People in the EU – population projections

Data extracted in June 2015. Most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Main tables and Database.

This article is part of a set of statistical articles that are based on Eurostat’s flagship publication People in the EU: who are we and how do we live? (which also exists as a PDF publication); it presents a set of population projections for the European Union (EU) covering the period 2014 to 2080.

Figure 1: Projected population as of 1 January, EU-28, 2014–80 (1)
(2014 = 100)
Source: Eurostat (demo_gind) and (proj_13npms)
Table 1: Demographic balance, 1 January 2015 – 1 January 2080
(thousands)
Source: Eurostat (proj_13ndbims)
Figure 2: Population structure by broad age groups, EU-28, 2014–80
(% of total population)
Source: Eurostat (demo_pjanbroad) and (proj_13ndbims)
Figure 3: Population pyramids, EU-28, 2014 and 2080
(% of total population)
Source: Eurostat (demo_pjan) and (proj_13npms)
Figure 4: Age dependency ratios, EU-28, 2014–80
(%)
Source: Eurostat (demo_pjanind) and (proj_13ndbims)
Figure 5: Projected population change, 2014–80
(%)
Source: Eurostat (demo_gind) and (proj_13npms)
Figure 6: Median age as of 1 January, 2014 and 2080 (1)
(%)
Source: Eurostat (demo_pjanind) and (proj_13ndbims)
Figure 7: Old-age dependency ratio, 2014 and 2050
(%)
Source: Eurostat (demo_pjanind) and (proj_13ndbims)
Map 1: Old-age dependency ratio, 2014 (1)
(%)
Source: Eurostat (demo_pjanind)
Map 2: Projected old-age dependency ratio, 2080 (1)
(%)
Source: Eurostat (proj_13ndbims)
Figure 8: Projected number of live births and deaths, EU-28, 2014–80 (1)
(million)
Source: Eurostat (proj_13ndbims)
Figure 9: Projected developments for natural population change, net migration and total population change, EU-28, 2014–80
(million)
Source: Eurostat (proj_13ndbims)
Figure 10: Projected number of live births and deaths, by population scenario, EU-28, 2014–80 (1)
(million)
Source: Eurostat (proj_13ndbims) and (proj_13ndbizms)

Main statistical findings

The size of a population changes in a dynamic fashion over time, as a function of three demographic factors: births, deaths and migratory flows, each of which shapes the population’s structure over time. The main outcome of the current low levels of fertility and mortality in the EU-28 is a progressive ageing of the population. This is an ongoing demographic process and its consequences are analysed by policymakers from social, economic and labour-related perspectives.

Europop2013 — population projections

Europop2013, the latest population projections released by Eurostat, provide a main scenario and four variants for population developments from 2013 to 2080 across 31 European countries: all of the EU-28 Member States, as well as Iceland, Norway and Switzerland. These projections were produced using data for 1 January 2013 as a starting point and therefore include any modifications made to demographic statistics resulting from the 2011 population census exercise.

Europop2013 projections result from the application of a set of assumptions on future developments for fertility, mortality and net migration. The projections should not be considered as forecasts, as they show what would happen to the resulting population structure if the set of assumptions are held constant over the entire time horizon under consideration; in other words, the projections are ‘what-if’ scenarios that track population developments under a set of assumptions. As these projections are made over a relatively long time horizon, statements about the likely future developments for the EU’s population should be taken with caution, and interpreted as only one of a range of possible demographic developments.

This article presents a concise summary of the results from the ‘main scenario’ of Europop2013. It is restricted to the period covering 2014 to 2080 and hence the time-series shown begin with the most recent official statistics available at the time of writing (namely, those for 2014); for a more detailed presentation of this data, please refer to an article on Demographic changes — profile of the population.

