Elias Naumann, Moritz Hess
Population Ageing, Immigration and the Welfare State: The Political Demography in Western Europe

S. 351-371 in: Achim Goerres, Pieter Vanhuysse (Hrsg.): Global Political Demography: The Politics of Population Change. 2021. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan

In this chapter, we identify migration and population ageing as the two dominant demographic trends in Western Europe and explore their political and social consequences. We first show that Western European countries face similar pressures in this respect, at least from a global perspective. Increasing age dependency ratios have been increasing costs for the welfare state and might also lead to (skilled) labour shortages. Whereas in-migration is too low to balance these demographic trends, migration has become a politicized topic itself and ethnic heterogeneity has consequences for solidarity and welfare state support. Hence, we argue that public reactions to migration might further shape the political opportunities to further adapt the welfare state in future. Our empirical analysis of political consequences and reactions focuses on three countries—Germany, Sweden and Italy—and shows that demographic change shapes political dynamics in Western Europe. Yet, despite institutional differences of the three countries, we find more similarities than context-specific policy responses and show that welfare states are gradually adapting to the demographic change. In the conclusion, we discuss how far these strategies of dealing with an ageing population are sustainable and explore the prospects of further welfare state reforms in future.