The EU in the world - population

Data extracted in March 2016. Most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Main tables and Database. Planned article update: June 2018.

This article is part of a set of statistical articles based on Eurostat’s publication The EU in the world 2016.

This article focuses on population structure and population developments in the European Union (EU) and in the 15 non-EU members of the Group of Twenty (G20). It covers key demographic indicators and gives an insight of the EU’s population in comparison with the major economies in the rest of the world, such as its counterparts in the so-called Triad — Japan and the United States — and the BRICS composed of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

Figure 1: Share of world population, 1960, 2015 and 2060
(%)
Source: Eurostat (demo_gind) and (proj_13npms), United Nations Population Division, Department of Economic and Social Affairs (World Population Prospects: the 2015 Revision)
Table 1: Population and population density, 1960, 2015 and 2060
Source: Eurostat (demo_gind), (proj_13npms) and (tps00003), United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (World Population Prospects: the 2015 Revision)
Figure 2: Age pyramids, 2014
(% of total population)
Source: Eurostat (demo_pjangroup) and the World Bank (Health Nutrition and Population Statistics)
Figure 3: Young-age dependency ratio, 1960, 2014 and 2060
(population aged 0–14 as a percentage of the population aged 15–64)
Source: Eurostat (demo_pjanind) and (proj_13npms), World Bank (Health Nutrition and Population Statistics) and United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (World Population Prospects: the 2015 Revision)
Figure 4: Old-age dependency ratio, 1960, 2014 and 2060
(population aged 65 or more as a percentage of the population aged 15–64)
Source: Eurostat (demo_pjanind) and (tsdde511), World Bank (Health Nutrition and Population Statistics) and United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (World Population Prospects: the 2015 Revision)
Figure 5: Fertility rate, 2003 and 2013
(average number of births per woman)
Source: Eurostat (demo_find) and the World Bank — Health Nutrition and Population Statistics: Population estimates and projections
Figure 6: Crude birth rate, 2003 and 2013
(per 1 000 population)
Source: Eurostat (demo_gind) and the World Bank (World Development Indicators)
Figure 7: Crude death rate, 2003 and 2013
(per 1 000 population)
Source: Eurostat (demo_gind) and the World Bank (World Development Indicators)
Figure 8: Net migration rate, 2005–10 and 2010–15
(per 1 000 population)
Source: Eurostat (tsdde230) and United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (2015) World Population
Figure 9: Share of foreign-born population, 2015
(%)
Source: Eurostat (migr_pop3ctb) and United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (2015) World Population
Figure 10: Asylum seekers, 2015
(thousand applicants)
Source: Eurostat (migr_asyappctza) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the UN Refugee Agency, Population Statistics, (UNHCR Statistical Online Population Database — Mid-year statistics)

Main statistical findings

Population size, density and projections

Between 1960 and 2015 the share of the world’s population living in G20 members fell from 73.6 % to 63.9 %

In 2015, the world’s population reached 7.3 billion inhabitants and continued to grow. Although all members of the G20 recorded higher population levels in 2015 than they did more than 50 years before, between 1960 and 2015 the share of the world’s population living in G20 members fell from 73.6 % to 63.9 %. Russia recorded the smallest overall population increase (19.7 %) during these 55 years, followed by the EU-28 (25.0 %), while the fastest population growth among G20 members was recorded in Saudi Arabia, with close to a seven-fold increase (an average annual growth rate of 3.8 %), linked to the high fertility and migration rates.

The most populous countries in the world in 2015 were China and India, together accounting for almost 36.6 % of the world’s population (see Figure 1) and 57.2 % of the population in the G20 members. The population of the EU-28 in 2015 was 508.5 million inhabitants, 6.9 % of the world’s total.

