Europe in 2062
A borderless Europe, except for the Basque Region. A stronger, more resilient Euro. Birth rates unable to sustain an ever ageing population. Reduction in unfunded social programs that Europeans have come to rely upon. Fewer ethnic conflicts over religion and culture and a better ability to cope with the millions of immigrants flooding the new Europe. Drought and food shortages due to continuing climate change. These are some of the issues that Europe might face in the year 2062.
Some demographers believe that Europe will face a declining population which continues to age as fewer and fewer births occur. In some places, life expectancy for males is more than 10 years lower than for women. As the death rate exceeds the birth rate, it is predicted that the population of the current 28 European Union members (on July 1, 2013 Croatia became the 28th and newest member of the European Union.) will decline about 5% or nearly 2.5 million people in the years leading up to 2050.
The United Kingdom is projected to increase its population by 25% to 77 million in 2060. Britain will overtake Germany as having the largest population in Europe. As Britain is one of the most densely populated areas in Europe, this might put pressure on their government to curb immigration. That, in turn, might be a benefit to the rest of Europe as immigrants will seek other places to live.
Eurostat, whose main responsibility is to provide statistical information to the institutions of the European Union, has predicted that the EU as a whole will increase its total population by 3.7%, or roughly 516 million, by 2060. They report that Ireland will have the highest growth rate at 46% while Germany will decrease 18.8% and Bulgaria at 26.9%. However, Eurostat agrees that the ageing population will be a major factor in most of the EU.
We do know that if this ageing trend continues into the future, Europe will find not only a shortage of workers to support this ageing population, but economic stagnation. The concept of raising taxes, reducing government pensions and benefits, increasing the retirement age, and other such austerity measures will be proven inadequate.
The solution to the problem of an ageing Europe is complicated, but not insurmountable. Encouraging immigration, especially of younger individuals, perhaps with relaxing immigration requirements, financial incentives, and providing housing and meaningful work opportunities might be useful tools to increase population. Government policies, somewhat like the opposite of China’s one child policy, could be implemented to encourage a higher birth rate. Financial incentives could be provided to those families who choose to have more children, while health care could be more focused on the ageing population with incentives – including free medical training – to doctors and health care professionals who devote their careers to improving the lives of the ever growing geriatric population.
The economy of Europe in 2062 will continue to be agricultural and service based. Modernization and “corporatization” of farming will change the agricultural landscape and require fewer workers to produce an ever-growing need for an abundance of crops. As the agricultural industry needs fewer workers, these workers will flock to urban areas in search of employment and better opportunities for themselves and their families.
Greece, Cyprus, Portugal and Spain have continued to strain the coffers of the wealthier areas in Europe to the point that extreme austerity measures have been implemented. The liberal social services that have prevailed in Europe are now underfunded and have been drastically curtailed. Free college tuition, free health care, free day care, liberal maternity and family leave, and generous public pensions have been restricted.
After aid from the Chinese government, the Euro is stronger than ever. European debtors refused to bail out struggling governments, so the EU was forced to turn to China for financial assistance.
As cities continue to grow, become more crowded, and housing becomes more difficult to find and afford, many cities will become gentrified. As the old “Paris model” – the affluent living in the cities and the less well-off living in the suburbs – changes in Paris, the well-off are relocating to the suburbs and commuting to the city center while the poor are forced to live in substandard housing in the city.
However, the other major cities of Europe who formerly housed their citizens in barrios, or tenements, find the reverse is occurring. Gentrification, or the process by which wealthier people move into, renovate, and restore housing in inner cities or other deteriorated areas formerly home to poorer people, will continue to be a factor, affecting the rural poor significantly as they move from the countryside into the urban areas seeking work and a place to raise a family.
