European Neighbourhood Policy - East - population statistics

Data extracted in November 2018.

Planned article update: January 2020.


In 2017, people aged 65 years and more made up a smaller part of the population in the six European Neighbourhood Policy-East countries than in the EU.

Three of the six European Neighbourhood Policy-East countries, Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia recorded higher crude birth rates than death rates in 2017 while the opposite was recorded in the EU, Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine.

Compared with the EU (1.60 children per woman), fertility rates in 2016 were notably higher in Azerbaijan and Georgia, similar in Belarus and Armenia but lower in Ukraine and Moldova.

Population by age class, 2017
(% of total population)
Source: Eurostat (demo_pjangroup)

This article is part of an online publication and presents information relating to a range of demographic statistics for the European Union (EU) and the six countries that together form the European Neighbourhood Policy-East (ENP-East) region, namely, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. Note that data shown in this article for Georgia exclude the regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia over which the government of Georgia does not exercise effective control and data for Moldova exclude Transnistria. The latest data for Ukraine generally exclude the territories which are not under effective control of the Ukrainian government and the illegally annexed Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the City of Sevastopol and this may, in turn, impact on the comparability of the time series.

Aside from basic data on population levels and the structure of the population, this article also provides information on crude birth rates and crude death rates, the total fertility rate, life expectancy at birth and the infant mortality rate.

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Number of inhabitants

The total population of the six ENP-East countries was 72.0 million persons in 2017, which was equivalent to approximately 14.1 % of the total number of inhabitants in the EU-28 (see Table 1). Ukraine was the most populous of the ENP-East countries with 42.4 million inhabitants in 2017, while Azerbaijan (9.8 million) and Belarus (9.5 million) had the second and third largest populations. Georgia, Moldova and Armenia had the smallest populations, with 3.7 million, 3.6 million and 3.0 million inhabitants respectively.

Table 1: Population as of 1 January, 2007-2017
Source: Eurostat (demo_pjan)

To give some idea of the relative size of the ENP-East countries, the population of Ukraine was between those of Poland and Spain, while the size of the populations in Azerbaijan and Belarus were either side of that of Hungary and the size of the populations in Georgia, Moldova and Armenia lay between those of Lithuania and Croatia.

Between 2007 and 2017 the population of the EU-28 rose at a relatively modest pace (with average growth of 0.3 % per annum). Among the ENP-East countries, there were five countries with declining populations during the most recent 10-year period for which data are available: Georgia, Ukraine, Armenia, Belarus and Moldova; note that there is a break in series for Georgia and Ukraine. More details on some of the reasons behind these reductions in population are provided below under the heading Crude birth and death rates. By contrast, the population of Azerbaijan grew at a much faster rate than that of the EU-28, rising overall by 15.0 % between 2007 and 2017 (equivalent to an average rate of 1.4 % per annum).

Population structure

Figure 1 shows the population structure of the EU-28 and the ENP-East countries in 2017. The share of the elderly (defined here as those aged 65 years and more) in the total population of the EU-28 was 19.4 %. This was a higher proportion than in any of the ENP-East countries, reflecting among other factors greater longevity among the EU population. By contrast, those aged 65 years and more accounted for 6.3 % of the population in Azerbaijan, 11.2 % in Moldova and Armenia and between 14 % to 16 % in the remaining ENP-East countries.

Figure 1: Population by age class, 2017
(% of total population)
Source: Eurostat (demo_pjangroup)

At the other end of the age spectrum, young people (aged less than 15 years) accounted for 15.6 % of the EU-28’s population in 2017. This share reflects, to some degree, the relatively low fertility rates recorded in most EU Member States. The shares of young people in the total populations of the ENP-East countries were generally close to the EU-28 average or above it (only Ukraine recorded a lower share, at 15.4 %). The main differences (compared with the share recorded for the EU-28) were for Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia, where people aged less than 15 years accounted for 22.6 %, 20.0 % and 19.5 % of the total number of inhabitants.

Crude birth and death rates

The rate of population change is linked on the one hand to natural rates of population change (the balance between the number of births and the number of deaths) and on the other hand to migratory flows (people coming into a country or leaving it). When crude birth and death rates (the numbers of births and deaths per 1 000 inhabitants) are relatively balanced, then migratory flows may exhibit a larger influence on the overall change in population numbers as the natural change from births and deaths is close to zero (because they cancel each other out).

