An Ageing Population:
Population, Education and Socio-Economic Development
by Žiga Cepar and Štefan Bojnec
The main demographic trend in Slovenia, most other European
countries, as well as in some developing countries during the
last few decades is the declining fertility and mortality. On
the long run, together with migration, they significantly contribute
to the process of population and labour force ageing.
An ageing process can be considered for each individual or for
the population as a whole in a certain territory. An ageing
of an individual is a natural law, the time-depend process from
birth to death. At the aggregate level a population ageing means
relative increase in the proportion of elderly and old people
in the total population. In different literature there is often
used the proportion of the population aged 60 or 65 years and
more. An individual can only become older, while the total population
can become younger, older or remain with unchanged age structure
over time (Mala?i? 1989). Our focus is only on a total population
The most significant determinant of a population ageing is the
long-run decline in fertility. If a fertility rate declines
below the level of a simple reproduction and stays there for
a longer time the proportion of older people in the whole population
will start to increase. In developed countries a simple reproduction
of a population is assured, if a total fertility rate doesn’t
fall below the value of 2.1 (Mala?i? 2000). Total fertility
rate is a long-run indicator of a population reproduction and
is defined as the number of children, which is delivered on
average by a woman in her fertility period under assumption
that she survives until her 49 birthday, which is the end of
fertility period (Hinde 1998, 100). Such values of the rates
are assured in no European country any more.
Declining mortality in an age group of 30-year old people or
more contributes to ageing population. A decline in mortality
in younger age groups leads directly to younger population structure.
Due to different reasons mortality in all age groups declines,
particularly in higher age groups, and thus leads to a population
ageing and an increase in life expectancy at birth, which is
calculated as an average life-span in a hypothetical or real
generation. It tells us the average number of years which people
have left to live when they are born. During the last decades
the life expectancy at birth is increasing for both genders.
In the most developed countries it is greater than 81 years.
Only for women in Japan, for example, it is 84.51 years. In
Slovenia life expectancy at birth for both sexes was 75.93 years
in 2004. During the last 13 years it has increased for 2.64
years of life (Source: U.S. Census Bureau, International Data
Migrations do not have any impact on population ageing in a
closed population, but they do have significant impact in an
open population. This is typical in the European Union (EU),
where there is a free movement of people and migration of people
is an important determinant of a population ageing due to its
age selectivity. Younger people are often more willing to migrate
than elderly ones. As a result, these immigrations contribute
to the population rejuvenation in the immigration territory,
while emigrations contribute to the population ageing in the
emigration territory. Typical example of such migration flows
are rural-urban migrations (Mala?i? 1989).
All simple indicators of age structure of the population show
that the great majority of the European populations belong to
the population with relatively old age structure. The average
age of a population is a synthetic indicator of an age structure
and is defined as a rate between the sum of all persons’ years
in that population and the number of persons in that population.
The lower the average age of the population is, the greater
the proportion of young in the total population, and vice versa.
Between 1921 and 1991, the average age of the Slovenian population
increased from 28.6 to 34.1 years for men and from 29.0 to 37.6
years for women.
The second indicator of a population age structure is the percentage
of old persons (aged 65 years or more) in the total number of
population. If it is greater than 7% then the population is
considered as an old population. If the value accounts for less
than 5% the population is considered as a young population.
In Slovenia this indicator accounted 5% in 1869 and was increasing
over time and accounted already 13.4% in 1998.
The third basic indicator of a population age is the ageing
index, which represents ratio between old (aged 65 years or
more) and young (less than 15 years old) population in a certain
territory expressed in percent (the ratio multiplied by 100).
If the ageing index is greater than 25 the population is old.
If it is less than 15 it indicates a young population. In 1998
index of ageing for Slovenia was 80 indicating that Slovenia
is an old population (Bregar et al. 2002).
