EUROPE – The European Commission’s social affairs chief Vladimir Spidla has admitted that demographic trends are leading to fears that the European pension system could be “overwhelmed”.

Pointing to lower birth rates and higher life expectancy, Spidla said: “It is clear that this demographic trend will have a significant impact on our social systems, and in particular provision of pensions and healthcare, and on the European labour market.

“It is, however, indisputably the case that such a trend inspires fears that the health and pension systems will be overwhelmed.

“There will be fewer people contributing to the system of social protection and more depending on it.” He added that population ageing is “the fundamental challenge to Europe’s future”.

Spidla, the former Czech prime minister, said he was “personally convinced” that Europe’s productivity would be enough to keep social protection systems going.

He said the trend raises the “perfectly legitimate question” of how Europe spends the limited resources available. Spidla, who is Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities, was speaking at an event entitled ‘Modernising the European Social Model’ in Brussels today.

He said Europe must focus its resources on “overcoming unfair inequalities as effectively as possible”.