Fluctuating pattern of population developments during the next six decades

Europop2013 projections indicate that the EU-28’s population will grow overall by 2.6 % between 2014 and 2080, with the number of inhabitants increasing by 13.2 million persons. The EU’s population is projected to peak around 2050, reaching 526 million persons, an increase of 18.7 million (or 3.7 %) compared with the situation in 2014. The size of the EU’s population is then projected to fall to reach a low of 519.8 million by 2075, after which a modest increase is projected through to 2080, when the EU-28’s population is projected to still be around 520 million persons (see Figure 1 and Table 1).

An ageing society

The Europop2013 main scenario projects that the pattern of population ageing within the EU-28 is likely to continue through to 2080. Ageing may be measured through an analysis of various demographic indicators, including:

  • the median age;
  • the proportion of the population in each of the main demographic age groups — namely, children (defined here as those aged 0–14 years), the working-age population (15–64 years) and the elderly population (65 years or over); and,
  • age-dependency ratios — such as the young-age dependency ratio, the old-age dependency ratio or the cumulated age dependency ratio [1].

Median age of the EU-28 population expected to increase by 4.2 years between 2014 and 2080

The median age of the EU-28’s population is projected to increase by 4.2 years, from 42.2 years in 2014 to 46.4 years in 2080. Decomposed by sex, the median age is projected to increase for men by 4.4 years (from 40.8 to 45.2 years), while for women the projected increase is 4.0 years (from 43.6 to 47.6 years).

Although the total population of the EU-28 is projected to increase modestly during the period 2014 to 2080, the relative and absolute sizes of the different population age groups are expected to follow contrasting developments (Figure 2).

The proportion of children in the EU-28’s population is projected to decrease slightly in both relative and absolute terms from a share of 15.6 % (or 79.1 million children) in 2014 to 15.1 % (or 78.7 million children) by 2080, with the share falling to a low of 14.6 % during the period 2035 to 2041 before recovering somewhat.

The proportion of the EU-28’s working-age population in the total population is also expected to decrease in size, falling from 333.8 million persons in 2014 (or 65.9 % of the total population) to 292.3 million persons in 2080 (56.2 %); the overall reduction in the working-age population during the next six and a half decades is therefore projected to be equivalent to 41.5 million persons. The share of the working-age population in the total population is projected to fall below the threshold of 60 % in 2035 and to remain below this level through to 2080.

The share of the elderly in the total population of the EU-28 is projected to increase from 18.5 % (or 93.9 million elderly persons) in 2014 to 28.7 % (or 149.1 million elderly persons) by 2080. As such, the share of the elderly is projected to rise by 10.2 percentage points, reflecting an additional 55.2 million elderly persons in the EU by 2080.

Europop2013 projects there will be 12.3 million people aged 80 years or over in the EU-28 by 2080

Europop2013 projections indicate there will be substantial increases in the number of very elderly persons in the EU-28 with the pattern of a progressively ageing EU population continuing in the coming six and a half decades. The share of the very old — defined here as those aged 80 years or over — in the total EU-28 population is projected to increase from 5.1 % in 2014 to 12.3 % by 2080. In absolute figures, their number is projected to more than double, rising from 26.0 million very old persons in 2014 to 63.9 million by 2080.

These changes in the EU-28’s population structure can be viewed more clearly by referring to Figure 3, which provides a graphical presentation of population changes by age and by sex through superimposing two population pyramids (for 2014 and 2080). The differences between these pyramids show the projected changes in the composition of the EU-28’s population, namely, that:

  • the already low number of births is projected to continue, as the base of the pyramid will remain relatively unchanged, indicating that there will be little or no population growth;
  • the working-age population will shrink considerably between 2014 and 2080, thus further increasing the burden on those of working-age to sustain the dependent population;
  • the proportion of elderly persons will grow much larger — as shown by the broadening at the top of the pyramid — reflecting the ageing of the EU’s population as a result of reduced mortality rates;
  • the number of centenarian women is projected to be considerably higher than the number of centenarian men.