If we ignore migrations, then the effects of changes in fertility
and mortality on a population ageing can be explained by population
models which investigate the impact of changes in fertility
and mortality on a population ageing when there is no migration
effect. Six typical models are often mentioned in the population
literature. The first two models, the primitive stationary model
and pre-modern model are associated with traditional type of
population reproduction with a high level of fertility and a
high level of mortality. The third model is a transitional model,
which is typical for a stage of demographic transition when
mortality rapidly declines, while fertility remains at high
level. This model is typical for most of developing countries.
The last three models (modern, modern stationary and modern
depopulation model) are significant for advanced type of population
reproduction with low fertility and mortality. Modern and modern
stationary explain demographic situations in developed countries,
but most of European countries are already in a stage with prevailing
modern depopulation model where fertility is much lower than
mortality which means that a simple reproduction of population
is not provided any more. In many countries the actual level
of fertility is less than 60% of those, which would be necessary
to assure a simple reproduction of those countries.
A population ageing and thus changing age structure of a population
with the increasing proportion of elderly people in comparison
with young has substantial social, cultural, and economic implications
(Mala?i? 2000, 24). De Santis (de Santis 1997) argues that a
population ageing has significant impacts for public finance
and budgetary expenditures, for pension system, health care,
education system and labour market, productivity of elderly
people, savings and investments, consumption as well as for
system of social care. In this paper we focus particularly on
implications of demographic changes for some parts of labour
market and education system in Slovenia. We analyze the three
main determinants of age structure of population: fertility,
mortality and migrations in Slovenia. Next we present methodology
and main research questions and then investigate briefly main
demographic factors of a population age structure during the
last decades in Slovenia. Later on we present some indicators
of development in the area of education and in the labour market.
Methodology and Research Questions
Data used are collected from different national and international
statistical sources. With a simple data analysis we present
main patterns in development of basic variables that are important
for age structure of Slovenian population. More specifically
we want to answer to the following research questions: What
are characteristics of demographic development in Slovenia?
What are characteristics of development in the areas of education
and in the education sector of the labour market? What kind
of causalities are between demographic development and development
in the areas of education and labour market?
Main Demographic Trends during
the Last Decades in Slovenia and in Europe Development in Slovenia
The main pattern of demographic development in Slovenia is such
that leads to the ageing of the Slovenian population structure
(Figure 1). The current relatively old population structure
has particularly been a result of the persistently declining
rates of fertility during the last decades. The number of births
started to decline rapidly during the 1970s and it is now almost
half of that from the early 1970s. Since 1981 the total fertility
rate is not high enough to provide a simple reproduction of
the Slovenian population (Figure 2). Since 1970s the natural
increase and the total population increase or population growth
have declined and even reached negative values. The rate of
natural increase is the difference between the crude birth rate
(the average number of life births per 1000 population in a
chosen period and location) and the crude death rate (the average
number of deaths per 1000 population in a chosen period and
location. The total population increase or growth in defined
as a sum of the natural increase and the net migration rate.
The rate of net migrations is defined as a difference between
the number of immigrants and the number of emigrants, which
have on average immigrated or emigrated from/to a chosen location
in a chosen year per 1000 population of the observed county.
Several theories try to explain why fertility has declined.
Bulatao and Casterline (Bulatao and Radolfo 2001) underlined
eight factors of fertility: decline in mortality, lower economic
contribution of children, opportunity costs of pregnancy and
rising of children, transformation of families, disappearing
of traditional incentives for births and rising children, easier
access to efficient means of regulation of fertility and diffusion
of values, ideas and practices, which lead to lower fertility.