The global number of inhabitants is projected to reach around 10 billion by 2060

The latest United Nations population projections suggest that the pace at which the world’s population is expanding will slow down in the coming decades from an average 1.6 % per year since 1960 to 0.7 % per year until 2060; however, the total number of inhabitants is projected to reach around 10 billion by 2060, representing an overall increase of 38.6 % compared with 2015 (see Table 1). The slowdown in population growth that this represents will be particularly apparent for developed and emerging economies as the number of inhabitants within the G20 — excluding the EU — is projected to increase by 14.0 % between 2015 and 2060 while the EU-28’s population is projected (by Eurostat) to increase by only 2.9 % over the same period. This will translate into a reduction of the G20 share of the total global population, from 63.9% in 2015 to 52.1 % in 2060 (see Figure 1).

The population of many developing countries is likely to continue growing at a rapid pace. For almost all of the G20 members a growth in population is expected between 2015 and 2060 with the largest projected increases in Saudi Arabia and Australia (both + 0.9 % per year). The projections foresee a decline from 2015 to 2060 in the population only four countries: Japan (– 0.5 % per year), Russia (– 0.3 %), China (– 0.2 %) and South Korea (– 0.1 %).

As well as having the largest populations, Asia had the most densely populated G20 members, namely South Korea (515.0 inhabitants per km2), India (435.7 inhabitants per km2) and Japan (347.8 inhabitants per km2), followed by China and Indonesia and then the EU-28 and Turkey with more than 100 inhabitants per km2. Australia was the least densely populated G20 member (3.1 inhabitants per km2), followed by Canada (3.9 inhabitants per km2) and Russia (8.8 inhabitants per km2).

Population age structure and projections

Ageing society represents a major demographic challenge for many economies and may be linked to a range of issues, including, persistently low levels of fertility rates and significant increases in life expectancy during recent decades.

Figure 2 shows how different the age structure of the EU-28’s population is from the average for the whole world. Most notably the largest shares of the world’s population are among the youngest age classes, reflecting a population structure that is younger, whereas for the EU-28 the share of the age groups below those aged 45–49 years generally gets progressively smaller approaching the youngest cohorts.

The structure in the EU-28 reflects falling fertility rates over several decades and a modest increase in the most recent decade, combined with the impact of the baby-boomer cohorts on the population structure (resulting from high fertility rates in several European countries up to the mid-1960s). This overall pattern of a progressively smaller share of the population in the younger age groups in the EU-28 stops at the age group 10–14, below which the share increases slightly in the age group 5–9 and is stable in the age group 0–4. Another notable difference is the greater gender imbalance within the EU-28 among older age groups than is typical for the world as a whole. Some of the factors influencing age structure are presented in the rest of this article and the article on health, for example, fertility, migration and life expectancy.

Japan had by far the highest old-age dependency ratio in 2014

The young and old age dependency ratios shown in Figures 3 and 4 summarise the level of support for younger persons (aged less than 15 years) and older persons (aged 65 years and over) provided by the working age population (those aged 15–64 years). In 2014, the young-age dependency ratio ranged from 19.6 % in South Korea to more than double this ratio in South Africa (45.1 %), with the ratio in the EU-28 (23.7 %) lower than in most G20 members. By far the highest old-age dependency ratio in 2013 was the 41.9 % observed in Japan, indicating that there were more than two people aged 65 and over for every five people aged 15 to 64 years; the next highest old-age dependency ratio was 28.1 % in the EU-28.

The fall in the young-age dependency ratio for the EU-28 between 1960 and 2014 more than cancelled out an increase in the old-age dependency ratio. Most of the G20 members displayed a similar pattern, with two exceptions: in Japan the increase in the old-age dependency ratio exceeded the fall in the young-age dependency ratio; in Saudi Arabia both the young and old-age dependency ratios were lower in 2014 than in 1960, reflecting a large increase in the working age population in this country.

