Introduction and Methodology

This report draws on a comparative analysis of approaches and practices identified in nine INTERREG IVC projects dealing with the consequences of demographic change. It presents the analysis and key findings of the capitalisation exercise focusing on nine demographic change projects supported by the INTERREG IVC Programme.

Capitalisation is the collection and analysis of valuable, innovative, interesting and useful practices and policies developed or implemented in these projects. This report aims to help policymakers and practitioners draw on this practice to develop effective policy recommendations at regional, national and or European level.

The nine projects that have been analysed are:

CASAConsortium for Assistive Solutions Adoption
CREATORCreative regional policies addressing economic development opportunities related to ageing societies
DAADesign led Innovations for Active Ageing
DARTDeclining, Ageing and Regional Transformation
ESF6 CIACapitalising Innovating Approaches towards Demographic Change
INN.O.V.AgeEco-INNovation for smart hOme and independent liVing to increase the quality of life of Aging people
PADIMAPolicies Against Depopulation in Mountain Areas
PEOPLEInnovation for Societal Change
RTFRegional Telemedicine Forum

Annexe 2 of this report contains fact sheets for each of these projects, showing the start and end date, partners in the projects and the website address.

1. Methodology

The nine analysed INTERREG IVC projects include 98 partners, representing 22 Member States and Norway. Altogether, they addressed 105 local/regional policies and identified good practices.

The first step in the analysis was the collection of data provided by the INTERREG IVC Programme (application form, progress reports, final report if available) and all relevant information provided by the projects (details on good practices, policies addressed). The next step was to check the thematic homogeneity and relevance of the selected projects that contribute to the topic of demographic change. The collecting of data and the screening of thematic content was executed by desk research.

The primarily results of the analysis were used as input for an interactive workshop. The capitalisation expert showed the progress made and gave the possibility to reflect on this. But the main aim was to start an exchange process among the projects dealing with similar issues in particular through a brief presentation of each project, to discuss interesting practices and policies available within the regions involved in these projects, to discuss the notion of the specific topic and clarify the different possible approaches, and to identify innovative approaches that could also be relevant to other regions in Europe.

Project (lead) partners were asked to give a brief presentation of their project, thereby focusing on challenges and difficulties, but also on successes and good practices. Has a project contributed to regional or national policies? What aspects could be useful for the other projects or for other local/regional authorities? Specially invited speakers for this workshop, Ettore Marchetti, Economic analyst from DG Employment and Hans Schlappa, Project leader URBACT Capitalisation on Demographic Change, contributed in relation to Europe 2020 and population decline in urban areas. After the workshop, the expert drew up the conclusions of the thematic workshop and delivered a short workshop report (see Annexe 5).

After the first collection of data, interesting practices and the first possible lessons learnt were identified. The screening of the thematic content was a first step towards the selection of the common themes of the nine INTERREG IVC projects dealing with demographic change issues. On the basis of this knowledge and an up-to-date literature review, the added value and the themes most relevant to be transferred to other regions in Europe were identified.

Special attention was given to the themes that contribute to Europe 2020 and more specifically to the EU Commission report on Demographic Change, as well as referring to active ageing, health systems and employment and the use of ICT.

In addition, a request for additional information through a questionnaire was sent by e-mail to several of the project lead beneficiaries, taking into account that this process should not represent too much of an additional burden to the projects. For the interviews, a qualitative approach was used. To deepen certain aspects of the analysis, two project visits were organised. In March, the expert visited the CASA lead beneficiary in Brussels and the PEOPLE project in Seville, Spain.

The expert also reflected upon the analysis by using the experiences of other European initiatives and programmes, such as INTERREG IVB projects dealing with the consequences of demographic change, like DC NOISE, iAge, Cities in Balance and Best Agers.

2. Some Definitions and Description of Demographic Change

Demographic change is the result of changes in the birth rate, mortality (death) rate and the migration rate.

According to the OECD/LEED (2012) there are two reliable indicators of demographic change, usually available at the ‘local level’: population trajectories and ageing indexes. These indicators are useful in describing the demographic situation in a particular area, but they do not explain why the situation has occurred nor do they provide strategies about what can be done about it. In order to define the extent of demographic change important indicators are: population change, fertility rates, youth population and ageing population (OECD/LEED 2012).

Some Demographic Indicators (1)

The Crude Birth Rate (CBR) and Crude Death Rate (CBR) are statistical values that can be utilised to measure the growth or decline of a population. The Crude Birth Rate and Crude Death Rate are both measured by the rate of births or deaths respectively in a population of 1000.

The Crude Birth Rate (CBR) is ‘crude’ because it relates births to total population without taking the age or sex composition of that population into consideration. 

Birth rates above 30 per 1000 are considered high. Western European countries have a birth rate of 8 to 9 per 1000 inhabitants. Birth rates of 18 or less per 1000 are considered low. This includes all of Europe, including Russia.