Demogaphic trends in Slovenia,
The increasing quality of life has reduced the intensity of
dying, which means it decreased the age specific death rates
defined as the average number of deaths per 1000 population
in a chosen period and location in each age group. However the
crude death rate is increasing in some periods, because the
proportion of population which is dying more intensively (those
aged 65 years or more) relative to those who is dying less intensively
(younger people) is increasing. According to some projections,
the crude death rate is expected to increase from 10.15 to 17
during the next 40 years. Inter-country net migrations, which
have the smallest impact on population structure, are the only
demographic processes with a positive effect on the population
structure in Slovenia. Migrations are rather selective with
prevailing young immigrants, able to work. In Slovenia net migrations
were, with the exception of the years 1991, 1992 in 1998, always
positive (Figure 1). However, relying on net migrations to improve
population structure can be a risky job. This would not be a
»natural« process of making a population younger (a process
of making population younger only by increasing fertility rate)
and besides we shouldn’t forget that in such a way we would
be making younger the structure of inhabitants of Slovenia and
not the structure of the Slovenians. We should not forget that
inhabitants of Slovenia can be of Slovenian or non-Slovenian
nationality. Slovenian nationality inhabitants are independent
from migrations. On the other hand excessive net migrations
can cause several cultural, political and other socioeconomic
problems in the society. Finally, even if we ignore all the
risks of excessive net migrations, there is a question where
could we get the sufficient number of immigrants from, since
we know that in Europe there is no county which could export
its young people. Everywhere in Europe natural increase is close
to zero, with total fertility rate per women lower or equal
2.1 and thus not assuring a simple reproduction of the population.
Total fertility rate, life expectancy at birth and population
in Slovenia, 1973-2002
In order to maintain the current age structure of the population
in Slovenia the necessary size of net migrations in absolute
amount should be between 15,000 and 20,000 net migrants annually,
which would be approximately ten times the current size of net
Comparison with other Countries
Slovenia experiences similar demographic development as most
other European countries. Heilig (Heilig 2000) in his article
shows that fertility is declining and that age specific rates
of mortality are approaching their so far the lowest levels
and that the life expectancy at birth is increasing. If we look
at the data for some European countries in the year 2000 (Table
1), we can see that except from Albania in all countries general
rates of fertility and mortality are similar with natural increase
of population close to zero or negative. Total fertility rate
per woman is less than 2,1 in all the countries including Albania,
which is not enough to provide a long run simple reproduction
of the population. It is also less likely that greater migrations
occur between European countries simply because almost each
of these countries has a lack of young people in their population
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, International Data Base.
Some Indicators of Development
As a result of the decline in fertility there is also the decline
in the number of children in kindergartens as well as in primary
schools. This process is further transmitted to the secondary
and later on to the higher education. In spite of positive net
migrations and a greater proportion of students compared to
previous years (which causes increase in the absolute number
of students), the impact of decline in fertility was stronger
than the first effect, what results in a decreasing absolute
number of students especially at lower levels of education.
As can be seen from Table 2, the number of children in kindergartens
has declined since 1988/89. In the same year the number of children
in the primary schools started to decline too. The proportion
of children enrolled in the secondary education was increasing
during the past years, but in 1997/98 the decreasing fertility
and thus the smaller inflow of new pupils more than compensated
the relative increase in the participation in secondary schools
and thus the absolute number of pupils enrolled in the secondary
education started to decline.
This is also consistent with the time lag in enrolment between
primary and secondary education (i.e. in the 1988/89 enrolled
in the primary education appeared in the first year of the secondary
education in 1996/97). The decline in fertility and consequently
the decline in the number of persons in regular education is
transmitted with time lags from lower to higher levels of education
and is now reaching the university level. At the university
level the problem is still less visible in the number of students,
but more as the decline in the rates of growth of enrolment.
However, in 2002/03 the decline in the absolute number of enrolled
students at the high and university level is observed for the
first time. The decline in pupils at lower levels of education
is faster because the smaller cohorts of children reached this
level sooner and because at lower education level there was
much less room for further increase in the proportion of the
enrolled children. This is particularly the case for the primary
education, which is the compulsory according to the law, less
for secondary and the least for higher education.
The size of older population which needs additional training
and education after finishing its formal education is increasing
due to increasing life expectancy at birth as well as due to
some other non-demographic factors (for example faster development
of technology). Therefore the informal forms of education as
well as education of adults are increasing from year to year.
