People in the EU: who are we and how do we live?

Demographic change, together with migration, globalisation and climate change, is recognised as one of the most significant challenges the European Union (EU) is currently facing. In recent decades, the profile of the EU population has changed, due in part to ageing society, changes in patterns of family formation and structure and shifts in the roles of men and women.

Eurostar published the flagship publication “People in the EU: who are we and how do we live?”. Its seven chapters provide a detailed picture of the population, families, households and housing, which helps understand the demographic, social and economic situation of those living in the EU.

As Marianne Thyssen, Commissioner responsible for employment, social affairs, skills and labour mobility, states in the foreword of the publication: “Providing a better understanding of the different aspects of the lives of individuals and families will help the European Commission and the Member State governments in their joint efforts to create prosperity for everybody in Europe. This data will help us translate the 10 Juncker Commission priorities into targeted policies and concrete actions”.

In 2014, the median age of the EU population was 42.2 years, meaning that half of the population was younger and half was older than 42.2 years. At Member State level, the youngest population was found in Ireland (median age 36.0 years), Cyprus (36.8 years), Slovakia (38.6 years), Luxembourg and Poland (both 39.2 years) and the United Kingdom (39.9 years). In contrast, the oldest population was recorded in Germany (45.6 years), Italy (44.7 years), Bulgaria (43.2 years), Portugal (43.1 years) and Greece (43.0 years).

Over the last twenty years, the median age of the EU population rose by six years, from 36.2 years in 1994. This trend was noticeable in all Member States, in particular in Lithuania, where it rose by almost 9 years (8.9 years) since 1994. Increases of 7 years or more were observed in Germany and Portugal (7.6 years each) as well as in Austria and Romania (7.0 years each).

Single-person households accounted for almost one third (31.8%) of all households in the EU in 2014. The highest shares of single-person households were registered in the three Nordic Member States – Denmark (45.0%), Finland (40.8%) and Sweden (39.9%) – as well as in Germany (40.5%). In contrast, single-person households accounted for around one in five households in Cyprus (20.8%), Portugal (21.4%), Ireland (22.0% in 2013), Romania (22.1%) and Hungary (22.8%).

41.8% of single-person households were composed of persons aged 65 years or over in the EU in 2014. In eight Member States those aged 65 or over were even in the majority: Croatia (61.9%), Romania (59.1%), Portugal (58.5%), Bulgaria (57.4%), Latvia (52.8%), Lithuania (52.4%), Malta (52.1%) and Slovakia (50.8%).

In 2014, single-person households in the EU were predominantly composed of women, who accounted for 56.6% of all such households. This was the case in all EU Member States, albeit in different proportions. The share of women in single-person households was particularly high in Latvia (68.7%), Hungary (68.3%), Slovakia (66.8%) and Poland (66.4%).

“Family” or “family nucleus” means two persons (of either sex) living together as a married couple (including registered partnership) or in a consensual union, with or without children. It also includes single parents with children. Based on the 2011 census data, more than 7 out of 10 families (71.4%) in the EU were composed of married couples, with or without children. Across Member States, the highest proportions of families consisting of married couples were recorded in Cyprus (83.9%), Greece (82.2%), Romania (80.2%) and Malta (80.1%). In contrast, only just above half of families were composed of married couples in Estonia (52.5%) and Latvia (53.6%).

All EU capital city regions counted a lower share of married couples than the national average: in most of them, there were proportionally more consensual unions.

In 2011 in the EU, 16% of families were lone parents. Among them, 83.7% were lone mothers and 16.3% lone fathers. There were significantly more lone mothers than lone fathers in all Member States, in particular in Estonia (90.8%), Cyprus (88.3%), Poland (87.2%) and Latvia (87.1%). The only Member States where lone fathers accounted for more than 20% of lone parent families were Sweden (23.7%), Romania (21.5%) and Spain (20.9%).

Photo: European Parliament