European Neighbourhood Policy - South - population statistics

Data extracted in December 2019.

Planned article update: March 2022.


Among the European Neighbourhood Policy-South countries the share of young people under 15 years in 2018 ranged from 25.0 % in Tunisia to 38.7 % in Palestine, compared with 15.6 % in the EU.

With the exceptions of Morocco and Tunisia, the European Neighbourhood Policy-South countries had crude birth rates in 2018 that were at least twice as high as in the EU (9.7 live births per 1 000 inhabitants).

Among the European Neighbourhood Policy-South countries, only Israel recorded a higher life expectancy for both men and women than in the EU, while the lowest life expectancy at birth was recorded in Egypt for men (72.3 years) and in Jordan for women (74.2 years).

Infant mortality rates, 2008, 2013 and 2018
(per 1 000 live births)
Source: Eurostat (demo_minfind)

This article is part of an online publication and presents information relating to a range of demographic statistics for 9 of the 10 countries that form the European Neighbourhood Policy-South (ENP-South) region — Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Palestine [1] and Tunisia; no recent data are available for Syria. Aside from basic data on population levels, the article also provides information for these countries and the European Union (EU) on the crude birth rate, crude death rate, fertility rate, infant mortality rate and life expectancy.

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Number of inhabitants and population density

The total population of the eight ENP-South countries for which recent data are available (therefore excluding Lebanon and Syria and based on data spanning 2016 to 2018) was about 215 million inhabitants, equivalent to around 42 % of the total population of the EU-28 which was 512 million persons at the start of 2018 (see Table 1).

Table 1: Population indicators, 2018
Source: Eurostat (demo_pjan) and (demo_r_d3dens)

Egypt was, by far, the most populous of the ENP-South countries with 96.3 million inhabitants in 2018, more than the number in Germany, the largest EU Member State with 82.8 million inhabitants. The number of inhabitants in Egypt was more than twice the number found in any of the other ENP-South countries, with the next highest levels being recorded in Algeria (41.3 million inhabitants; 2017 data) and Morocco (35.2 million inhabitants).

These three ENP-South countries — Egypt, Algeria and Morocco — were characterised as having lower levels of population density than in the EU-28 (118 inhabitants per km² in 2017) as did Jordan and Tunisia (2016 data). It should be noted that these are countries with large areas of sparsely populated desert and their population density is much higher in urban areas. By contrast, some of the most densely populated ENP-South countries were also some of the smallest — both in relation to their land area and in relation to their number of inhabitants. For example, the 4.8 million inhabitants of Palestine lived, on average, with a population density that was 6.8 times as high as in the EU-28 and higher than the population density in the Netherlands, the EU’s second most densely populated Member State after Malta. Israel was also relatively densely populated, with a ratio that was around 3.3 times as high as the EU-28 average.

Population structure

All seven of the ENP-South countries (for which recent data are available) have a relatively young population structure (see Table 2), especially when compared with the EU-28, where 15.8 % of the total population was under 15 years of age in 2018. By contrast, in the ENP-South countries this share ranged from lows of around one quarter of the population in Lebanon (no recent data available) and Tunisia (25.0 %), rising to account for more than a quarter of the population in Morocco, Israel and Algeria (2017 data), and more than a third in Egypt and Jordan, peaking at 38.7 % in Palestine. These differences may be largely explained by far higher birth and fertility rates in the ENP-South countries. However, the share of people aged less than 15 years in the total population was relatively stable in most of the ENP South countries between the years shown in Table 2. The largest increase in the share of young people was in Egypt, while the largest decreases were in Palestine and Morocco..

Table 2: Population by age class as of 1 January, 2008 and 2018
(% of total population)
Source: Eurostat (demo_pjangroup)

The share of older people (defined here as those aged 65 years and above) in the total population of the EU-28 was 19.7 % in 2018, at least 8 percentage points higher than in any of the ENP-South countries. The high proportion of older people living in the EU-28 reflects, in part, greater longevity among the EU population and lower birth rates over many decades.

In a majority of ENP-South countries, older people accounted for much less than 10 % of the total population, with only Israel (11.6 %) recording a double-digit share. The lowest shares of older people were recorded in Palestine (3.2 %), Jordan (3.7 %) and Egypt (3.9 %). Between 2008 and 2018 the share of older people in the total population increased by 2.6 percentage points in the EU-28. In the ENP-South countries for which data are available, Egypt was the only one that did not report an increase in the share of older persons; elsewhere the increases (in percentage point terms) were more moderate than in the EU-28.

Age dependency ratios compare the size of the generally economically inactive age groups — young persons (under 15 years old) and older persons (those aged 65 and above) — with the working-age population (those aged 15-64 years). In 2018, total dependency ratios across the ENP-South countries ranged from 50.4 % in Morocco to 72.2 % in Palestine. As well as Morocco, the total dependency ratio was below the EU-28 average (54.6 %) in Tunisia (50.6 %). The EU-28’s total dependency ratio increased by 5.6 percentage points between 2008 and 2018, in part as a result of a rise in the old-age dependency rate as more of the baby-boom generation reached retirement. Morocco and Palestine observed a fall in their total dependency ratio, while Israel, Algeria (2008-2017), Tunisia and Egypt reported increases.