Despite the European Union’s strong stance for environmental regulation, the lack of stringent environmental policies in countries such as India, China, Russia, and Africa have taken their toll on Europe. Industrial pollution continues to affect millions of residents, urban smog hovers over most major cities, lack of clean water to supply the population, and a heavily polluted Mediterranean Sea, continue to be concerns for the government and environmentalists. The scarcity of water has produced a drought lasting many years. This drought has affected crop production, increasing food prices, and has caused friction among rural farmers and in cities, where water has been severely restricted.
On the positive side, wind power from turbines continues to dot the landscape, providing an abundance of power to the rural areas. Europe has been a leader in wind farming since the late 20th Century and has pioneered offshore wind farming. Offshore turbines in the Mediterranean, the Black and BalticSeas, and the very windy North Sea have become ubiquitous.
Religion and Culture
The role of Christianity is diminishing in the areas of northern Europe, especially in the United Kingdom, France, and Scandinavia where secularization is more predominant. Currently, Poland has the highest level of religiosity – nearly 91% identify themselves as Catholic – but the continued outmigration of Poland is likely to change the influence of religion in the lives of the Poles, as in the rest of northern Europe. The trend of secularization will move southward as 2062 approaches.
However, the role of Islam will continue to rise in Europe, due to non-radical Muslims wanting to escape their home countries in to order to live a freer life and continue to practice Islam. By 2060, Europe’s Muslim population is projected to increase from 6% to 11%. This change is likely to have far-reaching consequences, or ramifications, including a possible rise in terrorism, paradoxically, coupled with a greater acceptance of others’ cultural values, an influx of new job seekers competing for employment opportunities, and an increased tolerance for Muslims, especially in northern Europe.
Political Landscape and Borders
We might be looking at the “United States of Europe”, its capital situated in Brussels, with a single president and a dual legislature system, representative of each European state. Modeled after the United States, some believe that the borders between the countries in Europe will vanish by the year 2062.
The consequences of a borderless Europe are enormous. Civil wars not unlike the United States Civil War, where states ceded from the Union over government policies they viewed as unfavorable towards them, may break out. After years of rebellion the Basque people and their separatist movement are finally granted independence, forming their own country called Basqueland. Finland, Scotland, Greece and the area of Catalonia continue to have major disagreements with a unified Europe, but have been unable to form independent states.
In order for the new European economy to compete with the world economies, it has an increased sense of globalization with more linkages to the major economic centers across the globe. Since the stagnant economy of the past has been revamped, the new economy, brought on by the elimination of borders between countries, has reinvigorated Europe and helped to create prosperity and stability. By 2062, the new Europe will move into 3rd place in the world economies, behind the United States and China.
Tourism has become a major source of revenue in the new Europe. Especially in the State of Portugal, where economic benefits have increased so that tourism now contributes nearly 20% of the revenue the government receives.
Spain, however, has finally succumbed to the outcry of protests from animal rights activists to cease the tradition of the running of the bulls and bull fighting. Although this has affected tourism, Spain has capitalized on its beautiful Mediterranean coast and begun the arduous task of cleaning up the Mediterranean Sea.
In England, Prince George Alexander Louis of Cambridge, who is now 49, has been an international symbol of the new Europe. Prince Alex has become an Ambassador to the World and, along with Pope Makumba of Kenya, has brought an enthusiasm and star-quality not seen in many years. The Prince, still a bachelor, is adored by millions of women and is considered somewhat of a “rock star.”
The State of Germany, along with its luxury car production, has begun to produce environmentally friendly economy cars and has catapulted Europe to the number one car producing country in the world.
The tax haven in Switzerland, where so many wealthy people used to hide their earnings and maximize their profits, has ended. Many overseas investors have lost billions and the economy of Switzerland continues to struggle. Tourism and a strong reputation as a worldwide shopping mecca for watches, cheese, fine chocolate, and an advanced technology sector have replaced the easy-money culture made from offshore banking.
Europe has become more “Americanized” while America has become more European. Many of the European liberal social policies that have been reduced or eliminated have been adopted by the Americans. Europe has become more capitalistic, taking its cue from the ever prosperous United States.