The 2014 population pyramid may be described as a rhomboid (a parallelogram where the adjacent sides are unequal), due to the relatively high number of men and women aged 45–50, a cohort who were born in the late 1960s. These people will, in the coming years, gradually move into retirement, while there are fewer persons of working-age in the generations that follow. Indeed, this shift in age distribution provides further confirmation of the ongoing process of population ageing, as the share of the EU-28’s working-age population declines and the proportion of elderly persons increases.

By 2080 there will only be two persons of working-age for each elderly person

Demographic dependency ratios are based on the age structure of the population rather than their employment status. Figure 4 shows projected age dependency ratios for the EU-28, covering the period 2014 to 2080. The young-age dependency ratio is projected to increase modestly, rising by 3.8 percentage points from 23.1 % in 2014 to 26.9 % by 2080. By contrast, the EU-28 old-age dependency ratio is projected to increase at a rapid pace through to 2045 reflecting the on-going process of retirement among the baby-boomer and subsequent age cohorts (a group of people who have a shared event during a particular time span, for example, those people born in the EU between 1970 and 1975). Indeed, the old-age dependency ratio is projected to increase by 22.9 percentage points from 28.1 % in 2014 to 51.0 % by 2080. As such, while there were almost four persons of working-age for every elderly person in 2014, by 2080 this ratio is expected to be about 2 : 1.

Population projections for the EU Member States and EFTA countries

By 2080, Germany is likely to be the third largest EU Member State in population terms, behind the United Kingdom and France

Among the individual EU Member States, the projected changes in population structures vary considerably, both in terms of when the highest level of population is reached and the scale of population increases / decreases. A closer analysis of the data for 2050 — a year after the EU-28’s population is projected to peak — shows that the number of inhabitants in each of the United Kingdom (77.2 million), France (74.3 million), Italy (67.1 million) and Belgium (14.6 million) is expected to have increased by more than 3 million persons when compared with 2014. For almost half of the EU Member States, the projections for 2050 indicate that population numbers will be lower than in 2014, with Germany (74.7 million) and Poland (34.8 million) both recording decreases of more than 3 million inhabitants. By the end of the time horizon in 2080, Europop2013 projections indicate that the EU Member States with the largest populations will be the United Kingdom (85.1 million inhabitants), France (78.8 million), Germany (65.4 million), Italy (65.1 million) and Spain (47.6 million).

Figure 5 presents the projected changes to the populations of the EU Member States during the period 2014 to 2080, with an increase in the number of inhabitants foreseen for 14 of the EU Member States, as well as for Iceland, Switzerland and Norway. Population numbers are predicted to rise by more than 30 % in eight of these countries, with the highest gains expected in Luxembourg (where the population is projected to increase by 134 %) and Norway (up 73 %). The rapid population increase in Luxembourg is largely due to an assumption that relatively high levels of net migration observed during the last decade will continue over the coming years. The other six countries where the population is predicted to rise by 30–50 % include the United Kingdom, Iceland, Switzerland, Cyprus, Sweden and Belgium, while the number of inhabitants is expected to rise by 10–30 % in Austria, Malta, Finland, France, Denmark and Ireland; smaller population increases (up to 10 %) are projected for Italy, the Czech Republic and Spain.

The largest reductions in population numbers are anticipated in eastern and southern EU Member States

By contrast, the number of inhabitants is projected to fall between 2014 and 2080 in 14 of the EU Member States. Among these, there will be almost no change in the number of inhabitants in the Netherlands and a modest reduction in Slovenia (where the population is expected to contract by 2.6 %). The decline in the number of inhabitants is projected to be within the range of 12–22 % in Hungary, Romania, Croatia, Germany, Estonia and Poland, while a reduction of around 30 % is projected for Slovakia, Greece, Portugal, Bulgaria and Latvia. The largest contraction is projected for Lithuania, as its population is predicted to fall by more than one third (37.4 %).