The crude birth rate in the EU-28 was 9.9 per 1 000 inhabitants in 2017, which was somewhat lower than the crude death rate (10.3 per 1 000 inhabitants) — see Table 2 — indicating a negative natural rate of population change. Among the ENP-East countries, the relatively fast rate of population growth in Azerbaijan could be attributed to a relatively high crude birth rate, 14.6 per 1 000 inhabitants in 2017 compared with a crude death rate of 5.8 per 1 000 inhabitants. The natural rate of population growth was also relatively high in Armenia, as the crude birth rate exceeded the crude death rate by 3.6 per 1 000 inhabitants, while the difference was 1.5 per 1 000 inhabitants in Georgia. As in the EU-28, crude birth rates were lower than crude death rates in Moldova, Belarus and Ukraine: the crude death rate in Ukraine was 5.0 per 1 000 inhabitants higher than the crude birth rate. In these three countries the natural rate of population change was negative and the population was — based on natural change and not taking account of migration —contracting.

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

Fertility rates

At 1.60 children per woman in 2016 (see Table 3) the total fertility rate of the EU-28 was considerably lower than the theoretical replacement rate for industrialised countries; an average of around 2.1 children per woman is thought to be required in order to maintain a population at its current level — irrespective of migration.

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

Fertility rates in Armenia (1.62) and Belarus (1.73) quite closely resembled those in the EU-28. By contrast, fertility rates in Azerbaijan and Georgia were, at 1.90 and 2.23 children per woman respectively in 2016, somewhat higher than in the EU-28, while at the other end of the ranking a fertility rate of 1.35 children per woman was recorded in Ukraine; the latest data for Moldova are from 2012 when the rate was even lower, 1.28 children per woman. Comparing fertility rates across the years shown in Table 3, there was an increase in rates for all of the ENP-East countries except for Azerbaijan; the most notable increase was recorded in Georgia.

Life expectancy

In 2016, life expectancy at birth was higher for women than for men, both within the EU-28 and across all of the ENP-East countries. While there was an increase in EU-28 male and female life expectancy each year (except for 2015) , as shown in Table 4, this was not the case for all ENP-East countries; notably Georgia reported a fall in life expectancy between 2007 and 2009 and again in recent years. The latest data show that life expectancy in the ENP-East countries remained below the levels recorded for the EU-28.

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

Based on the latest available data, male life expectancy in the ENP-East countries ranged from a low of 67.5 years in Ukraine (2015 data) — with a lower level of life expectancy in Moldova in 2012 (67.0 years) — to 72.9 years in Azerbaijan (2015 data); this range could be compared with male life expectancy of 78.2 years for the EU-28. Female life expectancy across the ENP-East countries was relatively homogeneous, ranging from a low of 77.3 years in Ukraine (2015 data) — again there was a lower level of life expectancy in Moldova in 2012 (74.9 years) —to a high of 79.2 years in Belarus (2016 data); for comparison, female life expectancy for the EU-28 was 83.6 years in 2016.

Infant mortality rates

Infant mortality rates fell rapidly in the ENP-East countries over the period 2006-2016 (see Table 5), in particular in Georgia and Armenia. Nevertheless, the latest rates for ENP-East countries generally remained at least twice as high as in the EU-28 (3.6 deaths per 1 000 live births in 2016). Belarus was the only exception, as its infant mortality rate was 3.2 deaths per 1 000 live births in 2016.

Table 5: Infant mortality rate, 2006-2016
(per 1 000 live births)
Source: Eurostat (demo_minfind)

Data sources

Eurostat provides a wide range of demographic data, including statistics on populations at national and regional level, as well as for various demographic events 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 (including the ENP-East countries) concerning 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 information shown in this article relates to life expectancy at birth.

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;
not applicable.


Life expectancy at birth rose rapidly during the last century 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 the population are increasingly used to support policymaking and provide an opportunity to monitor demographic behaviour within an economic, social and cultural context.

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.

On 18 November 2015, the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and the European Commission jointly presented a review of the European Neighbourhood Policy (SWD(2015) 500 final) which underlined a new approach for the EU in relation to its eastern and southern neighbours, based on stabilising the region in political, economic, and security-related terms. In cooperation with its ENP partners, Eurostat has the responsibility ‘to promote and implement the use of European and internationally recognised standards and methodology for the production of statistics, necessary for developing and monitoring policy achievements in all policy areas’. Eurostat undertakes the task of coordinating EU efforts to increase the statistical capacity of the ENP countries. Additional information on the policy context of the ENP is provided here.

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