Crude birth and death rates

One of the key drivers of population change is the birth rate. With the exceptions of Morocco and Tunisia, the remaining ENP-South countries (for which relatively recent data are available) reported crude birth rates that were at least twice as high as in the EU-28 (9.7 live births per 1 000 inhabitants in 2018) — see Table 3. The highest crude birth rates in 2018 among ENP-South countries were recorded in Palestine (30.5 births per 1 000 inhabitants), Algeria (25.4 births per 1 000 inhabitants; 2017 data) and Egypt (24.5 births per 1 000 inhabitants). The crude birth rate in the EU-28 was lower in 2018 than it had been in 2008, as it was in Jordan, Egypt, Morocco, Palestine and Israel (2017 compared with 2008). Increases in the crude birth rate were recorded in Tunisia (2016 compared with 2008) and Algeria (2017 compared with 2008).

Table 3: Crude birth and death rates, 2008, 2013 and 2018
(per 1 000 inhabitants)
Source: Eurostat (demo_gind)

The natural rate of population change is linked to the number of births and the number of deaths in a country. With relatively low death rates (reflecting, in part, the young age structures of their populations), the ENP-South countries had very high crude rates of natural population increase in 2018, ranging from 11.9 per 1 000 inhabitants in Morocco to 26.7 per 1 000 inhabitants in Palestine. The rate in the EU-28 was not only considerably lower, but was in fact slightly negative, as the crude birth rate was 0.7 per 1 000 inhabitants lower than the crude death rate. As the birth and death rates in the EU-28 were almost balanced, changes in the EU-28’s overall population level in 2018 mainly reflected migration rather than natural change. The EU-28 recorded an increase in its crude death rate between 2008 and 2018. In Algeria (2008-2016) the crude death rate was unchanged, while the other ENP-South countries for which data are available reported a fall in their death rates (see Table 3).

Life expectancy

Improved social and economic conditions, better healthcare and increased awareness of health issues all play a part in raising life expectancy and lowering infant mortality rates. Life expectancy at birth in the EU-28 and the ENP-South countries generally increased over the period shown in Table 4, although there was one exception, a fall in life expectancy for women in Jordan between 2011 and 2018.

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

Life expectancy at birth for men in the EU-28 was 78.3 years in 2017, while the corresponding figure for women was 5.2 years higher (at 83.5 years). Life expectancy for women in the EU-28 in 2017 was marginally lower than in 2016. The fall between 2016 and 2017 was one of three falls recorded for women during the time series shown in Table 4, the others being slight falls between 2011 and 2012 and between 2014 and 2015; there was also a fall for men between 2014 and 2015.

Israel was the only ENP-South country to record higher life expectancy at birth than in the EU-28 and this was true both for men and for women (2018 data). At the other end of the range, the lowest levels of life expectancy in 2018 among the ENP-South countries for which data are available were recorded in Egypt for men (72.3 years) and in Jordan for women (74.2 years).

As in the EU-28, women in each of the ENP-South countries can expect to live longer than men. While the gender gap for the EU-28 was 5.2 years (2017 data), the difference in life expectancy between men and women in the ENP-South countries was smaller, and was less than 2.0 years in Jordan in 2018 and in Algeria in 2017.

Infant mortality

Infant mortality rates have fallen at a rapid pace in most of the ENP-South countries in recent years (see Figure 1), exceptions being Jordan and Egypt where they were relatively stable or increasing after 2013. Nevertheless, the infant mortality rate of ENP-South countries generally remained much higher than in the EU-28 (3.6 deaths per 1 000 live births in 2017), with the notable exception of Israel where this rate was 3.0 deaths per 1 000 live births in 2018. The rate for 2009 shown in Figure 1 for Lebanon (the only data available for this particular country) was also clearly lower than in the remaining ENP-South countries. Elsewhere, recent infant mortality rates ranged from 14.2 deaths per 1 000 live births in Tunisia (2016 data) to 21.0 deaths per 1 000 live births in Algeria (2017 data).

Figure 1: Infant mortality rates, 2008, 2013 and 2018
(per 1 000 live births)
Source: Eurostat (demo_minfind)

Data sources

The data for ENP-South countries are supplied by and under the responsibility of the national statistical authorities of each country on a voluntary basis. The data that are presented in this article result from an annual data collection cycle that has been established by Eurostat. No recent data are available from Syria. These statistics are available free-of-charge on Eurostat’s website, together with a range of different indicators covering most socio-economic areas.

Israel and Jordan have provided end of year population data rather than data for the beginning of the year: in Table 1, data for the end of 2017 have been shown as an approximation for data at the beginning of 2018; in Table 2, data for the end of 2007 and 2017 have been shown as approximations for data at the beginning of 2008 and 2018.

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).

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.


  1. This designation shall not be construed as recognition of a State of Palestine and is without prejudice to the individual positions of the Member States on this issue.
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