European Neighbourhood Policy - South - population statistics

Data extracted in December 2018.

Planned article update: January 2020.


Among the European Neighbourhood Policy-South countries the share of young people under 15 years in 2017 ranged from 24.7 % in Tunisia to 38.9 % in Palestine, compared with 15.6 % in the EU.

With the exception of Morocco, the European Neighbourhood Policy-South countries had crude birth rates in 2017 that were at least twice as high as in the EU (9.9 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: 70.8 years for men and 73.6 years for women.

Infant mortality rates, 2007, 2012 and 2017
(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 2014 to 2017) was about 209 million inhabitants, which was equivalent to around 41 % of the total population of the EU-28 which was 512 million persons at the start of 2017 (see Table 1).

Table 1: Population indicators, 2017
Source: Eurostat (demo_pjan) and (demo_r_d3dens)

Egypt was, by far, the most populous of the ENP-South countries with 92.1 million inhabitants in 2017, more than the number in Germany, the largest EU Member State with 82.5 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) and Morocco (34.9 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 4.7 million inhabitants of Palestine lived, on average, with a population density that was 6.6 times as high as in the EU-28 and approximately double 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 3.2 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 15.6 % of the population was under 15 years of age in 2017. By contrast, in the ENP-South countries this share ranged upwards from the 24.7 % share recorded in Tunisia, rising to account for more than a quarter of the population in Morocco, Israel, Algeria and Egypt, and more than a third in Jordan, peaking at 38.9 % 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 stable or fell in most of the ENP South countries between the years shown in Table 2, the exceptions being Algeria where there was a slight increase between 2007 and 2017 and Tunisia where the share was unchanged.

Table 2: Population by age class as of 1 January, 2007 and 2017
(% 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 19.4 % in 2017, 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’s population and lower birth rates over many decades.

In the majority of ENP-South countries, older people accounted for much less than 10 % of the total population, with only Israel (11.3 %) recording a double-digit share. The lowest shares of older people were recorded in Palestine (3.2 %), Jordan (3.7 %) and Egypt (4.3 %). Between 2007 and 2017 the share of older people in the total population increased by 2.4 percentage points in the EU-28. In the ENP-South countries for which data are available, the share of older persons also increased, but more moderately.

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 2017, total dependency ratios across the ENP-South countries ranged from 49.4 % in Tunisia to 72.7 % in Palestine. As well as Tunisia, the total dependency ratio was below the EU-28 average (53.9 %) in Morocco (50.6 %). Whereas the EU-28’s total dependency ratio increased by 4.9 percentage points between 2007 and 2017 — as a result of a rise in the old-age dependency rate as more of the baby-boom generation reached retirement — half (Egypt, Morocco and Palestine) of the ENP-South countries for which data are available observed a fall in their old-age dependency ratio, while the other half (Tunisia, Israel and Algeria) reported an increase.

Crude birth and death rates

One of the key drivers of population change is the birth rate. With the exception of Morocco, the remaining ENP-South countries had crude birth rates in 2017 that were at least twice as high as in the EU-28 (9.9 live births per 1 000 inhabitants) — see Table 3. The highest birth rates among ENP-South countries were recorded in Palestine (30.8 births per 1 000 inhabitants), Egypt (26.8 births per 1 000 inhabitants) and Algeria (26.1 births per 1 000 inhabitants; 2016 data). The crude birth rate in the EU-28 was lower in 2017 than it had been in 2007, as it was in Jordan (2016 compared with 2007), Morocco and Palestine. The largest increases in the crude birth rate between these years were recorded in Tunisia (2015 compared with 2007) and Algeria (2016 compared with 2007).

Table 3: Crude birth and death rates, 2007, 2012 and 2017
(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 2017, ranging from 12.1 per 1 000 inhabitants in Morocco to 27.0 per 1 000 inhabitants in Palestine. The rate in the EU-28 was not simply considerably lower, but was in fact slightly negative, as the crude birth rate was 0.4 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 2017 mainly reflected migration rather than natural change. The EU-28 (2007-2017) and Tunisia (2007-2015) recorded an increase in crude death rates between the years shown in Table 3 and in Algeria (2007-2016) the rate was unchanged, while the other ENP-South countries for which data are available reported a fall in this rate.

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 2007 and 2016.

Table 4: Life expectancy at birth, 2007-2017
Source: Eurostat (demo_mlexpec)

Life expectancy at birth for men in the EU-28 was 78.2 years in 2016, while the corresponding figure for women was 5.4 years higher (at 83.6 years). Life expectancy for men and women in the EU-28 in 2016 was higher than in 2015 and similar to the level observed in 2014; the fall between 2014 and 2015 was one of only two falls recorded during the time series shown in Table 4, the other being a slight fall for women between 2011 and 2012.

Israel was the only ENP-South country to record higher life expectancy than in the EU-28 and this was true both for men and for women. At the other end of the range, the lowest levels of life expectancy among the ENP-South countries for which data are available were recorded in Egypt: 70.8 years for men and 73.6 years for women in 2017.

As in the EU-28, women in each of the ENP-South countries can expect to live longer than men. While the gender gap in the EU-28 was 5.4 years (2016 data), the difference in life expectancy between men and women in the ENP-South countries was smaller, and in 2016 was less than 2.0 years in Jordan and Algeria.

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 after 2012. 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 2016), with the notable exception of Israel where this rate was 3.1 deaths per 1 000 live births in 2017. 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 (for 2017) ranged from 15.1 deaths per 1 000 live births in Egypt to 20.9 deaths per 1 000 live births in Algeria (2016 data), with Morocco historically reporting an even higher infant mortality rate (28.8; 2011 data).

Figure 1: Infant mortality rates, 2007, 2012 and 2017
(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 2016 have been shown as an approximation for data at the beginning of 2017; in Table 2, data for the end of 2006 and 2016 have been shown as approximations for data at the beginning of 2007 and 2017.

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.


Statistics on population change and population structure are increasingly used to support policymaking and provide an opportunity to monitor demographic behaviour within an economic, social and cultural context.

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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