Population of Ireland to reach 6.7million by 2060


IRELAND'S POPULATION is set to increase to 6.7 million in just over 50 years' time, according to official forecasts compiled by the European Union.

The 52 per cent increase - up from a current population of around 4.4 million - would make Ireland one of the fastest growing countries in Europe.

Ireland's population is expected to be significantly older, with a quarter aged 65 or over, and one-in-10 aged 80 or older.

The UK is also projected to have strong population growth and is expected to have the most people in the EU (77 million), followed by France (72 million) and Germany (71 million).

This strong growth is in sharp contrast to countries such as Poland, the Baltic states and some central European countries which are expected to fall significantly over the next 50 years.

Poland's population, for example, is forecast to fall by around seven million, from its current level of 38 million. The biggest projected drop is in Bulgaria, where numbers could fall by almost 30 per cent, from almost 8 million to 5.5 million.

Overall, the population of the EU is projected to increase to a high of around 520 million in 2035 before dropping to around 506 million by 2060.

In just seven years the annual number of deaths will outnumber annual births and the natural population growth will end, according to Eurostat, the EU's statistics agency. From that point on, the European population will grow only as a result of migration.

The overall population will also age significantly, with the proportion of dependent older people compared to working-age people expected to rise. Currently there are four working people for every one dependent older person. In 2060, there will be somewhat less than two.

Ireland is due to buck the trend, but only slightly, with the current ratio of almost six people of working-age to one pensioner likely to change in 2060 to a ratio of 10 people of working-age to just over four pensioners.

This rapidly ageing population will be of major concern, given the increasing strain it will place on welfare systems. Measures already being considered include revising the retirement age upwards, to reduce the age-dependency ratio.

However, officials at Eurostat say their population predictions should be treated with caution as they are based on current population trends. They say the estimates are based on the population on January 1st, 2008, and on the assumption that fertility, mortality and net migration will progressively converge between states.

The 2006 census showed the population of Ireland at 4.2 million. The Eurostat study indicates this figure has risen to 4.4 million and will rise to 5.4 million by 2020, 6.2 million by 2040 and 6.5 million by 2050.

Eurostat projections would see Ireland returning to a population not seen since the aftermath of the famine in the 1840s. Estimates at the time put the numbers resident in Ireland at around 6.5 million.

Responding to the figures yesterday, Age Action Ireland said they provided clear evidence of the need for the Government to begin planning for the country's ageing population.