The Atlantic on Europe's Real Crisis: Demographics


Megan Mcardle for The Atlantic:

"...For the most part, Europe has already spent its demographic dividend. And the recent inability of countries like Spain and Greece to hit their deficit targets illustrates just how difficult coping with financial and fiscal instability can be when growth fails to materialize as expected. Neither voters nor employers were prepared to make the necessary compromises—and as the endless, fractious negotiations over Greek debt show, it is very hard to get them to adjust to reality, even when the alternative is disastrous. We shouldn’t necessarily expect people to become more resigned to compromise as time goes on—quite possibly we should expect the opposite.

Southern Europe is already living in Twilight City. And those of us who live in Morningburg or Afternoonville should pay close attention to what happens next, because eventually, we’re all heading to that neck of the woods. The United Nations estimates that by 2030, the number of people older than 60 will be growing more than three times as fast as the general population. By 2050, one in every five people will be over 60. In the developed world, the proportion will be more like one in three. Europe (along with Japan) is at the forefront of an unprecedented shift.

“The problem,” says Canning, “is that aging is a new thing. We know quite well what the effects of going to low fertility are—but we’ve never seen this sort of aging before, so it’s hard to make predictions.”

One prediction is safe, however: aging will present challenges that, as of now, no nation has adequately prepared to face."

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