Afternoon of study: aging

Social security, social protection and changes in life expectancy. Demography, society and politics.

As part of the 75th anniversary of social security, the Federal Public Service Social Security is organizing in Brussels a forward-looking debate with all social security stakeholders on 9 December 2019. The theme is: social security, social protection and changes in life expectancy.


  • 13.30 - 14.00 Welcome and registration
  • 14.00 - 14.10 Opening speech, by Peter Samyn, President a.i. of the Executive Committee of the FPS Social Security
  • 14.10 - 14.50 Keynote: "Ten lessons from a Belgium and an ageing world". By Philippe Defeyt, Institute for Sustainable Development.
  • Discussing: Jean Hindriks, Professor of Economics at the Catholic University of Louvain.
  • 14.50 -15.20 Theme I: Changes in life expectancy
  • Social Protection, Demography and Foresight: Saskia Weemaes, Federal Planning Bureau
  • Discussing: Herman Van Oyen, Sciensano
  • 15.20 - 15.40 Break
  • 15.40 - 16.20 Theme II: Changes in healthy life expectancy
  • Jean-Marie Robine, INSERM (Institut national de la santé et de la recherche médicale)
  • Discussing: Didier Coeurnelle, co-president of the Heales association.

  • 16.20 - 16.55 Panel and public reaction: Challenges and prospects of ageing.
  • 16.55 - 17.15 Closing: David Wood "Forever Young ?", London Futurists.


Philippe Defeyt "Protection sociale et vieillissement" (.pdf)

Jean Hindriks "Financement des pensions" (.ppt)

Saskia Weemaes "Impact van de toenemende levensverwachting op de sociale uitgaven en het armoederisico bij gepensioneerden" (.ppt)

Herman Van Oyen "Evolution of health expectancy in Belgium" (.ppt)

Didier Coeurnelle "A propos d'espérance de vie en bonne santé" (.ppt)

Jean-Marie Robine "L’évolution de l’espérance de vie en bonne santé" (.ppt)


The ageing of the population, in particular the increase in life expectancy, is both an achievement of the post-war welfare state and a major challenge that we have not yet fully mastered. The aging population is responsible for an increase in spending on old age pensions, health care and elder care. The Study Committee on Ageing projects that the cost of ageing will gradually increase to 3.2 percentage points of GDP between 2038 and 2043, after which it will fall to 2.3 percentage points in 2060.

Aging is a multifaceted challenge, both in its causes and consequences. In 1960, the life expectancy for men aged 65 was 13.9 years, it is now 19.0 years. For women, it's 21.5 years. At the same time, we are faced with a large number of elderly people, the papy-boom, resulting from the retirement of the post-war baby-boom generation. This is despite the fact that the average number of children per woman has fallen from 2.7 to 1.7 since 1960, which is well below the replacement rate of 2.1 children per woman. Despite a positive net migration, this significantly slows down the growth of the working-age population and will eventually turn negative.

During this study day, we want to focus above all on the impact of increasing life expectancy as a challenge for politics. But before considering the implications for policy, let several experts look at the phenomenon itself. Indeed, can we expect life expectancy to continue to increase in the coming decades and, if so, what are the main determinants of this trend? Will life expectancy continue to increase steadily, will a limit be reached at some point, or, on the contrary, since a border has been exceeded as a result of medical progress, could life expectancy increase more rapidly? And does an increase in life expectancy automatically mean that our healthy life expectancy will also increase? And does that mean that we can also stay active longer?

Increasing life expectancy is certainly a major challenge for our decision-makers. In the meantime, it has long been known that life expectancy increases after the legal retirement age and guarantees that we will be able to receive our pension for a longer period, even if the legal retirement age is increased by two years. Does the increase in life expectancy pose a problem for the affordability of our retirement spending and, if so, what are the possible measures that policy makers can take to ensure that it remains manageable in the future?

Ironically, increasing life expectancy is also a challenge for our health care system. If a longer life is accompanied by years of life in poorer health, for example due to chronic diseases, this may also increase health spending. But good health care can also help us stay healthy and active for longer. What are the expectations in this regard and how should our decision-makers manage these trends?

Finally, increasing life expectancy is also a challenge for older people. How are our care for the elderly managing this challenge, what are their expectations for the coming years and how should our decision-makers anticipate this?

These are all questions we will try to answer and of course we will also engage in a dialogue with the audience present.