The arrival on the labour market of the generations born at the bottom of the demographic cycle just as the big 'baby boom' generations are reaching retirement is likely to mean that the economically active population of Europe will fall by 30 million. In France alone, from now until 2020 the population aged between 25 and 54 years could well decline by 30 to 50 000 persons per year.
Consequently, explains François Michaux, we may be facing a lasting labour shortage, especially of skilled workers, particularly if economic growth continues at a high level. He observes that this phenomenon is already making itself felt in the metallurgical sector, in France as well as the other industrialized countries.
He therefore examines the measures already adopted and available in order to make the most of the existing potential labour force, to 'activate' those not currently working and to prolong the working lives of older workers - though this will require, he stresses, a major investment in training that carries the obvious risk of spiralling costs.
But in Michaux's view, it is doubtful whether these measures will be adequate to offset the labour shortages that he foresees, and as a result, he thinks that it will be necessary for France to resort to bringing in foreign workers, a policy already being pursued in the United States and Spain.