Tackling the EU’s demographic challenges

Fátima and her family have just moved from Madrid to this rural village in the Ávila region in Spain. Until recently, she was living in her mother’s small apartment with her partner and their seven children. “We were dealing with so many problems. The biggest was putting food on the table, I never thought about moving elsewhere.”

Thanks to a charity that helps struggling families, her partner found work in the building trade and they started a new life in the countryside. “The truth is that here you feel free. Now my partner has a job, we can think about what we will do next month, you know? We have a steady income. The mayor helps us a lot. We have a vegetable garden, he brings food for the rabbits, he helps in any way he can.” Spain, like the rest of the EU, is facing major demographic shifts. Cities are growing more crowded, putting a strain on infrastructure like schools and hospitals, while rural areas are depopulating. This poses challenges, but also brings opportunities as Fátima’s story illustrates. MEPs are calling for an EU-wide strategy.

“Generally speaking, people move because they want a better life. In this context it’s important for us, as policy makers, to identify mechanisms that encourage people to stay in the areas where they were born, otherwise we will be facing major demographic imbalances across the EU.” MEPs believe that simple and flexible solutions can help encourage people to move to or to stay in depopulating regions. This could be as simple as improving high-speed internet access, better public transport or easier access to healthcare.