The Total Fertility Rate (TFR) represents the number of children that would be born to a woman if she were to live to the end of her childbearing years and bear children in accordance with current age-specific fertility rates.

Crude Birth Rates may display regional variability because of differences in age and sex composition or disparities in births among the reproductive-age, rather than total, population. The TFR is a more accurate statement than the birth rate in showing the amount of reproduction in the population.

Population statistics are then used to plan actions, monitor and evaluate programmes in a number of important policy areas in the social and economic fields, such as:

  • the analysis of population ageing and its effects on sustainability and welfare;
  • the evaluation of fertility as a background for family policies;
  • the evaluation of the economic impact of demographic change;
  • the calculation of ‘per capita’ indicators that, like regional GDP per inhabitant, which influence the allocation of structural funds to economically less advantaged regions;
  • the development and monitoring of harmonised immigration policies and a common asylum system in the EU;
  • lastly, as a key input for the EU decision-making process, as population defines the weight of each Member State in the Qualified Majority Voting of the Council of the EU.

What effects these rates have is determined by both socio-cultural (for example individualisation and emancipation) and economic developments: because it is young people in particular who move in search of work while the share of elderly in the economically less prosperous regions increases. Socio-cultural, economic and demographic developments are inter-related, and therefore the relationship between the developments is complex. In addition, spatial planning policies may also have an impact on the regional development and migration patterns (Verwest 2011).

Some Demographic Indicators (2)

Population change – the difference between the size of the total population at the end and the beginning of a period.

Natural change – the difference between the number of live births and the number of deaths during the year. The natural change (or natural decrease) is negative when the number of deaths exceeds the number of births. The natural change (or natural increase) is positive when the number of births exceeds the number of deaths.

Net migration – the difference between the number of immigrants and the number of emigrants from a given region during the year (net migration is therefore negative when the number of emigrants exceeds the number of immigrants).

Net migration including statistical adjustments – a general estimation of the net migration based on the difference between population change and natural change between two dates. In different countries, net migration including statistical adjustment may cover, besides the difference between inward and outward migration, other changes observed in the population figures between 1 January for two consecutive years which cannot be attributed to births, deaths, immigration or emigration.


In the next paragraphs, we will have a closer look at the two developments affecting regions in Europe the most: ageing and population decline.

  • 2.1 Ageing

    • In the second half of the twentieth century, the progressive decline to low levels of fertility and lower mortality rates among the elderly resulted in population ageing in Europe. The old age dependency ratio (2) in the EU27 is projected to increase from 26 per cent in 2010 to 53 per cent in 2060 (see figure 1.1). In other words, there would be only two persons aged 15 to 64 for every person aged 65 or more in 2060, compared with four persons to one in 2010. The old age dependency ratio is projected to be 60 per cent or more in Bulgaria, Germany, Latvia, Poland, Romania and Slovakia, and 45 per cent or less in Belgium, Denmark, Ireland, Luxembourg and the United Kingdom (Eurostat population projections 2010-2060).

      This affects labour market and healthcare services. Although the health conditions of the elderly may be expected to continue to improve, the rapid increase in the ‘oldest-old’ is likely to present a challenge to social security systems.

      Figure 1.1: Old-Age dependency ratio, EU 27 (%), 2015-2060

      Source: Eurostat

  • 2.2 Population Decline

    • From the 1970s, the fertility level fell below the required reproduction level. At the same time, the increase in life expectancy resulted in a continually ageing society. Many of the regions involved in the INTERREG IVC projects deal with the consequences of a decreasing number of 0 to 20 year olds and an increase in the proportion of people over 65. This change in population is particularly visible in Germany and countries like Poland and Romania, resulting in population decline. (3) Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania and the majority of regions in Bulgaria, Romania, Germany, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia are expected to have a lower population by 2030 (see figure 1.2).

      Figure 1.2: Number of regions with decreased/increased population between 2008 and 2030

      Source: Eurostat, regional EUROPOP2008

  • 2.3 Inter-related Developments

    • While ageing and population decline are often closely inter-linked, regional population decline as such is not just a demographically driven development, but can only be understood in view of a number of worldwide developments in the position and role of regions in the global economy.

      The global economy today is very different from what it was in earlier decades. . . . societies are far more interconnected via transportation technologies, supply chains and information technology than in previous eras, and people are increasingly mobile and less tied to particular localities. On the one hand, this technology connectedness contributes to a much greater degree of globally distributed knowledge and learning, and for more deeply integrated and sophisticated supply systems. At the same time, it also ensures that local and regional impacts increasingly depend on external events taking place in other parts of the world.” (McCann, 2011).

      Globalisation, the costs of communication, the rise of the knowledge economy and selective migration are the fundamental processes that affect regions in very diversified ways, as a result of which some regions experience high population growth, whereas others have to cope with population decline.

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