By 2080, all of the EU Member States will have aged, although the pace of change will vary considerably. These differences are reflected in the projected values for median ages and age-dependency ratios. The pattern of population ageing is already being experienced in some of the EU Member States and is projected to continue and, in some cases, increase at an even faster pace, with a growing number of persons becoming dependent on the working-age population. As a result, population ageing will likely have a considerable impact on public expenditure plans, for example, in relation to pensions, healthcare and long-term care costs.

Figure 6 shows that during the period 2014 to 2080, the median age of the EU-28 population is projected to increase by 4.2 years to reach 46.4 years. Poland and Slovakia are the only EU Member States projected to see their median ages rise by more than 10 years (increases of 10.7 years and 15.1 years respectively), while all but two of the remaining Member States are expected to see their median age continue to increase. The two exceptions — Latvia and Lithuania — are both projected to record a decrease in their median ages (of 1.1 years and 3.9 years respectively) during the period 2014 to 2080, indicating that they will have a somewhat younger population at the end of the period.

Europop2013 projections indicate that there will be 11 EU Member States where the median age in 2080 is likely to be higher than the EU-28 average, namely, the Netherlands, Bulgaria, Hungary, Greece, Austria, Croatia, Italy, Poland, Germany, Portugal and Slovakia. Among these, the median age is expected to rise to 50 years or more in Germany (50.3), Portugal (52.5) and Slovakia (53.7) by 2080.

Age dependency ratios for the EU Member States and EFTA countries

The share of children in the total EU-28 population is projected to fall at a modest pace during the period 2014 to 2080, with a 0.5 percentage point reduction, as those aged 0–14 are projected to account for 15.1 % of the total number of inhabitants in the EU-28 by 2080. Over this same period, the share of young persons in the total population is projected to increase moderately in eight of the EU Member States and to decrease for the others. Lithuania (+3.9 percentage points) and Latvia (+2.4 percentage points) are projected to have the highest increases in their respective shares of young persons, while Slovakia (-3.4 percentage points) and Ireland (-3.2 percentage points) are projected to have the largest decreases.

The EU-28 young-age dependency ratio — which compares the number of children with the number of people in the working-age population — is projected to rise during the period 2014 to 2050 when it is expected to reach 26.3 %. Thereafter, there will only be a modest increase in the EU-28’s young-age dependency ratio through to 2080, when it is projected to be 26.9 % (an overall gain of 3.2 percentage points from 2014 to 2080). These changes result from the contraction in the number of working-age persons being faster than the reduction in the numbers of births and children.

Among the EU Member States, the young-age dependency ratio is expected to increase the most between 2014 and 2080 in Lithuania (up 8.5 percentage points) and to rise in each of the remaining EU Member States, except for Ireland, where the young-age dependency ratio is projected to fall by 1.9 percentage points; a reduction of 0.4 percentage points is also expected in Iceland. By 2080, 13 of the EU Member States are expected to have a young-age dependency ratio that is higher than the EU-28 average, peaking at more than 30 % in Lithuania and Ireland.

The share of the working-age population will fall in each of the EU Member States

In 2014, the EU-28’s working-age population accounted for almost two thirds (65.9 %) of the total population. This share is expected to fall to 56.9 % by 2050 and to then decline marginally further to reach 56.2 % by 2080. In all 31 countries for which projections are available (the 28 EU Member States, as well as Iceland, Norway and Switzerland), the share of the working-age population in the total population is foreseen to contract during the period 2014 to 2080. The pace at which the share of the working-age population will likely decline is expected to be faster than the EU-28 average (-9.7 percentage points) in 17 of the EU Member States, with the largest relative declines recorded for Portugal, Poland and Slovakia.