Lower young-age dependency ratios and higher old-age dependency ratios projected for 2060

With relatively low fertility rates the young-age dependency ratio is projected to be lower in 2060 than it was in 2014 in several G20 members, dropping by more than 10 percentage points in South Africa, India, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Mexico and Argentina. Projected increases for this ratio are relatively small, peaking at 7.0 percentage points in South Korea. In the EU-28, the young-age dependency ratio is projected to increase from 23.7 % in 2014 to 26.5 % by 2060, but will remain well below the world average of 33.2 %, and the same goes for all of the projections for the G20 members.

Old-age dependency ratios are projected to continue to rise in all G20 members, suggesting for the future an increased burden in providing for social expenditure related to population ageing (for example, for pensions, healthcare and institutional care). The EU-28’s old-age dependency ratio is projected to increase from 28.1 % in 2014 to 50.2 % by 2060, when it is projected to be 20.7 percentage points above the world average, but considerably lower than in South Korea (73.0 %) and Japan (72.4 %).

Natural population change

Natural change results from the difference between the number of live births and the number of deaths and along with the net effect of migration it is one of the components of the total population change.

Natural change is dependent on the fertility rate which is the mean number of children who would be born to a woman during her lifetime, if she were to spend her childbearing years conforming to the age-specific fertility rates that have been measured in a given year. Fertility rates in industrialised countries have fallen substantially over several decades and have been accompanied by a postponement of motherhood, which may in part be attributed to increases in the average length of education of women, increased female employment rates, and changes in attitudes towards the position of women within society and the roles of men and women within families. In the most recent decade for which data are available, a slight increase in the fertility rate for the EU-28 was observed.

Fertility rates fell between 2003 and 2013 in eight non-European G20 members, most notably in Saudi Arabia, India and Brazil. Russia recorded the largest increase, rising from 1.3 births per woman in 2003 to 1.7 births per woman in 2013. The average fertility rate in the EU-28 in 2013 was 1.5 births per woman, lower than in all of the other G20 members except for Japan and South Korea (see Figure 5).

The crude birth rate in the EU-28 was among the lowest across the G20 members

The crude birth rate (the ratio of the number of births to the population) in the EU-28 in 2013 was slightly lower than in 2003, and remained among the lowest across the G20 members, with only South Korea and Japan recording lower birth rates (see Figure 6). Crude birth rates recorded in South Africa, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia and India in 2013 were more than double the average rate for the EU-28.

When the death rate exceeds the birth rate there is negative natural population change; this situation was experienced in Japan in 2013, while birth and death rates were almost balanced in Russia and the EU-28. The reverse situation, natural population growth due to a higher birth rate, was observed for all of the remaining G20 members (see Figures 6 and 7) with the largest differences (over 10 percentage points) recorded in Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Indonesia, India, Turkey and Argentina. The highest crude death rates (the ratio of the number of deaths to the population) were recorded in Russia and South Africa, in the latter case reflecting in part an HIV/AIDS epidemic which has resulted in a high number of deaths among relatively young persons, such that the difference between crude birth and death rates in South Africa was below the world average despite the high birth rate.

Migration and asylum

The net migration rate is the difference between immigrants and emigrants of a country in a period of time. A positive value represents more people entering the country than leaving it, while a negative value means more people leaving than entering it. From 2010 to 2015, only four countries China, India, Indonesia and Mexico recorded negative net migration rates (see Figure 8). On the other hand, all other G20 countries including the EU-28 experienced positive net migration. This situation was broadly similar to that observed five years earlier, between 2005 and 2010, with the exception of Turkey and Argentina which had then registered a negative net migration in contrast to the more recent pattern for net inward migration.

More than one quarter of people living in Australia were foreign-born while close to one third of residents in Saudi Arabia were foreign citizens

Some 6.8 % of the population living in the EU-28 in 2015 had been born outside of the EU, around 34.3 million people (see Figure 9). While the share in Russia (8.1 %) was above the share in the EU, in the United States (14.5 %) it was more than twice as high as the share in the EU, in Canada (21.8 %) more than three times as high, and in Australia (28.2 %) and Saudi Arabia (32.3 %) more than four times as high. The G20 members with the lowest shares of foreign-born citizens were Indonesia (0.03 %) and China (0.07 %).

