REVIEW #18: The Desired and Actual Effects of Social and Family Policies on CEE Economies

Among the many social challenges Europe is currently facing, the issue of demography seems to be the most populist topic. Populism at the level of both political demagoguery and performance is often under-taken by decision-making bodies. Why are demographics so important? The reason is quite simple: the functioning of all public services depends on it; hence completely different infrastructures are needed for a hundred people and 500 million people. Meanwhile, the fundamental demands of young people and the elderly differ.

It is, therefore, vital to understand that the surroundings (from roads, means of transport, schools to hospitals, and the structure of their branches) must be adapted to the characteristics of the population and the resulting needs. In European states, these universal problems are accompanied by a social security system based on financing the current commitments of the elderly by younger people who are active in the labor market. In return, they receive the promise of similar funding by future generations in their declining years. The system works as long as the proportion of generations is kept within safe limits.


The Western World

Table 1: World population in the 21st century [in million people]

1960198019902000201020152015 to 19602015 to 1990
North America20425428131434435815477
South America220365447527600634414187
Australia and Oceania1623273136392312

Source: PAN[1]

Demographic changes in the so-called European ‘Western World’ are a fact, both in terms of population size and structure.[2] The latter issue seems to be more important from a long-term perspective. In the period after World War II, the population of Europe grew dynamically until approximately the 1990s, it began to slow down towards the end of the century. In recent years, however, the trend has reversed [See: Table 1 and Figure 1].

Among individual countries, an identical pattern may be observed, with a noticeable delay in the countries of the eastern part of the European Union. Migration events have a clear impact on the population and social structure. For example, the migration of citizens of the eastern EU to the west of the community after the EU ‘Big Bang’ enlargement in 2004, and a decade later migration from

Figure 1: World population in the 21st century [in million people]

Source: PAN[3]

the countries of Eastern Europe and Western Asia – which somehow complements the earlier outflow from the countries of the eastern EU. At the same time, there is a noticeable decrease in the fertility rate and, as a natural consequence, the aging of the population.

[1]  Stanczak, J. et. al. (2016) “Potencjał ludnościowy Unii Europejskiej”, [in]: Ekonomiczna pozycja Unii Europejskiej. Available [online]: [in Polish]

[2]Rajendra K. Sharma, Demography and Population Problems, Atlantic Publishers & Dist, 2004, p 48.

[3]  Stanczak, J. et. al. (2016) “Potencjał ludnościowy Unii Europejskiej”, [in]: Ekonomiczna pozycja Unii Europejskiej. Available [online]: [in Polish]


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