Europe: A club for the old

old menTC

Donato Ndongo | The Old Continent will soon be the continent of the old. With families ever less structure and birth rates falling, we should ask if countries without children and with single person households have a future.

The umpteenth warning comes from the Report on the Evolution of the Family in Europe, presented last May in the European Parliament. According to the population indicators, the data for births, marriages and divorces are all getting worse in the EU, which multiplicate and aggravate social problems.

For Lola Velarde, vice-president of the International Federation of the Institute for Protection of the Family (IPF), the data is conclusive, despite the demographic growth of 60 million in the last 40 years and the contribution of female immigrants, the 5.1 million births each year are 1.5 million babies less tan in 1975. The fertility rate 1.6 childern/woman) does not cover generational replacement (2.1). In one country the situation is critical with a fertility rate of only 1.34.

Late motherhood is indicated as a cause: Spanish and Irish women in particular give birth for the first time at 30.6 years old. The difficult conciliation of work and family contributes: flexibility and rationalisation of the working day, continuous or reduced, would favor motherhood. Moreover, Europeans marry less and divorce more; between 1975 and 2015, marriages reduced by almost 1.3 million, 37%. Every thirty seconds a couple gets divorced (a million break ups per year), half of all marriages. The disolutions are often early. Four out of ten (38%) marriages end before 10 years. Thus “seven out of ten households remain empty, solitary, withour children”.

Europe is becoming a giant old people´s home: 100 million old people (19.2% of the population) amount to 18 million more than those under 15; those over 85 (25 million) represent 5.1% of the population. An unsustainable pyramid in 2015: a shrinking and ageing labour forcé which will generate serious economic and social problems; an increase in health expenditure and the bankruptcy of the pension system … According to Eduardo Hertfelder, President of the IPF, governments “don´t take the family seriously, which in reality lacks support”; he urges “changing and reinforcing policies” to base them in a family perspective which “facilitates the fulfillment of their functions”.



About the Author

Donato Ndongo
Donato Ndongo-Bidyogo was born in Niefang, Equatorial Guinea, in 1950. Writer, journalist and political exile. He was correspondent and delegate of Spanish EFE agency in central Africa (1987-1995). Director of the Center for African Studies at the University of Murcia (2000-2004). Visiting Professor at the University of Missouri-Columbia (United States, 2005-2008). Regular lecturer on American, African and European universities. He is the author of the essays "History and tragedy of Equatorial Guinea" (1977), "Anthology of Guinean literature" (1984) and co-author of "Spain in Guinea" (1998) as well as of three novels translated into several languages. Mr Ndongo is a regular contributor for Spanish media such as El País, ABC, Mundo Negro and The Corner’s print magazine Consejeros, among others.