8 Sep 2012

Europe’s bigger crisis waiting to happen

The bigger beast that threatens Europe’s solvency is the demographic and entitlements crisis. While a lot is known about Europe’s aging population, the scale of the problem and its urgency are not well understood.

The IMF predicts that Greece will have the second highest growth in pension costs as a percentage of GDP in the G20 by 2030. Spain and Belgium aren’t in great shape either. Interestingly, by 2030 Italy and Germany will actually see their pensions’ costs start to fall, but that is because their populations are aging so fast that the bulk of their pension spending will be done in the next 10-15 years.

grumpy-old-men

In Germany and Italy the demographic damage is done.  Research from Eurostat predicts that by 2040 there will be less than two people of working age for every retired person in Germany and Italy that compares with just over three today. In France things are slightly better as there will be just about two workers for every retired person. These statistics tell a bleak story, with this type of demographic shift it is inevitable that living standards will deteriorate in the next decade or so.

The fiscal crisis of the future could also have a domino effect. Once investors realised there was an enormous hole in Greece’s public finances they started to punish Ireland, Portugal, Spain and even Italy saw its bond yields rise. In the future investors may start to punish the credit markets of those countries with poor demographics.

The Great Debate UK