The EU in the world - population

Data extracted in January and February 2020.

Planned article update: May 2022.

Highlights

Between 2018 and 2100 the share of the world’s population living in G20 countries is projected to fall from 63% to 43%, while the share of population living in the EU is projected to contract from 6% to 4%.

The old-age dependency ratio in the EU in 2018 was among the highest across the G20 members, only lower than in Japan.

Old-age dependency ratio, 1968, 2018 and 2068
(persons aged 65 years or more as a percentage of the population aged 15-64 years)
Source: Eurostat (demo_pjanind) and (proj_19ndbi) and the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division, (World Population Prospects 2019)

This article is part of a set of statistical articles based on Eurostat’s publication The EU in the world 2020. It focuses on the population structure and population developments in the European Union (EU) and the 16 non-EU members of the Group of Twenty (G20). The article covers key demographic indicators and gives an insight of the EU’s population in comparison with (most of) 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.

Full article

Population size and population density

Between 1965 and 2018 the share of the world’s population living in G20 members fell from 73.0 % to 63.3 %

In 2018, the world’s population was 7.63 billion inhabitants. The most populous countries in the world were China and India (both G20 members): China’s population was 1.43 billion and India’s was 1.35 billion. There were 446 million inhabitants in the EU-27 in 2018 (the third highest number among G20 members), followed by the United States with 327 million inhabitants, Indonesia with 268 million inhabitants and Brazil with 209 million inhabitants.

China accounted for 18.7 % of the world’s population in 2018 and India for 17.7 % (see Map 1). In other words, over one third of the world’s population lived in these two countries. The remaining G20 members accounted for 26.8 % of the world’s population giving a cumulative share for all G20 members of 63.3 %.

Map 1: World population, 2018
(%)
Source: Eurostat (demo_gind) and the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (World Population Prospects 2019)


Map 2: Projected world population, 2100
(%)
Source: Eurostat (proj_19np) and the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (World Population Prospects 2019)


The latest United Nations population projections suggest that the pace at which the world’s population is expanding will slow in the coming decades. Nevertheless, the total number of inhabitants worldwide is projected to approach 11 billion by 2100, representing an overall increase of 42.5 % compared with 2018, equivalent to average growth of 0.4 % each year. The number of inhabitants within the 16 non-EU members of the G20 is projected to decrease overall by 3.1 % between 2018 and 2100 (equivalent to an annual decrease of less than 0.1 %) while the EU-27’s population is projected (by Eurostat) to decrease by 8.6 % overall during the same period (equivalent to an annual average decrease of 0.1 %). The populations of many developing countries, in particular those in Africa, are likely to continue growing at a rapid pace. Among the G20 members, the fastest population growth between 2018 and 2100 is projected to be in Australia and Canada (the only G20 countries where populations are projected to grow at a rate above the world average), while the populations of South Korea, Japan, China, Brazil and Russia — like that of the EU-27 — are projected to be smaller in 2100 than they were in 2018.

The G20’s share of the world’s population is projected to fall from 63.3 % in 2018 to 43.0 % by 2100 (see Map 2). The EU-27’s share of the world’s population is projected to decline by 2.1 percentage points from 5.9 % to 3.8 %. China’s share is projected to fall by 8.9 points, from 18.7 % to 9.8 % between 2018 and 2100. Equally, although India’s population is projected to increase, the rate of increase is projected to be lower than the world average and as such its share of the world total is projected to fall 4.4 points between 2018 and 2100, from 17.7 % to 13.3 % . In a similar vein, Brazil’s share of the world‘s population is projected to fall from 2.7 % to 1.7 % over the same period while Japan’s is projected to fall from 1.7 % to 0.7 %. None of the other G20 members are projected to see their share of the world’s population increase or decrease by 1.0 percentage points or more.

As well as having the largest overall populations, Asia also had the most densely populated G20 members (see Figure 1), namely South Korea, India and Japan, each with more than 300 inhabitants per km2 (of land area) in 2018. These were followed by the United Kingdom, China, Indonesia, the EU-27 and Turkey with averages of more than 100 inhabitants per km2. Australia, Canada and Russia were the least densely populated G20 members, with less than 10 inhabitants per km2 on average.

Figure 1: Population and population density, 2018
Source: Eurostat (demo_gind) and (tps00003), the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAOSTAT: Inputs) and the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (World Population Prospects 2019)

Population age structure

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.

The various parts of Figure 2 clearly show how different the age structures of some of the G20 countries’ populations are from each other and from the world average.