By contrast, the share of elderly persons in the total population is projected to increase in all 31 countries during the period 2014 to 2080. Across the whole of the EU-28, the proportion of elderly persons in the total population is projected to increase from 18.5 % to 28.7 % (a rise of 10.2 percentage points). Among the EU Member States, the relative share of the elderly in the total population is projected to increase by between 2.3 percentage points (in Lithuania) and 22.4 percentage points (in Slovakia). Europop2013 projections indicate that the share of elderly persons in the total population will increase by at least 10 percentage points in more than half of the EU Member States between 2014 and 2080, while the changes predicted for the three EFTA countries were close to this threshold: Iceland (an increase of 10.8 percentage points), Norway (10.5 percentage points) and Switzerland (9.9 percentage points).

A shrinking number of working-age persons and a growing number of elderly persons compound the impact on old-age dependency ratios. Within the EU-28, the old-age dependency ratio is projected to rise from 28.1 % in 2014 to 51.0 % by 2080 (an increase of 22.9 percentage points). The vast majority of this change will take place during the period 2014 to 2050, as the EU-28 old-age dependency ratio is projected to increase from 49.4 % to 51.0 % between 2050 and 2080.

By 2050, projections indicate that there will be fewer than two working-age persons for each elderly person in 12 of the EU Member States

Among the EU Member States, the largest increases for the old-age dependency ratio are predicted for Slovakia, Poland and Portugal, where the projected gains are in excess of 35 percentage points for the whole of the period 2014 to 2080. The old-age dependency ratio was expected to increase in all 31 countries, with the highest ratios in 2080 being recorded in Slovakia (68.7 %) and Portugal (68.2 %), while ratios of just less than 60 % are projected for Germany and Poland.

Figure 7 depicts developments for the old-age dependency ratio between 2014 and 2050 (the year after the EU-28’s population is projected to peak). There are 12 EU Member States where the old-age dependency ratio is projected to be higher than 50 % by 2050 — with less than two working-age persons for each person aged 65 or more. For 6 out of these 12 Member States — Slovakia, Poland, Spain, Portugal, Slovenia and Greece — the old-age dependency ratio is projected to double between 2014 and 2050; this is also the case for Ireland and Cyprus.

Slovakia will move from recording the lowest old-age dependency ratio in 2014 to having the highest old-age dependency ratio by 2080

Maps 1 and 2 provide an alternative picture of the old-age dependency ratio presenting the situation in 2014 and 2080. In 2014, the old-age dependency ratio ranged from a low of 19.0 % in Slovakia to a high of 32.9 % in Italy. By 2080 the situation is predicted to have changed considerably, as the ratio will range from 34.0 % in Lithuania up to 68.7 % in Slovakia.

A similar pattern of development is projected for the share of the very old in the total population. The proportion of the EU-28 population aged 80 years or over stood at 5.1 % in 2014 and was projected to rise by 7.2 percentage points to reach 12.3 % by 2080. Europop2013 projections for 2080 indicate that among the EU Member States, the share of the population aged 80 years or over will range from 7.4 % in Ireland to 16.3 % in Slovakia.

There are 13 EU Member States where the projections indicate that the share of the very old in the total population will increase between 2014 and 2080 by more than the EU-28 average, with the largest gains recorded for Slovakia (13.3 percentage points), Poland (11.0 percentage points) and Portugal (10.3 percentage points), while increases of more than 9 percentage points are predicted for Germany and Malta. By contrast, the shares of the very old in the total populations of Lithuania, Ireland and Latvia are expected to increase by less than 5 percentage points over the period 2014 to 2080.

The combined effect of a slightly declining proportion of children and a continuously rising proportion of older persons is a considerable increase in the total age dependency ratio. In 2014, 17 of the EU Member States and Norway had more than 50 dependents for each 100 working-age persons, while by 2080 it is expected that all of the EU Member States will have more than 64 dependents per 100 working-age persons.

The impact of births and deaths on population change

In 2013, there were almost 81 thousand more births than deaths in the EU-28. Projections concerning 2014 and 2015 indicate that this pattern of a natural population increase (the difference between the number of births and the number of deaths) would continue. Figure 8 shows that the projected number of deaths in the EU-28 will be higher than the projected number of births for the whole of the period 2016 to 2080, with the largest gap between deaths and births being recorded during the period 2050 to 2060.

