By Justin Worland
September 16, 2015

Migrants fleeing conflict in the Middle East could help the European Union as it faces an aging population and shrinking workforces, a key figure in European Central Bank (ECB) told Reuters.

Vitor Constancio, ECB vice president, said Europe is committing “demographic suicide” as older citizens retire and the workforce shrinks. The region saw its population rise by just a quarter of a percent last year, according to Reuters. Seven countries in the area saw a population decline.

“To change the demographic trends, promoting birth is not enough,” he said. “It also has to be done through immigration. If not, we’re creating a great difficulty to growth and to the welfare of future generations.”

Constancio’s comments come as countries in the European Union continue to struggle with how to respond to the hundreds of thousands Middle Eastern migrants traveling to Western Europe to escape conflict in their home countries.

 

Write to Justin Worland at justin.worland@time.com.

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