EUROPE - France, Spain and Italy could face ever-increasing pension payments to women, after European Union figures identified the three countries as having the highest life expectancy of any European states.

Eurostat’s third annual report on EU demographics found that women in these countries were expected to live beyond even the healthiest average man, with French women’s life expectancy now at 85.1.

Spain (84.9) and Italy (84.5) placed second and third, respectively, with women’s life expectancy at 84.9 and 84.5.

Across Europe, they could expect to live an additional 20.7 years after turning 65.

Men - who recorded the highest life expectancy in Sweden (79.4), Italy (79.1), Spain and the Netherlands (both 78.7) - could expect to live an additional 17.2 years.

Life expectancy at 65 increased across all member states between 1993 and 2009, with the largest increases for both sexes recorded in Ireland.

At-birth life expectancy has also increased across EU member states, with the largest rises for both men and women recorded in Estonia and Slovenia.

Over the past five decades, life expectancy at birth in the 27 EU countries has increased by 10 years for both men (76.4 years) and women (82.4 years).

Announcing the report, Laszlo Andor, EU commissioner for employment, social affairs and inclusion, described ageing societies as “one of the EU’s structural weaknesses”.

At a recent conference, Alison McKie, head of life and health products at Swiss Re, suggested that €12trn in pension assets were exposed to longevity risk and that underestimating life expectancy by just one year could increase liabilities by 5%.