This further on implies the increase in the number of “learners”
and in the number of “teachers” and other stuff in the area
of life-long learning. The new knowledge which is obtained is
an advantage for the elderly themselves as well as for their
working environment (Findeisen 1998). An important element of
national strategy of education should be also identifying and
accepting talented and motivated young people from abroad into
secondary and higher education. The immigration country should
train them for later employment in the immigrant country. It
seems that there are less and less already educated immigrants
that are available for export and there is less and less willingness
in less developed countries to educate such people on the expenses
of a home country if they are not going to work in their home
country (Mala?i? 2004).
Labour Market: General Features
and Market of Teachers and Others in Education Process
General trends in the labour markets are common to the most
of the EU countries (Leat 1998). These are: an increasing participation
of women in the labour force: the continuing shifts from agriculture
sector through the manufacturing sector to the service sector;
increased flexibility in terms of the use and prevalence of
so-called atypical contracts: part - time, temporary and fixed
term; increased flexibility in the hours worked, the use of
shift work and weekend working; increased level of unemployment,
particularly among women, the young and the over 55s due to
structural and some other economic difficulties; a greater proportion
of long-term unemployment; a tendency towards a shift of emphasis
in the direction of public expenditure upon supply-side and
active labour market policies and initiatives; a decline in
the demand for unskilled labour outside the service industries;
and an increasing propensity for men and women to remain longer
in education and training and an increase over time in the general
levels of education attainment.
The direct impact of demographic trends, especially of a population
ageing is noticeable in the declining demand for teaching and
other stuff in kindergartens, primary schools, secondary schools
as well as at faculties. Table 4 presents development in the
number of employees and the number of units (groups or classes).
Since 1999/00 the number of employed in kindergartens has been
declining and since 2000/01 the number of units (groups) in
kindergartens in Slovenia has been declining too. The number
of staff in primary schools is still increasing but the number
of units has been declining since 1992/93. Since the 1999/00
the number of staff in the secondary education as well as the
number of units (classes) has also started to decline.
Findings and Recommendations
The population in Slovenia and most European countries is ageing.
The main reason for that is the decline in fertility. The smaller
and smaller cohorts of babies born each year move up to the
higher age groups and reduce the demand for employees in educational
institutions as a consequence of smaller and smaller cohorts
of schooling children. As a result the structure of demand for
employees in education institutions is changing. There is an
increasing demand for education of elderly persons, potential
immigrants, increasing demand for informal education as well
as for life-long learning. Leat (Leat 1998) argues that the
population structure with the increasing proportion of old people
impact on the level and costs of social protection, health and
welfare services, the quantitative adequacy of the labour force
and the demand for immigration, future levels of employment/unemployment,
attitudes towards the employment of the elderly, retirement
ages, and education and training strategies.
It seems reasonable to conclude that, if these issues remain
unaddressed, fewer and fewer people will be working and these
people through their efforts will be required to support an
increasing population that is not working. The labour force
will get smaller as a result of a lower inflow of new young
workers or in other words due to the decreasing proportion of
young people in the population structure and consequently also
among those of working age. In such a situation there is potential
for conflict and social unrest between the two groups of the
population, with those of working age resenting the cost of
supporting the older members of the population.
There are some possible solutions for this problem. One is an
increase in net migrations, which would require ten times higher
net migrations in Slovenia and seven times higher net migrations
in EU than they are now. The second is an increase in activity
rates of those of working age which is aimed particularly to
the increase of female activity rates which are on average lower
than those of men. The next solution is increased activity rate
in the age groups above 60 and below 20 which depends on the
proportion of the population remaining in full time education
and on amending retirement and pension ages as well as on changing
attitudes towards both the provision of training and the employment
of the elderly. The last solution is an increase in the productivity
per unit of labour of those who are working.
All this clearly indicates the strong interlinks between demographic
and economic development. Therefore there is not only an impact
of economic development on demographics, but also vice versa.
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