Enlargement countries - population statistics - Statistics Explained

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Enlargement countries - population statistics

Data extracted in February 2020.

Planned article update: June 2021.


In 2018, the combined population of the candidate countries and potential candidates was equivalent to slightly more than one fifth of the population of the EU-27.

Among candidate countries and potential candidates, the highest shares of young people were in Kosovo and Turkey while the lowest was in Serbia.

Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina were the only candidate countries and potential candidates to record crude birth rates that were lower than in the EU-27.

Population as of 1 January 2019

This article is part of an online publication and provides information on a range of population statistics for the European Union (EU) enlargement countries, in other words the candidate countries and potential candidates. Montenegro, North Macedonia, Albania, Serbia and Turkey currently have candidate status, while Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo* are potential candidates.

The article gives an overview of demographic developments in the candidate countries and potential candidates, presenting indicators such as the overall number of inhabitants, crude birth and death rates, fertility rates, life expectancy and the infant mortality rate.

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Population and age structure

Collectively the population of the candidate countries and potential candidates was equivalent to more than one fifth of the population of the EU-27

There were 447 million persons resident in the EU-27 as of 1 January 2019 (see Table 1). The combined population of the candidate countries and potential candidates was estimated to be 99 million inhabitants in 2018, which was equivalent to more than one fifth (22.1 %) of the EU-27 total. Turkey was by far the most populous candidate country or potential candidate, with 82 million inhabitants in 2019, just lower than the population of Germany (83 million), but higher than the population of any other EU Member State. By contrast, Montenegro was the smallest candidate country or potential candidate in population terms, with 622 thousand inhabitants, smaller than the population of Cyprus (876 thousand), but larger than those of Luxembourg (614 thousand) or Malta (494 thousand).

Table 1: Population as of 1 January, 2009-2019
Source: Eurostat (demo_gind)

The development of the number of inhabitants within the candidate countries and potential candidates followed a varied pattern during the period 2009-2019. The population of Turkey increased at a relatively rapid pace, growing by 14.7 % overall during the period under consideration, while the number of inhabitants in North Macedonia and Montenegro grew at a modest pace, increasing by 1.4 % and 0.8 % respectively; this was similar to but slightly slower than the corresponding rate of change in the EU-27 where the population grew by 1.5 % overall. Elsewhere there were relatively large declines in the populations of the candidate countries and potential candidates: down 2.5 % in Albania, 5.1 % in Serbia (note that there is a break in series), 8.9 % in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and 17.7 % in Kosovo (note again that there are breaks in the times series, with little overall change since the break).

The younger generations accounted for a relatively high proportion of the population in Turkey and Kosovo

The working-age population (those aged 15-64 years) accounted for almost two thirds (64.8 %) of the total population in the EU-27 in 2019 and a similar but slightly higher share in each of the candidate countries and potential candidates (no data available for Bosnia and Herzegovina): the lowest share was 65.7 % in Serbia and the highest share was 69.9 % in North Macedonia. By contrast, the relative importance of those age groups who are often referred to as dependents varied considerably. For example, in the EU-27, North Macedonia, Albania and Montenegro, those aged less than 15 years accounted for 15.2-18.1 % of the total population in 2019, while in Serbia their share was lower, at 14.4 %. The share of younger persons was closer to one quarter of the total population in Turkey (23.6 %) and Kosovo (25.0 %). Conversely, less than one tenth of the total population in Kosovo and Turkey were aged 65 years and over, while this share was 20.0 % in the EU-27 and 19.9 % in Serbia, the latter having the highest share among the candidate countries and potential candidates.

Figure 1: Population by age class, 2019
(% of total population)
Source: Eurostat (demo_pjangroup)

Birth and death rates

Crude birth rates higher than crude death rates in most candidate countries and potential candidates, although not in Serbia or in Bosnia and Herzegovina

The crude rate of natural increase is calculated by subtracting the crude death rate from the crude birth rate: a positive result implies that the natural rate of population change (in other words, excluding the effects of migrant flows) is positive and so the population increases. For some time the crude birth rate was slightly higher than the crude death rate in the EU-27, resulting in a modest level of natural population increase, although since 2012 this has not been the case. The difference between these two rates in 2018 was slightly negative, as the birth rate was 1.0 per 1 000 inhabitants lower than the death rate.