Figure 2a: Age pyramids, world, 2008 and 2018
(% of total population)
Source: the World Bank (Health Nutrition and Population Statistics)
Figure 2b: Age pyramids, EU-27, 1 January 2008 and 2018
(% of total population)
Source: Eurostat (demo_pjangroup)
Figure 2c: Age pyramids, China, 2008 and 2018
(% of total population)
Source: the World Bank (Health Nutrition and Population Statistics)
Figure 2d: Age pyramids, India, 2008 and 2018
(% of total population)
Source: the World Bank (Health Nutrition and Population Statistics)
Figure 2e: Age pyramids, Indonesia, 2008 and 2018
(% of total population)
Source: the World Bank (Health Nutrition and Population Statistics)
Figure 2f: Age pyramids, the United States, 2008 and 2018
(% of total population)
Source: the World Bank (Health Nutrition and Population Statistics)

Age groups covering young people generally accounted for the largest shares of the world’s population in 2018, whereas in the EU-27 the share of the age groups below those aged 45-49 years in 2018 generally gets progressively smaller approaching the youngest age groups. This population structure in the EU-27 reflects in part falling fertility rates over several decades and a modest increase about 5-10 years ago, combined with the impact of the baby-boomer age groups (resulting from high fertility rates in several European countries up to the mid-1960s). Another notable difference between the population pyramid for the EU-27 and that for the whole world was the relatively high gender imbalance among older age groups in the EU-27 compared with 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.

The age pyramid for China in 2018 had some similarities to that for the EU-27, particularly the relatively lower share of the total population that was accounted for by the younger generations. There were however several differences. There were two clear peaks in the shares in China, one around 25-34 years and the other around 45-54 years, with notably smaller shares for the age groups between these. Another notable difference compared with the EU-27 was the much smaller proportion of the population that was accounted for by older people and particularly those aged 80 years and over: in this respect the top of the age pyramid for China was quite similar to the age pyramid for the world.

In broad terms, the age pyramid for India in 2018 was quite similar to that for the whole of the world. Looking in more detail, the relative weight of older people in the total population of India was relatively small compared with the world total. This pattern was apparent for men aged 45 years and over and for women aged 40 years and over; conversely, most of the younger age groups accounted for a relatively high share of the total population. In the age groups for people aged 10-29 years the shares In India were notably larger than for the world as a whole. Unlike the pyramid for the whole of the world, the shares of the two youngest age groups in the Indian population (those aged 0-4 and 5-9 years) were smaller than the share recorded for the age group covering children aged 10-14 years, reflecting lower fertility rates during the most recent decade.

The shape of the age pyramid for Indonesia in 2018 was very similar to that for the world. The main difference was the relatively low share of the Indonesian population that was aged 55 years and over; this was particularly notable among the oldest age group, namely for people aged 80 years and over.

In the United States, the age structure of the population was broadly similar to that in the EU-27. Nevertheless, as in China, there were two peaks in the age distribution, one around 20-34 years of age and the other around 50-59 years of age, with smaller shares for the intervening age groups. In general when compared with the EU-27, the United States had a relatively high share of its population aged less than 35 years, while older age groups tended to account for a smaller share of the population.

The median age is the age that divides a population into two groups that are numerically equivalent: half of the population is younger and the other half older. The median age of the world’s population was projected to be 30.9 years in 2020 (see Figure 3). Only four of the G20 members were projected to have a median age below this average, namely South Africa, India, Mexico and Indonesia (where median ages were predicted to range from 27.6 to 29.7 years). By contrast, the EU-27 was projected to have a median age of 43.9 years in 2020 which was higher than in any of the other G20 members with the exception of Japan (48.4 years).

Figure 3: Median age, projections for 2020
(years)
Source: Eurostat (demo_pjanind) and (proj_19ndbi) and the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division, (World Population Prospects 2019)

Among G20 members, Japan had by far the highest old-age dependency ratio in 2018

The young and old age dependency ratios shown in Figures 4 and 5 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 to 64 years).

In 2018, the young-age dependency ratio ranged from 17.9 % in South Korea to more than double this ratio in South Africa (44.3 %). The latest value for the EU-27 (23.5 %) was lower than in all G20 members except for South Korea and Japan. By far the highest old-age dependency ratio in 2018 was the 46.2 % 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 30.8 % in the EU-27. Saudi Arabia had by far the lowest old-age dependency ratio (4.6 %) among G20 members, with South Africa (8.1 %) recording the next lowest ratio.

In percentage point terms, the fall in the young-age dependency ratio for the EU-27 between 1968 and 2018 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 young and old-age dependency ratios were lower in 2018 than in 1968, reflecting a large increase in the size of its working-age population.

