GLOBAL - Fears surrounding Europe's pension crisis have deepened following the release of a new global ranking of ‘danger-zones'.
France, Spain and Italy risk facing fiscal, social and political meltdown if the costs of caring for their rapidly ageing populations continue to spiral.
According to the new CSIS Ageing Vulnerability Index 2003 - developed by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Washington - all three countries suffer from severe demographics, over-generous benefit systems, and high elder dependence on public benefits.
And to compound the problem, all three have little room to raise taxes or to borrow. Cost-cutting reforms would also cut deeply into retiree living standards.
Paul Hewitt, director of the CSIS Global Ageing Initiative, said: The index clearly shows that some countries face enormous political crises.
Current budget difficulties are nothing compared to what lies in store, if the most at-risk countries don't act soon to reduce their dependency burdens.
The listing is one of the first attempts to develop a comprehensive measure of ageing population impact across industrialised nations. It is estimated that people aged 60+ - currently comprising about 5% of the population - will reach 40% by 2042.
For each country, the index tracks public expenditure growth caused by an ageing populus; the ability to accommodate ageing costs; benefit-dependence indicators and the relative affluence of the elderly.
According to CSIS, the projections are based on no-wishful-thinking demographic and economic scenarios that assume a continuation of historical trends.
On the flipside, the three lowest-risk countries were Australia, the UK and the US.
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