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Ethics and Ageing

Ethics and Ageing

Population aging will raise formidable ethical challenges for the European Union in the coming decades. Declining fertility rates and increased longevity are gradually increasing the ‘dependency ratio’ – the ratio of persons aged over 65, to persons of working age. In 2010, the EU-wide dependency ratio stood at 26%; by 2050, it will rise to 50% (Eurostat projections). As the balance in numbers shifts from citizens who work to those who are retired, the question of how to sustain the key programmes of the welfare state becomes ever more pressing. How can EU public policymakers best maintain their commitment to social solidarity under conditions of population ageing?
This research project proposes a comprehensive analysis of the ethical challenge posed by population aging. It is based on the following guiding observation: while European Union policy-makers (especially in the European Commission) are conscious of the fact that the EU needs an overall strategic approach to this challenge, they do not have at their disposal scholarship that provides an ethical analysis of this challenge at the appropriate level of generality.
The project will be based in the Department of Philosophy of Law at Universitat Pompeu Fabra (UPF). It will be supervised by Professor Andrew Williams, one of the world’s leading political philosophers, under the auspices of the UPF research group, the “Philosophy of Law”. Additionally, the project will be developed in dialogue with one of the world’s leading social scientists on the welfare state and population aging, Professor Gøsta Esping-Andersen, who runs the “DEMOSOC” research group at UPF. The project will thus have an interdisciplinary character, moving back and forth between ethics and social science, and more specifically, between these two research groups at UPF, with the aim of producing comprehensive and grounded guidance on a key challenge facing the European Union.

Principal researchers

Andrew Williams


Paul Bou-Habib

European Commission

Code: FP7-PEOPLE-2014-IEF, project number 656787.

170.121,6 €