Figure 4: Young-age dependency ratio, 1968, 2018 and 2068
(persons aged 0-14 years as a percentage of the population aged 15-64 years)
Source: Eurostat (demo_pjanind) and (proj_19ndbi) and the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division, (World Population Prospects 2019)

With relatively low fertility rates the young-age dependency ratio is projected to be lower still in 2068 than it was in 2018 in several G20 members, dropping by 15 percentage points in South Africa and India. By contrast, the young-age dependency ratio is projected to increase in a small number of G20 members, with the largest increase projected in South Korea (up 3.6 points). In the EU-27, the young-age dependency ratio was projected to increase from 23.5 % in 2018 to 24.8 % by 2068.

Old-age dependency ratios are projected to rise in all of the G20 members, suggesting that there will be an increasing need to provide for social expenditure related to population ageing (for example, for pensions, healthcare and long-term care). The EU-27’s old-age dependency ratio is projected to increase from 30.8 % in 2018 to 52.8 % by 2068; as such, it is projected to be considerably lower than in South Korea (88.0 %) or Japan (75.2 %) in 2068.

Figure 5: Old-age dependency ratio, 1968, 2018 and 2068
(persons aged 65 years or more as a percentage of the population aged 15-64 years)
Source: Eurostat (demo_pjanind) and (proj_19ndbi) and the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division, (World Population Prospects 2019)

Urban populations

The growth of urban areas reflects the transition from rural to urban areas resulting from a move away from agriculture-based economies to industrial and post-industrial economies. Urban areas are often characterised by their high concentrations of population, economic activity, employment and wealth. The daily flow of commuters into many cities suggests that numerous opportunities exist in these hubs of innovation, distribution and consumption, many of which act as focal points within regional, national and global economies. Although cities are motors for economic growth, they are also confronted by a wide range of (potential) problems, like crime, traffic congestion, pollution and various social inequalities.

Nearly three quarters (74.5 %) of the EU-27 population lived in an urban area in 2018; this share was considerably above the world average of 55.3 % (see Figure 6). Nevertheless, across 11 of the non-EU G20 members, the share of inhabitants living in urban areas was higher than the 74.5 % in the EU-27. This share exceeded 90 % in Argentina (91.9 %) and Japan (91.6 %), while India had by far the lowest share, with just over one third (34.0 %) of its population living in urban areas.

Figure 6: Urban population, 2018
(% of total population)
Source: the World Bank (World Development Indicators)

In 2018, 8 of the 10 largest urban agglomerations in the world were located in G20 members — see Figure 7. Asian urban agglomerations made up a majority of the top 10, with São Paulo (Brazil), Mexico City (Mexico) and Cairo (Egypt) completing the list. The two largest countries in the world, China and India, each had two cities in the top 10 — Delhi and Mumbai from India as well as Shanghai and Beijing from China — as did Japan (Tokyo and Osaka). Extending the study to the top 30 urban agglomerations, 22 were located in G20 members, including Paris (France) from the EU as well as Istanbul (Turkey) and Moscow (Russia) from elsewhere in Europe.

Figure 7: Top 30 global urban agglomerations, 2018
(million inhabitants)
Source: The World’s Cities in 2018 — Data Booklet — United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division

Population change

There are two distinct components of population change: the natural change that results from the difference between the number of live births and the number of deaths; and the net effect of migration, in other words, the balance between people coming into and people leaving a territory. Since many countries do not have accurate figures on immigration and emigration, net migration may be estimated as the difference between the total population change and the natural population change.

One element of natural change is the number of births which is reflected in measures of fertility. The most widely used indicator of fertility is the total fertility rate: this is the mean number of children that would be born alive to a woman during her lifetime if she were to pass through her childbearing years conforming to the age-specific fertility rates of a given year. A total fertility rate of around 2.1 live births per woman is considered to be the replacement level in developed countries: in other words, the average number of live births per woman required to keep the size of the population constant in the absence of migration.

Fertility rates in the EU steadily declined from the mid-1960s through to the turn of the century. However, at the beginning of the 2000s, the EU’s total fertility rate displayed signs of rising again. This development stopped in 2008 since when the rate for the EU-27 has been between 1.51 and 1.57 children per woman.

Among the G20 members, South Africa reported the highest total fertility rate in 2017, with 2.43 live births per woman (the same rate as the world average). The next highest rates were observed in Saudi Arabia (2.37 live births per woman), Indonesia (2.34), Argentina (2.28), India (2.24) and Mexico (2.16); these were the only G20 members with a total fertility rate that was above the 2.1 replacement level for developed countries. Elsewhere among the G20 members, the total fertility rate was lowest in Japan (1.43) and South Korea (1.05).

As can be seen from Figure 8, unsurprisingly, countries with low fertility rates tended to have a relatively high median age for their population, while those with higher fertility rates tended to have a relatively low median age.

