30th November 2022

Our ageing population and how to face the challenges this presents.

The rapid ageing of the world's populations and the decline of the working age population are becoming a growing concern. We spoke to Kristell Leduc, Gaëtan de Lanchy and Thuc Uyen Nguyen-Thi from LISER, to find out more about these challenges, and how to identify opportunities.

1. What is the impact of the age structure on a society, and what are the challenges faced by an ageing population?

It is primarily the change in behaviour in society that has modified the population structure (demographic transition). Industrialisation and economic growth, improved health and nutrition conditions and medical progress, as well as changes in family behaviour in terms of fertility, have led to a decline in birth and death rates.

Progress has continued and life expectancy has risen further while fertility has fallen below the replacement level of 2.1 children per woman. The younger generations are shrinking over time while the older generations are tending to expand. The demographic ageing of populations is continuing, not without consequences and challenges for our societies.

Ensuring the sustainability of pension systems and the financing of healthcare are the most talked-about major challenges, but there are other issues to take into consideration:

  • How do we address the increasing risk of dependency of the elderly?
  • How do we manage changes in intergenerational relationships, both within the family and within society?


Another challenge is to anticipate the risk of labour shortages in the medium and long term due to the risk of only partial renewal of the older generations in the active population. Against this background, since the ’00s the European Union has included active ageing in its employment strategy, the aim of which is to keep the older generations in work for longer. The recommendation included raising the retirement age and increasing the employment rate of people aged between 55 and 64. In reality, companies face more concrete problems. They must be willing and able, in terms of profitability, to keep their older workers in employment, without this causing health problems and stress for them; this can only work if these employees want to remain in employment for longer and can do so without damaging their health. It is therefore up to their management to find most appropriate mechanisms for their situation and their sector of activity.

2. How does Luxembourg compare with the rest of Europe in terms of age proportion and what are the consequences for the working population?

Although the proportion of young people aged under 20 is almost identical in Luxembourg (around 20%) to that of its neighbours (France, Belgium, Germany), the proportion of people aged 65 and over was only 14.8% (20% in the other three countries) as at 31 December 2021 (source: STATEC). Luxembourg therefore has a slightly larger population of working age, as can be seen from the different age pyramids, with that of Luxembourg appearing less rectangular.

Age pyramids as at 31 December 2021 for Luxembourg, France, Belgium and Germany.

Source: Statistical institutions in each country, calculations by LISER

Moreover, as at 31 December 2021, the average age of a resident of Luxembourg was 39.7 years whereas in Belgium and France it was over 41 years and in Germany over 44.

This variance is mainly due to the composition of the Luxembourg population, 47% of which are foreigners, who tend to be much younger than Luxembourgers. In 2016, the average age of the foreign population was already 36 years vs. 41.6 years for Luxembourgers (source: STATEC). By way of comparison, in 2021, immigrants represented only 10.3% of the total population in France (source: INSEE).

On the labour market, Luxembourg seems also to be a special case in Europe. In the three neighbouring countries, the local population supplies the workforce, which is therefore directly affected by the problem of population ageing.

In Luxembourg, nearly one in three of the active workforce is a foreigner, and almost half of the working population comes from neighbouring countries (see LISER indicator).

Moreover, in the ’90s and ’00s these two groups were younger than the working population resident in Luxembourg (see LISER indicator); they therefore played an essential role in the dynamism of the Luxembourg job market.

This phenomenon has enabled Luxembourg to alleviate the consequences of ageing for the job market, compared to its European neighbours (Leduc, 2004). However, these workers are now also approaching retirement age and the respite that Luxembourg has enjoyed in terms of population ageing more than a decade ago seems to vanish.

During the last quarter of 2021, 25% of the workforce was aged 50 or over in Luxembourg, vs. more than 30% in France, Belgium and Germany (source: Eurostat).

3. What are the issues and opportunities for Luxembourg in the digital age?

The elderly represent a growing market for digital technologies adapted to their needs.

Digitisation in healthcare, shopping, banking services, learning and mobility are enabling older people to carry out their daily activities independently. Digital technologies allow the elderly to increase their social interaction and feel less isolated, and this was especially true during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the workplace, digitisation facilitates the changing demands for lifelong learning, including training in digital skills. And the requirement for remote working during the lockdown in the spring of 2020 enabled home workers aged over 50 to improve their digital skills.

Nevertheless, the digital transformation can generate harmful effects such as violation of privacy, reduction of transparency, or loss of dignity. It also generates inequalities among the older population. For example, the lowest rates of access to technology are concentrated among the least affluent older people, with lower levels of education, especially among the female population.

Another challenge is the digital divide between generations. The fear that sensitive information will be compromised, or that they will encounter online crime, discourages many older people from using these technologies. A lack of confidence in using technology is one reason often given to explain why the elderly tend to have fewer technical skills. In the workplace, the lack of digital skills encourages early retirement and constitutes a significant obstacle to employment.

As societies make more progress in their digital transformations, training in digital skills is becoming an essential political priority. Luxembourg therefore adopted a national digital inclusion action plan in September 2021, to face up to these challenges.


4. How can technology help us meet the needs of the elderly population?

Technology, particularly digital technology, is an inherent part of our daily lives now and is used for many different purposes - administration, management of bank accounts, online purchasing, medical treatment, entertainment activities and just simple communication and sharing with our friends and family.

Although the younger generations use new technologies on a daily basis, older people, i.e. those aged 50 or over, are often considered to be disconnected.

But is this a reality or a prejudice, when the use of technology is becoming increasingly prevalent, even unavoidable, in our societies, whether in our relationships or at the administrative and professional level?

Data from the eighth SHARE survey (http://share.liser.lu/), conducted in 2020, allow us to determine whether senior citizens living in Luxembourg are familiar with, or at least users of, technology.

In Luxembourg, 76% of the over-50s use the Internet to send emails, look for information, make online purchases and various other things. Older people are fully aware of the interest of digital tools and use them for work as well as to communicate and make their daily lives easier. This interest was especially reinforced during the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, use of digital tools decreases gradually with age: 93% of people aged between 50 and 54 use the Internet regularly, 84% of those aged 55-59 and 70% of those aged 60-64, vs. 34% of those aged over 65.

Thus, interest in and use of technologies seems to indeed be a question of generation. However, the question is not necessarily related to the interest that these technologies might have for older people, but rather to their ability to use them.

The proportion of users of digital tools is much higher among working seniors (94%) than among those who are retired (76%) or at home (71%).

Professional activity seems to be a key to entry into the world of technology.

Indeed, 75% of retired people who use technology already used it in their last job. Conversely, three-quarters (73%) of retirees who did not use technology in their last job still do not use it today.

This means that working has enabled older people to become familiar with technology and they keep using it because of the interest it offers. On the other hand, those who do not use technology claim to have only acceptable computer skills or a vague knowledge of these tools. The majority of the latter have not been familiar with computers or similar tools. Moreover, one in two of those who do not use technology (70% for the over-65s) say they have never used a computer.

5. What are your five top tips for readers who want to age well?

5 useful tips: 

1. It’s never too soon to prepare for the future with banking savings plans, real estate or financial investments.

2. Being happy at work reduces stress. Don’t forget training, regular assessments, and if you want, try a new career.

3. Practice some kind of physical activity for 20-25 minutes every day to reduce the risk of some diseases, maintain a good quality of life, and increase your number of lived years independently.

4. New technologies will help in you with day-to-day tasks (closing windows, turning off lights, locking doors, etc.).

5. Keep in touch with your loved ones. Mobile phones and video calls can be ways to help you feel less isolated.

About the blog:


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