Enlargement countries - population statistics

Data extracted in February 2019.

Planned article update: April 2020.


In 2018, the population of the enlargement countries was equivalent to slightly less than one fifth of the population of the EU.

The highest shares of young people are in Turkey and Kosovo and the lowest in Serbia.

Population as of 1 January, 2018

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 [1] are potential candidates.

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

Full article

Population and age structure

Collectively the population of the enlargement countries was equivalent to slightly less than one fifth of the population of the EU-28

There were approximately 513 million persons resident in the EU-28 in 2018 (see Table 1). The combined population of the enlargement countries was estimated to be 99 million inhabitants, which was equivalent to slightly less than one fifth (19.2 %) of the EU-28 total. Turkey was by far the most populous enlargement country, with 81 million inhabitants in 2018, 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 enlargement country in population terms, with 622 thousand inhabitants, somewhat smaller than the population of Cyprus (864 thousand), but larger than those of Luxembourg (602 thousand) or Malta (476 thousand).

Table 1: Population as of 1 January, 2008-2018
Source: Eurostat (demo_gind)

The development of the number of inhabitants within the enlargement countries followed a varied pattern during the period 2008-2018. The population of Turkey increased at a relatively rapid pace, growing by 14.5 % overall during the period under consideration, while the number of inhabitants in North Macedonia and Montenegro grew at a modest pace, increasing by 1.5 % and 1.1 % respectively; this was slower than the corresponding rate of change in the EU-28, where the population grew by 2.5 % overall. Elsewhere, there were relatively large declines in the populations of the enlargement countries: down 3.0 % in Albania, 4.9 % in Serbia (note that there is a break in series), 8.9 % in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and 16.5 % in Kosovo (note again that there are breaks in the times series, with growth in nearly every year when there is no 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) accounted for almost two thirds (65.0 %) of the total population in the EU-28 in 2018 and a similar but slightly higher share in each of the enlargement countries: the lowest share was 66.3 % in Serbia and the highest share was 70.2 % 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-28, North Macedonia, Albania and Montenegro, those aged less than 15 years accounted for 16-18 % of the total population in 2018, 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 (23.7 %) 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 19.4 % in the EU-28 and in Serbia, the latter having the highest share among the enlargement countries.

Figure 1: Population by age class, 2018
(% of total population)
Source: Eurostat (demo_pjangroup)

Birth and death rates

Crude birth rates higher than crude death rates in most enlargement countries

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. In recent years, within the EU-28 the crude birth rate was slightly higher than the crude death rate, resulting in a modest level of natural population increase, although this was not the case in 2017: the difference between these two rates in 2017 was slightly negative, as the birth rate was 0.4 per 1 000 inhabitants lower than the death rate.

Table 2: Crude birth and death rates, 2007, 2012 and 2017
(per 1 000 inhabitants)
Source: Eurostat (demo_gind)

Among the enlargement countries, 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 (11.4 and 10.8 per 1 000 inhabitants). By contrast, both Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina reported crude death rates that were higher than their crude birth rates and therefore 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 enlargement countries were recorded for Turkey

Among the enlargement countries (no data available for Bosnia and Herzegovina), only Turkey recorded a fertility rate that averaged more than two children per woman in 2016 (see Table 3). Turkey’s fertility rate remained between 2.03 and 2.17 children per woman throughout the period 2007-2016. As such, Turkey was the only enlargement country to record a fertility rate around the replacement rate (developed world countries 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 1.74 children per woman in 2015 and 1.66 children per woman in 2016 respectively, above the average for the EU-28 which stood at 1.60. By contrast, the fertility rates observed in the remaining enlargement countries ranged from 1.46 to 1.54 children per woman in 2016.

Table 3: Total fertility rate, 2006-2016
(average number of children per woman)
Source: Eurostat (demo_find)

Life expectancy

Highest life expectancy among the enlargement countries in Albania

Life expectancy at birth for women is higher than for men both within the EU-28 and across all of the enlargement countries for which data are available (see Table 4). This gender gap was highest in 2016 at 5.7 years in Kosovo and 5.6 years in Turkey, just above the EU-28 average of 5.4 years. Life expectancy at birth for women was between 3.0 years and 5.1 years more than it was for men across the remaining enlargement countries in 2016.

Table 4: Life expectancy at birth, 2006-2016
Source: Eurostat (demo_mlexpec)

In 2016, life expectancy for men in the enlargement countries ranged from a low of 73.2 years in Serbia to 77.1 years in Albania (compared with 78.2 years in the EU-28). For women, life expectancy across the enlargement countries was slightly more homogeneous, ranging from a low of 77.5 years in North Macedonia to 81.6 years in Kosovo (compared with 83.6 years for the EU-28).

There was an increase in life expectancy for both men and women in the EU-28 and in all of the enlargement countries between 2006 and 2016; note that the data for Turkey refer to the period between 2010 and 2016, while only short time-series are available for Albania and Kosovo and no data at all for Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Infant mortality rates

Rapid fall in infant mortality in Turkey

Infant mortality rates fell at a rapid pace in several of the enlargement countries in recent years (see Table 5), in particular (in relative terms) in Montenegro, Turkey, Kosovo and Serbia; only in Albania and North Macedonia did they increase (between 2006 and 2016). In 2016, the infant mortality rate in North Macedonia was 3.3 times as high as in the EU-28 (where the rate was 3.6 deaths per 1 000 live births), while in Turkey, Albania and Kosovo the infant mortality rate remained between two and three times as high as in the EU-28. The latest rate in Serbia was 1.5 times the EU-28 average while that in Montenegro (at 3.4 deaths per 1 000 live births in 2016) was below the EU-28 average.

Table 5: Infant mortality rate, 2006-2016
(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 partner countries which have either the status of being candidate countries or potential candidates. A network of contacts in each country 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. Eurostat collects data from EU Member States and other countries participating in its demography data collection exercise 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-28 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.


  1. 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