Figure 8: Fertility rate and projected median age of the population, 2017 and 2020
Source: Eurostat (demo_find), (demo_pjanind) and (proj_19ndbi), the World Bank (World Development Indicators) and the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division, (World Population Prospects 2019)

The crude birth rate in the EU-27 in 2017 was among the lowest across the G20 members

In 2017, the crude birth rate (the ratio of the number of live births to the population) for the EU-27 was 9.7, which was among the lowest rates recorded across the G20 members: only Japan (7.6) and South Korea (7.0) recorded lower birth rates. By contrast, the crude birth rate in South Africa (20.9) was more than double the average rate for the EU-27 and above the world average (18.7).

In 2017, the highest crude death rates (the ratio of the number of deaths to the population) were recorded in Russia, Japan and the EU-27 — each with ratios of more than 10.0. In the case of South Africa the relatively high crude death rate reflected, at least in part, an HIV/AIDS epidemic which resulted in a large number of deaths among relatively young persons; the difference between crude birth and death rates in South Africa was almost the same as the world average despite the notably higher birth rate.

When the death rate exceeds the birth rate there is negative natural population change; this situation was experienced in Japan and the EU-27 in 2017. The reverse situation, natural population growth — due to a higher birth (than death) rate — was observed for all of the remaining G20 members (see Figure 9) with the largest differences recorded in Saudi Arabia, Indonesia and Mexico.

Figure 9: Natural population change, 2017
(per 1 000 inhabitants)
Source: Eurostat (demo_gind) and the World Bank (World Development Indicators)

The level of net migration is the difference during a fixed period of time between the number of immigrants and the number of emigrants; a positive value represents more people entering a country than leaving it.

The net migration rate is the level of net migration (inward migration minus outward migration) expressed in relation to the overall size of the population. Between 2010 and 2015, four G20 members — Mexico, India, Indonesia and China — recorded negative net migration rates (see Figure 10), while Brazil and Argentina recorded approximately balanced situations, as immigration and emigration were almost equal. On the other hand, all of the other G20 members — including the EU-27 — experienced positive net migration, with the highest net migration rates in Canada, Australia and Saudi Arabia. This situation was somewhat different to the previous five-year period, as between 2005 and 2010 Argentina and South Korea had also experienced negative net migration, while Turkey had observed a relatively balanced position.

Figure 10: Net migration rate, 2005-2010 and 2010-2015
(per 1 000 inhabitants)
Source: the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division, (World Population Prospects 2019)

Asylum

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). An asylum seeker is someone who is seeking international protection but whose claim for refugee status has not yet been determined.

As of the beginning of 2018, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported that there were 3.0 million asylum seekers across the world and a further 1.0 million applied during the first half of the year. According to the UNHCR, there were 358 thousand applications for asylum during the first half of 2018 in the EU-27. The highest numbers of applications were from Syria (44 thousand), Afghanistan (27 thousand) and Iraq (23 thousand). Over the same period, the largest numbers of asylum applications in the EU from citizens of other G20 members were from citizens of Turkey (9.4 thousand), Russia (9.2 thousand) and China (2.6 thousand).

Refugees include individuals recognised under the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees as well as under a number of other protocols and conventions, including people enjoying temporary protection or living in a refugee-like situation. Figure 11 shows that, among the G20 members, Turkey had by far the highest number of arrivals of refugees (relative to its population size) in the first half of 2018; the ratio in Turkey was 7.2 times as high as in the EU-27 and reflected its location close to many of the principal countries of origin for refugees. Aside from Turkey and the EU-27, there were relatively high numbers of refugee arrivals relative to population size in Canada and Australia.

Figure 11: Flows of asylum seekers and refugees, first half 2018
(per 1 000 inhabitants)
Source: Eurostat (demo_gind), the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (Population Statistics) and the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division, (World Population Prospects 2019); data for the number of asylum applicants with a different definition are published by Eurostat (online data code: migr_asyappctza)

Source data for tables and graphs

Data sources

The statistical data in this article were extracted during January and February 2020.

The indicators are often compiled according to international — sometimes worldwide — 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 and the United Kingdom 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. In exceptional cases some indicators for the EU and the United Kingdom have been extracted from international sources.

G20 members from the rest of the world

For the non-EU G20 members other than the United Kingdom, the data presented have been compiled by a number of international organisations, namely the Food and Agricultural Organisation, 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 dataset for G20 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, long-term care, housing and social services.

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Population density (tps00003)
Population change - Demographic balance and crude rates at national level (demo_gind)]
Population (demo_pop)
Population on 1 January by age group and sex (demo_pjangroup)
Population: Structure indicators (demo_pjanind)
Fertility (demo_fer)
Fertility indicators (demo_find)