EUROPE – The old-age dependency ratio in the European Union is expected to rise to 43.9 by 2010, up from 39.2 in 2000, according to the EU’s statistical office.

Eurostat defines the dependency ratio as the ratio of the population aged 60 and over compared to the population aged 20-59.

The ratio in the 12-member euro zone was expected to be 44.2 by the same date.

“The ageing of Europe’s population has accelerated in recent years,” Eurostat says in a report on EU members’ pensions expenditure.

It said that pensions expenditure accounts for 12.5% of EU gross domestic product and that the expenditure growth has “stabilised” in recent years at around two percent a year.

Italy had the highest spending, at 15% of GDP. Ireland had the lowest, at 3.6% of GDP.

“Due to their constant growth, old-age pensions are increasing their already predominant share within total pensions,” it adds.

“In real terms, old-age pensions in the EU-15 rose by 32% between 1991 and 2000,” Eurostat said. Old-age pensions accounted for 75.8% of total pensions expenditure in 2000, up from 73.0% in 2001.

The European Commission yesterday proposed that EU member states adopt a single set of objectives on pensions and other social protection issues by 2006.