24 Jul 2006

New Member States and the Dependent Elderly

Corinne Mette

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European Network of Economic Policy Research Institutes (ENEPRI) Research Report No. 19 / 28 pages

The 10 new member states that joined the European Union in May 2004 have increased the population of the EU-15 by 20% and together account for almost 16.4% of the total EU-25 population. The current ageing of the population in the EU-15 has highlighted other challenges besides the well-known problems of financing pension and health care systems. It has also highlighted the risks of a rise in the dependent elderly population and the need to adjust social welfare systems accordingly. Given the emerging risks and problems in the EU-15, one may wonder about the situation in the new member states. This study shows that while the new member states do not yet appear to be facing the problem of elderly dependency on the same scale as the EU-15 countries, in the coming decades it is likely they will have to contend with it to a much greater degree.
The study also indicates that provision for dependent elderly care in the 10 countries does not seem to be fully established as yet. That being said, Malta and Slovenia, countries that will have a considerable proportion of the oldest old among their populations in the near future, are distinguishable from the others in that they appear better prepared in terms of dependent elderly care. Although Poland is considered to be far from prosperous as regards economic and social development, in terms of population ageing – particularly provision for the dependent elderly – it also looks better placed than most of the other new member states, which appear to be less generous in assistance provided to the dependent elderly. The three Baltic States are notable in that the share of GDP they allocate to this category is lowest, even though they are expected to have the oldest populations in the years to come.