UK population 'will be top in EU'

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The Independent Online

The UK's population will soar to become the largest in the European Union, a report has predicted.

Britain will overtake Germany by 2060 to become the EU's most populous state with 76.6 million citizens, up from 61 million at present. Germany's population is expected to fall to 70.7 million by 2060 from 82 million in January this year.

The strongest population growth will be in Cyprus, up 66 percent by 2060, Ireland, up 53 percent, Luxembourg, up 52 percent, and Britain, up 25 percent.

The EU's population is set to reach 506 million by 2060, when there will be only two people of working age for every person aged 65 or more, the EU statistical office Eurostat said.

Policymakers are bracing for a big rise in the number of pensioners putting a strain on public finances as people live longer and there are proportionately fewer people of working age, even with net migration.

Currently there are four people of working age for every person of 65 or more.

"The ageing of the population is one of the major challenges Europe must face with climate change and globalisation," Amelia Torres, a European Commission spokeswoman, told a news briefing.

The EU must make sure public finances are sound and people should work longer, Torres said.

"We want to carry on with structural reform, in particular reform of pensions systems and for healthcare expenditure with the view to ensuring these systems are sustainable in the long term," Torres said.

The combined population of the 27-nation area will peak in 2035 at 521 million, compared with 495 million in January this year, with deaths outnumbering births from 2015, Eurostat said.

From 2035, even positive net migration will no longer counterbalance the negative impact of fewer births, Eurostat said.

Countries with the highest percentage of people aged 65 or more by 2060 will include Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovenia and Slovakia.

The economy would suffer with fewer people working and EU finance ministers were studying the issue, Torres said.