In 2015, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees reported that there were 2.12 million asylum applicants across the world. Asylum is a form of protection given by a state on its territory. It is granted to a person who is unable to seek protection in their country of citizenship and/or residence in particular for fear of being persecuted for various reasons (such as race, religion or opinion).

In 2014 there were 627 thousand asylum applicants (from non-member countries) in the EU-28, increasing to 1 322 thousand in 2015 (see Figure 10). Among those seeking asylum in the EU-28 in 2015, the highest number were from Syria (368 thousand), followed by Afghanistan, Iraq, Kosovo, Albania and Pakistan (each accounting for between 48 and 181 thousand asylum seekers). The highest numbers of asylum applicants into the EU-28 from G20 members came from Russia (22 thousand), China (6.2 thousand) and India (5.0 thousand); note that the data for China include applicants from Hong Kong.

Figure 10 shows that aside from the EU-28, there were relatively high numbers of asylum seekers in 2015 in South Africa (many of whom originated from Zimbabwe, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Ethiopia) and to a lesser extent in the United States and Turkey.

Data sources and availability

The statistical data in this article were extracted during March 2016.

The indicators are often compiled according to international — sometimes global — standards. Although most data are based on international concepts and definitions there may be certain discrepancies in the methods used to compile the data.

EU data

Most of the indicators presented for the EU have been drawn from Eurobase, Eurostat’s online database. Eurobase is updated regularly, so there may be differences between data appearing in this article and data that is subsequently downloaded.

G20 members from the rest of the world

For the 15 non-EU G20 members, the data presented have been extracted from a range of international sources, namely the Food and Agricultural Organization, the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and the World Bank. For some of the indicators shown a range of international statistical sources are available, each with their own policies and practices concerning data management (for example, concerning data validation, correction of errors, estimation of missing data, and frequency of updating). In general, attempts have been made to use only one source for each indicator in order to provide a comparable analysis between the members.

Context

As a population grows or contracts, its structure changes. In many developed economies the population’s age structure has become older as post-war baby-boom generations reach retirement age. Furthermore, many countries have experienced a general increase in life expectancy combined with a fall in fertility, in some cases to a level below that necessary to keep the size of the population constant in the absence of migration. If sustained over a lengthy period, these changes can pose considerable challenges associated with an ageing society which impact on a range of policy areas, including labour markets, pensions and the provision of healthcare, housing and social services.

See also

Further Eurostat information

Publications

Main tables

Demography (t_pop)
Population (t_demo_pop)
Crude rate of net migration plus adjustment (tsdde230)
Population density (tps00003)
Population projections (t_proj)
Projected old-age dependency ratio (tsdde511)

Database

Population change - Demographic balance and crude rates at national level (demo_gind)
Population on 1 January by age and sex (demo_pjan)
Population on 1 January by five years age groups and sex (demo_pjangroup)
Population on 1 January by five year age group, sex and country of birth (migr_pop3ctb)
Population on 1 January by sex, country of birth and broad group of citizenship (migr_pop6ctb)
Population on 1 January: Structure indicators (demo_pjanind)
Fertility indicators (demo_find)
EUROPOP2013 - Population projections at national level (proj_13n)
Projected population (proj_13np)
Asylum and Dublin statistics (migr_asy)
Applications (migr_asyapp)
Asylum and first time asylum applicants by citizenship, age and sex Annual aggregated data (rounded) (migr_asyappctza)

Dedicated section

Source data for tables and figures (MS Excel)

Excel.jpg Population: tables and figures

External links

  • Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations FAO
  • United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs
  • United Nations Economic Commission for Europe UNECE
  • United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees UNHCR
  • World Bank