As from 2014, the working-age population of Europe has been shrinking, and is expected to continue to decline until 2050. People aged 80-plus are now Europe’s fastest growing population segment. So, as Europe grows older, what does this mean for those known as Generation Y (in Europe, generally considered to be people born between 1980 and 2000)?

Generation Y, also known as Millennials, are a much studied demographic group, and are continually under the scrutiny of social and economic scientists because of their importance as a consumer market and their current (and future) contributions to the workforce. By 2020, Millennials will comprise half the global workforce. In Europe, they currently account for about 33% of it, and by 2025 they will account for 47% of the European workforce.

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There is a duality to Europe’s Millennials. While the demography boffins have classified them as well-educated, multi-lingual, mobile and confident, many of them are still living with their parents, are unemployed or on low wages, and are anxious about their future. With many coming into the labour force after 2007, all they have known are the blues of recessionary times.

Notwithstanding this sweeping stereotyping about an entire generation, there is one big important and positive attribute about Europe’s young. It is their comfort with technology. They have grown up with the internet and with their trusty smartphone in hand, they are connected on a daily basis to all sorts of technology. Online for an average of five hours per day, technology is central to their lives. This is good, for if ageing Europe is to continue to be productive and competitive, then it will need to harness technology. It will have to be smart. With the European Commission’s 'digital agenda' being one of the seven pillars of the Europe 2020 Strategy, the people in power need to make sure that Generation Y is given the opportunity to play its full part in helping to shape the continent's future.         

Douglas Clark is director of Location Connections, a site selection and FDI consultancy. Email: douglas@locationconnections.com