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Discourses on demography in the EU institutions

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The EU has faced substantial demographic challenges in recent times, and will continue to do so in the coming decades. This paper analyses why and how demographic discourses were hijacked by illiberal, right-wing and conservative forces. It explores who are the main actors in the field of demography in the EU institutions by looking at Twitter posts and documents produced by European commissioners, members and political parties of the European Parliament from 2015 to summer 2021. This study adds to current understandings of Twitter engagement of actors of the European Union by presenting the first quantitative analysis of historical Twitter data in the field of demographic discourses. What issues they discuss, and which explanatory frameworks are used, is analysed with the method of critical discourse analysis.

The key findings of the Twitter analysis show that EU institutions are aware that demographic change is primarily driven by ageing population, migration and decreasing birth-rates. While there is consensus across EU actors that the ageing population is a major demographic challenge, other factors remain insufficiently targeted. This paper finds that the decline of birth rates has been addressed by the European Commission in a way that leaves it as an open frame, which is filled by the right-wing parties. With respect to demographic discourses on migration, the EU Commission seems to have promoted an interpretative template that also allows for arguments on anti-migration discourses.

Product details
Date of Publication
February 2022
Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung & Gunda-Werner-Institut
Number of Pages
Language of publication
Table of contents

   1. What demography is and what it has to do with feminist science
   1.1 Research question
   1.2 Recent demographic trends
2. Material and methods
   2.1 Twitter research regarding political leaders
   2.2 Data collection 10
   2.3 Difficulties and challenges of comparison
   2.4 Data analysis
3. Statistical findings
4. Content findings
5. Discussion of the findings

   5.1. The ageing population
   5.2. Migration and mobility
   5.3 Decrease of fertility-rates
6. Conclusions
7. Policy recommendations

Endnotes of primary sources