Volume 46 - Article 9 | Pages 261–272  

Assessing the demographic impact of migration on the working-age population across European territories

By Daniela Ghio, Anne Goujon, Fabrizio Natale


Background: Ageing is central in the European Union (EU) policy debate, with all member states being concerned about implications of growing shares of older people and declining shares of working-age populations for the sustainability of welfare and health systems. Beyond this general context, ageing patterns differ largely across EU territories because of distinctive demographic and spatial dynamics.

Objective: We study the relative contribution of cohort turnover and migration flows in shaping the demographic evolution of the working-age population at the local level.

Methods: Using Eurostat data, we decompose the changes that have occurred in the working-age population into cohort turnover and net migration effects for the 2015–2019 period, at territorial (NUTS3 and urban-intermediate-rural) levels.

Results: The majority (63%) of European (NUTS3) territories experienced negative cohort turnover effects alongside positive net migration effects during the 2015–2019 period. However, in only 27% of these territories, net migration counterbalanced the deficit in the working-age population due to cohort turnover.

Conclusions: In 2015–2019, migration was the underlying force in the evolution of the working-age population, partially compensating for the loss of population due to the cohort turnover. This effect was particularly pronounced in urban areas.

Contribution: Our contribution is twofold. First, we map EU NUTS3 territories where the working-age population is declining rapidly. Second, we give an assessment of the varied role of migration in mitigating the effect of ageing and shrinking working-age populations across EU urban, intermediate, and rural areas.

Author's Affiliation

  • Daniela Ghio - European Commission Joint Research Centre, Italy EMAIL
  • Anne Goujon - Wittgenstein Centre for Demography and Global Human Capital (IIASA, OeAW, University of Vienna), Austria EMAIL
  • Fabrizio Natale - European Commission Joint Research Centre, Italy EMAIL

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