Population, Equality & Social Cohesion
We live in an area in which the population is decreasing sharply. We are going to be fewer and older. This is a vital factor when defining the strategy for the society we aspire to be, as it forces us to accept the fact that there will not be enough people in work to uphold and cater for the growing social needs of the elderly.
According to data from February 2015, the ageing of the Basque population has reached a record high after years of steep growth in the number of elderly people compared to young ones. To be more specific, the Basque Country now has 140 people over the age of 64 for every 100 under-16-year-olds. This means an ageing rate of 140%. It should be stressed that this rate has risen fivefold over the past forty years. A revealing statistic: the ageing rate in 1975 stood at 28%; in other words, there were 28 people aged over 65 for every 100 under-16-year-olds. The tipping point was recorded in 1996, when the Basque Country passed from being a “young” society to an “ageing” one, where the elderly have a greater weight. The advances in medicine that have managed to prolong life expectancy and the sharp drop in the birth rate are the factors that explain this trend.
Given that any changes that may occur in demographic trends will take time to have an impact, the attraction of a migrant population may be the factor that will help to remedy the situation. Are we socially and economically ready to attract a sufficient number of migrants to cater for our present and future needs with the same assurances of equal opportunities as for everyone else?
In order to guarantee equal opportunities in Metropolitan Bilbao, and due to its future repercussions, it is especially important to reduce the rate of child poverty, which rose from 7.3% to 11.2% over the 2008-2014 period.
The support for minors at risk of exclusion has to be maintained over subsequent stages to ensure their success in early childhood, primary and secondary education.
All these schemes for favouring equal opportunities in childhood have a decisive role to play in avoiding situations of poverty and the reliance among certain sectors of the population on the public system of social benefits.
The full use of the human capital available in Metropolitan Bilbao also requires swifter progress to be made in the incorporation, under equal terms, of women into the labour market. In spite of the steady equalisation of the educational backgrounds of men and women, the rate of female employment is lower than among the male population. This lower rate of employment is informed not only by high rates of unemployment, but also by cultural factors and the unequal distribution of household tasks and child and dependent care.