Table 2: Crude birth and death rates, 2008, 2013 and 2018
(per 1 000 inhabitants)
Source: Eurostat (demo_gind)

Among the candidate countries and potential candidates, differences between these two rates were wider — see Table 2; this was particularly the case in Kosovo and Turkey, where the highest rates of natural population growth were recorded (10.3 and 10.1 per 1 000 inhabitants). By contrast, Serbia as well as Bosnia and Herzegovina reported crude death rates that were higher than their crude birth rates, resulting therefore in a negative rate of natural population change. In Serbia and in Bosnia and Herzegovina, comparing the latest difference with 5 and 10 years earlier, the negative rates of natural population change had intensified.

Fertility rates

The highest fertility rates among candidate countries and potential candidates in Turkey

Among the candidate countries and potential candidates (no data available for Bosnia and Herzegovina), only Turkey recorded a fertility rate that was close to two children per woman in 2018 (see Table 3). Turkey’s fertility rate remained between 2.03 and 2.17 children per woman throughout the period 2008-2017 and dipped below 2.00 in 2018. As such, Turkey was the only candidate country or potential candidate to record a fertility rate close to the replacement rate (developed world populations are thought to need a fertility rate of around 2.1 children per woman in order to maintain their population levels). The latest fertility rates in Montenegro and Kosovo were 1.76 children per woman in 2018 and 1.65 children per woman in 2017 respectively, above the average for the EU-27 which stood at 1.55 in 2018. By contrast, the fertility rates observed in the remaining candidate countries and potential candidates ranged from 1.37 to 1.49 children per woman in 2018.

Table 3: Total fertility rate, 2008-2018
(average number of children per woman)
Source: Eurostat (demo_find)

Life expectancy

Highest life expectancy among the candidate countries and potential candidates in Albania

Life expectancy at birth for women is higher than for men both within the EU-27 and across all of the candidate countries and potential candidates for which data are available (see Table 4). This gender gap was highest at 5.7 years in Kosovo in 2016 and 5.4 years in Turkey in 2018, around the EU-27 average of 5.5 years. Across the remaining candidate countries and potential candidates (no data for Bosnia and Herzegovina), life expectancy at birth for women in 2018 was between 3.1 years and 4.9 years more than it was for men.

Table 4: Life expectancy at birth, 2008-2018
Source: Eurostat (demo_mlexpec)

In 2018, life expectancy for men in the candidate countries and potential candidates ranged from a low of 73.5 years in Serbia to 77.4 years in Albania, compared with 78.2 years in the EU-27. For women, life expectancy across the candidate countries and potential candidates was slightly more homogeneous, ranging from a low of 78.4 years in Serbia to 81.6 years in Kosovo (2016 data) and in Turkey; for comparison, the average in the EU-27 was 83.7 years.

There was an increase in life expectancy between 2008 and 2018 both for men and for women in the EU-27 and in the three candidate countries and potential candidates for which a complete time series is available: Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia. Equally there were increases in Turkey between 2010 and 2018 and in Albania between 2014 and 2018.

Infant mortality rates

Rapid fall in the infant mortality rate in Montenegro

Infant mortality rates fell at a rapid pace in several of the candidate countries and potential candidates in recent years (see Table 5), in particular (in relative terms) in Montenegro, Turkey and Serbia; only in Albania did the rate increase. In 2017, the infant mortality rate in Kosovo was 2.8 times as high as in the EU-27 (where the rate was 3.5 deaths per 1 000 live births), while in North Macedonia and Turkey it was 2.6 times as high and in Albania it was 2.3 times as high. The latest rate in Serbia was 1.3 times the EU-27 average while that in Montenegro (at 1.3 deaths per 1 000 live births in 2017) was less than half the EU-27 average.

