Population and population change statistics
Data extracted in November 2018
Planned article update: July 2019
On 1 January 2018, the population of the EU was estimated at 513 million inhabitants, 1.2 million more than the previous year.
Between 1960 and 2018, the population of the EU grew from 407 million to 513 million, an increase of 106 million people.
This article gives an overview of the development of European Union (EU) population statistics, detailing the two components of population change: natural population change and net migration plus statistical adjustment. More information on net migration is provided within an article on migration and migrant population statistics.
EU-28 population continues to grow
The current demographic situation in the EU-28 is characterised by continuing population growth. While the population of the EU-28 as a whole increased during 2017, the population of 9 EU Member States declined. The latest information available is also of interest, as 2017 was the second year (since the series began in 1961) when there was a slight natural decrease in the EU-28. The population change (positive, with 1.2 million more inhabitants) was therefore due to net migration.
On 1 January 2018 the population of the EU-28 was estimated at 512.7 million inhabitants, which was 1.2 million more than a year before. The increase in population numbers during 2017 was similar to that recorded during 2016.
Over a longer period, the population of the EU-28 grew from 406.7 million in 1960 to 512.7 million in 2018, an increase of 106.0 million people (see Figure 1). The rate of population growth has slowed gradually in recent decades: for example, the EU-28’s population increased, on average, by about 1.4 million persons per year during the period 2005–18, compared with an average increase of around 3.3 million persons per year during the 1960s.
In 2017, deaths modestly outnumbered live births in the EU-28 (for the second time since the time series began in 1961), resulting in the aforementioned natural decrease in the population. As such, the increase in population recorded during 2017 for the EU-28 could be fully attributed to net migration and statistical adjustment; there were however variations in the patterns observed in the EU Member States as shown below. In 2017, net migration and statistical adjustment accounted for an increase of 1.3 million persons, more than in 2016 (1.2 million); since 1992, net migration and statistical adjustment has been the main determinant of population growth in the EU-28 (see Figure 2 for rates per 1 000 persons).
Net migration in the EU-28 increased considerably from the mid-1980s onwards, while the number of live births fell, and the number of deaths increased. The gap between live births and deaths in the EU-28 narrowed considerably from 1961 onwards (see Figure 3). In recent years, the difference between births and deaths (the natural change in population) has been very low and — as noted above — a natural decrease in population numbers was recorded in 2015 and then again in 2017 when the number of deaths passed the number of births. Since the number of deaths is expected to increase as the baby-boom generation continues to age, and assuming that the fertility rate remains at a relatively low level, negative natural population change (more deaths than births) could well continue. In this case, the EU-28’s overall population decline or growth is likely to depend largely on the contribution made by migration.
Population change at a national level
The population of individual EU Member States on 1 January 2018 ranged from 0.5 million in Malta to 82.9 million in Germany. Germany, France, the United Kingdom and Italy together comprised more than half (53.9 %) of the total EU-28 population on 1 January 2018 (see Table 1).
The population of the EU-28 increased during 2017 by 1.2 million people. Population growth was unevenly distributed across the EU Member States: a total of 19 Member States observed an increase in their respective populations, while the population fell in the remaining 9 Member States. Malta, Luxembourg, Sweden, Ireland and Cyprus recorded the highest population growth rates in 2017, with increases above 11.0 per 1 000 persons, almost five times the EU-28 average of 2.3 per 1 000 persons (see Table 2). Among these five EU Member States with the highest rates of population growth, the fastest expansion in population was recorded in Malta with an increase of 32.9 per 1 000 persons. The largest relative decreases in population were reported by Lithuania (-13.8 per 1 000 persons) and Croatia (-11.8).
Analysing the two components of population change in the national data, eight types of population change can be identified, distinguishing growth or decline and the relative weights of natural change and net migration — see Table 3 for the full typology. In 2017, the highest crude rate of natural increase of population was registered in Ireland (6.6 per 1 000 persons), followed by Cyprus (3.8) and Luxembourg (3.2). A total of 14 EU Member States had negative rates of natural change, with deaths outnumbering births the most in Bulgaria (-6.5 per 1 000 persons), Croatia and Latvia (both -4.1), Lithuania (-4.0), Hungary (-3.8) and Romania (-3.6). In relative terms, Malta (31.3 per 1 000 persons), Luxembourg (15.8 ), Sweden (10.1) and Cyprus (7.2) had the highest crude rates of net migration in 2017, while Lithuania (-9.7 per 1 000 persons), Croatia (-7.7), Latvia (-4.0) and Romania (-2.5) recorded the largest negative crude net migration rates.
Among the 19 EU Member States where the population increased in 2017, 13 recorded both a natural increase and net migration contributing to their population growth. In Germany, Estonia, Spain, Poland, Slovenia and Finland, the positive net migration was the sole driver of population growth, as natural population change was negative.
Of the 9 EU Member States that reported a reduction in their level of population during 2017, two— Croatia and Lithuania — recorded a decline largely as a result of negative net migration (although this was supplemented by a relatively low negative rate of natural population change). Conversely, in Bulgaria, Latvia and Romania the decrease in the level of population was mostly driven by a negative rate of natural population change (supplemented by a relatively low negative rate of net migration). In Greece, Italy, Hungary and Portugal the decline in the population was solely due to negative natural change, while net migration was positive.
Source data for tables and graphs
The demographic balance provides an overview of annual demographic developments in the EU Member States; statistics on population change are available in absolute figures and as crude rates.
Population change — or population growth — in a given year is the difference between the population size on 1 January of the given year and the corresponding level from 1 January of the previous year. It consists of two components: natural change and net migration plus statistical adjustment. Natural population change is the difference between the number of live births and the number of deaths. If natural change is positive then it is often referred to as a natural increase. Net migration is the difference between the number of immigrants and the number of emigrants. In the context of the annual demographic balance, Eurostat produces net migration figures by taking the difference between total population change and natural change; this concept is referred to as net migration plus statistical adjustment.
Statistics on population change and the structure of population are increasingly used to support policymaking and to provide the opportunity to monitor demographic behaviour within political, economic, social and cultural contexts. In particular, this concerns demographic developments that focus on a likely reduction in the relative importance of the working-age population and a corresponding increase in the number of older persons. These statistics may be used to support a range of different analyses, including studies relating to population ageing and its effects on the sustainability of public finance and welfare, the evaluation of fertility as a background for family policies, or the economic and social impact of demographic change.
- Population, see:
- Population (demo_pop)
- Regional data (demopreg)
- Demography report — 2015 edition
- Towards a ‘baby recession’ in Europe? — Statistics in focus 13/2013
- Highly educated men and women likely to live longer — Statistics in focus 24/2010
- Demographic outlook