Europop2013 projections indicate that there will be considerable differences in natural population changes during the period 2015 to 2080, with:

  • a continuous period of natural population increases projected for six EU Member States (Belgium, Ireland, France, Luxembourg, Sweden and the United Kingdom) as well as Iceland and Norway;
  • a continuous period of natural population decreases projected for 12 EU Member States (Bulgaria, Germany, Estonia, Greece, Croatia, Italy, Hungary, Latvia, Poland, Portugal, Romania and Slovakia); and
  • a combination of positive and negative natural changes for the remaining 10 EU Member States (the Czech Republic, Denmark, Spain, Cyprus, Lithuania, Malta, the Netherlands, Austria, Slovenia and Finland) as well as Switzerland.

Migratory patterns also have an impact on population age structures, resulting from either positive net migration (more people arriving in a country than leaving it) or negative net emigration (more people leaving a country than arriving). In those EU Member States that are characterised by positive net migration, it is possible that the process of population ageing may be slowed down, as migrant populations are often characterised as having a high share of working-age persons. On the other hand, where there is negative net migration, the ageing process may be accelerated, as those leaving the country may also tend to be relatively young, thereby reducing the number of working-age persons in the population, while also reducing the fertility rate as well.

Figure 9 shows the contributions of natural population change and net migration to overall population change in the EU-28 during the period 2015 to 2080. The long-term projections suggest that there will be a natural decrease in population numbers during the period 2016 to 2060. Natural population decreases in the EU-28 are subsequently expected to slow and by 2080 the overall change in population will stabilise at close to zero with almost equal contributions from natural population decreases and positive net migration. A closer examination of each component shows that:

  • net migration will be positive over the entire period, and will be the main contributing factor to the overall change in population numbers during the next three decades and during the period 2075 to 2080, when net migration will be higher than natural population change;
  • natural population change will be negative over the entire period (except 2015) with the number of deaths exceeding the number of births; during the period 2050 to 2075, the negative natural change in population numbers will outweigh the positive net migration, thereby leading to a fall in the overall population.

During the period 2015 to 2080, Europop2013 projects there will be 327.1 million births and 387.2 million deaths in the EU-28, equivalent to a net reduction of 60.1 million inhabitants as a result of natural changes in the population. During the same period, the cumulated impact of net migration is projected to be 71.9 million, resulting in an overall change in the total population of 11.8 million inhabitants. For comparative purposes, it is worth considering the Europop2013 ‘no migration’ variant, where the population varies only as a result of natural change. Figure 10 shows a comparison between the ‘main scenario’ and ‘no migration’ variant and the overall effects of net migration on the EU-28’s projected population developments.

A demographic future — concluding remarks

Europop2013 population projections indicate that population ageing will continue across all of the EU Member States, Iceland, Norway and Switzerland. Although the EU-28’s population is projected to be slightly higher in 2080 than it was in 2014 its structure will be increasingly old, with a considerable reduction in the number of and share of working-age persons. The ageing process that is underway may be highlighted through the increasing number of very old persons, whereby the elderly population is itself in the process of ageing. While migration has the potential to help delay the ageing process in some of the EU Member States, it may also speed up the process of ageing in those Member States which are characterised by a relatively high proportion of their working-age population leaving, for example in search of work. Indeed, Europop2013 projections indicate that age dependency ratios are likely to continue increasing, highlighting challenges for public expenditure in relation to pensions, healthcare and long-term care costs.

See also

Further Eurostat information

Main tables

Database

Dedicated section

Source data for tables and figures (MS Excel)

Other information

External links


  1. The cumulated, or total, age dependency ratio is defined as the following ratio: (the number of children + the number of elderly persons) / the number of working-age persons.