poland (3143 thousand), Slovakia (388 thousand), Hungary (551 thousand), and Romania (854 thousand) (UNHCR, 2022).
One important characteristic of this event is its unpredictability, the overall impact will largely depend on the duration of the war. If the war is short the effect will be much smaller since most of the families will go back to Ukraine. The longer the war prolongs itself, the higher the effect will be since families will by then be accustomed to their new countries, and they are less likely to abandon them and return back home (The Economist, 2022).
A study commissioned by the European Parliament in 2007 found that by 2050, 56 million immigrants could be needed to compensate for the aging of the population. The current situation of the European population can be summed up in 3 key indicators, the median age, life expectancy at birth, and birth rate. In 2020 the median age for a citizen of the European Union was 43,9, 18 years prior it was 38,7. The life expectancy at birth increased from 77,6 years to 80,4 years, in the same time period, and finally, the birth rate declined from 10,1‰ in 2002 to 9,1‰ in 2020. Finally, the dependency ratio in 2020 was 35,6% while 18 years ago was 25,9%, which means that while in 2002 there were 25,9 citizens over the age of 65 per 100 people in working age, 2 years ago there were 35,6; the European Commission projects that in 2100 there will be 57.
It’s clear that the European population is getting older, so can migration solve this problem? On the positive side, migrants normally come in the earlier stages of their working life, so they both rejuvenate and increase the labor force (Segendorf & Theobald, 2019), this allows the government to increase its tax revenue, allowing for the maintenance of the sustainability of the social security system in Europe. But according to a study conducted in Sweden, this process can only happen if the integration of these migrants in the labor market is done properly, otherwise this can even increase the economic dependency (Marois et al., 2020).
In case there is a combination of a high influx of migration with low qualifications, many migrants might not find a job which will leave them in a very precarious situation, and reliant on the help of public funds.
There are also other problems, migrants need to be legally protected, to prevent some employers from taking advantage of the extreme needs of some immigrants (European Commission, 2018) and forcing them into illegal labor. All of these above-mentioned arguments are some of the reasons many consider that migration might not be a viable solution to the aging problem in the European Union (European Commission, 2019).
To conclude, this recent influx of migrants from Ukraine to the EU can be beneficial in slowing down the aging process in the European population, but it needs to be done properly, or else some problems might occur from it
European Commission. “Demographic Scenarios for the Eu,” 2019, 92. https://doi.org/10.2760/98611.
European Commission. “The 2018 Ageing Report: Economic and Budgetary Projections for the EU Member States (2016-2070),” 2018. https://ec.europa.eu/info/publications/economy-finance/2018-ageing-report-economic-and-budgetary-projections-eu-member-states-2016-2070_en.
European Parliament. “As Europe Ages – How Can We Tackle Its Demographic Decline?,” 2008. https://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//NONSGML+IM-PRESS+20080414FCS26499+0+DOC+PDF+V0//EN&language=EN#:~:text=The demographic make-up of,to compensate for this decline.%0APopulation?”.%0A.
Marois, Guillaume, Alain Bélanger, and Wolfgang Lutz. “Population Aging, Migration, and Productivity in Europe.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 117, no. 14 (2020): 7690–95. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1918988117.
Segendorf, Åsa Olli, and Emelie Theobald. “Can Immigration Solve the Problem of an Aging Population?,” 2019, 6–29.
The Economist. “How the War in Ukraine Is Changing Europe’s Demography,” 2022. https://www.economist.com/international/2022/04/30/how-the-war-in-ukraine-is-changing-europes-demography.
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. “Ukraine Situation Flash Update #5,” no. May (2022). https://data2.unhcr.org/en/documents/download/91589.
Student of the Bachelor’s Degree in Economics
Nova School of Business and Economics