The population - its size, age structure, spatial distribution and probable development - plays a role in numerous themes examined by the Federal Planning Bureau. Those themes may relate to the young (child benefit, school population, educational staff), the working-age population (employment, unemployment, economic activity, tax receipts, social contributions and social expenditure, commuting) and the elderly (health care expenditure and pensions). More generally, the population can have an impact on consumption, housing and energy needs.
Demography is a key parameter for studying the impact of ageing, an issue that has become a growing concern for policymakers in Belgium and other European countries.
Population ageing, or the growing ratio of elderly people in the population, is e.g. the result of both a decreasing fertility rate and the sustained prolongation of life expectancy. This evolution takes its toll on the public budget. The changes in the demographic structure lead to a decrease in the working-age population likely to pay social contributions and taxes on the one hand, and boost the number of elderly people who receive public pensions and a larger amount of health care on the other hand (See theme ‘Social protection and ageing’).
The essential parameters determining population should therefore be studied carefully: fertility, probability of death, decision to migrate within the country, to emigrate or to immigrate.
For a long time, the FPB has been following the work of Belgian and foreign demographers and other scientists on issues that may affect demographic evolution. It ensures that it builds up a reliable database. It pays special attention to the elaboration of the demographic projections that it makes in collaboration with Statistics Belgium and a group of experts (demographers, geographers, sociologists, economists, health experts and various public users of those projections). It attends meetings and takes part in the activities of international organisations on this subject (demographic projections developed by Eurostat, the Working Group on Ageing of the European Commission, the UN Commission on Population and Development, UN Summits on Ageing and their follow-up).