Table 5: Infant mortality rate, 2007-2017
(per 1 000 live births)
Source: Eurostat (demo_minfind)

Source data for tables and figures (MS Excel)

Data sources

Data for the enlargement countries are collected for a wide range of indicators each year through a questionnaire that is sent by Eurostat to candidate countries or potential candidates. A network of contacts has been established for updating these questionnaires, generally within the national statistical offices, but potentially including representatives of other data-producing organisations (for example, central banks or government ministries). The statistics collected in this annual exercise are available free-of-charge on Eurostat’s website, together with a wide range of other socio-economic indicators collected as part of this initiative. Note that in 2016, it was decided to stop collecting most population statistics using the questionnaires, instead relying on information that was collected by Eurostat’s unit responsible for population and migration statistics. Alongside Eurostat’s regular collection of population data from EU Member States and EFTA countries, the enlargement countries provide population data directly to Eurostat and these data have been used in this article. These statistics are also available free-of-charge on Eurostat’s website.

Eurostat provides a wide range of demographic data, including statistics on populations at national and regional level, as well as for various demographic factors influencing the size, the structure and the specific characteristics of these populations. In its demography data collection exercise, Eurostat collects data in relation to the population as of 1 January each year. The recommended definition is the ‘usual resident population’ and represents the number of inhabitants of a given area on 1 January of the year in question (or, in some cases, on 31 December of the previous year).

Fertility is the ability to conceive (become pregnant) and give birth to children. The total fertility rate is defined as 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.

Life expectancy at a certain age is the mean additional number of years that a person of that age can expect to live, if subjected throughout the rest of his or her life to the current mortality conditions.

The infant mortality rate is defined as the ratio of the number of deaths of children under one year of age to the number of live births in the reference year; the value is expressed per 1 000 live births.

Tables in this article use the following notation:

Value in italics     data value is forecasted, provisional or estimated and is therefore likely to change;
: not available, confidential or unreliable value.


Life expectancy at birth rose rapidly during the last century in the EU due to a number of factors, including reductions in infant mortality, rising living standards, improved lifestyles and better education, as well as advances in healthcare and medicine. Statistics on population change and the structure of population are increasingly used to support policymaking and provide an opportunity to monitor demographic behaviour within an economic, social and cultural context.

Indeed, the EU’s population is ageing as consistently low birth rates and higher life expectancy transform the shape of its age pyramid. As a result, the proportion of people of working age in the EU-27 is shrinking while the relative number of those retired is expanding. This will, in turn, lead to an increased burden on those of working age to provide for the social expenditure required by the ageing population for a range of services.

While basic principles and institutional frameworks for producing statistics are already in place, the enlargement countries are expected to increase progressively the volume and quality of their data and to transmit these data to Eurostat in the context of the EU enlargement process. EU standards in the field of statistics require the existence of a statistical infrastructure based on principles such as professional independence, impartiality, relevance, confidentiality of individual data and easy access to official statistics; they cover methodology, classifications and standards for production.

Eurostat has the responsibility to ensure that statistical production of the enlargement countries complies with the EU acquis in the field of statistics. To do so, Eurostat supports the national statistical offices and other producers of official statistics through a range of initiatives, such as pilot surveys, training courses, traineeships, study visits, workshops and seminars, and participation in meetings within the European Statistical System (ESS). The ultimate goal is the provision of harmonised, high-quality data that conforms to European and international standards.

Additional information on statistical cooperation with the enlargement countries is provided here.


* This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244/1999 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence.

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See also


Population and social conditions (cpc_ps)
Candidate countries and potential candidates: population — demography (cpc_psdemo)
Population change - Demographic balance and crude rates at national level (demo_gind)
Population (demo_pop)
Fertility (demo_fer)
Mortality (demo_mor)

Dedicated section

Methodology / Metadata