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Europe: Population and Migration in 2005

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Europe: Population and Migration in 2005

After having been primarily countries of emigration for more than two centuries, many parts of Europe gradually became destinations for international migrants in the last 50 years.

As a result, the number of European countries with a positive migration balance — meaning more people have entered than left the country — has grown over the last decades. In many cases, the size of net migration determines whether a country still has population growth or is entering a stage of population decline.

According to 2005 data, all countries of Western Europe (the European Union's first 15 members (EU-15), Norway, and Switzerland) have a positive migration balance, as do six of the 10 new EU Member States — Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Malta, Slovenia, and Slovakia. It is very likely that, sooner or later, this will also be the case in the rest of Europe.

Origin of the Data

This article is based on the analysis of demographic data published by Eurostat, the European Union's statistical agency.

Eurostat collects its data from national sources in the 25 EU Member States, two accession countries (Bulgaria and Romania) and three candidate countries (Croatia, Macedonia, and Turkey). Eurostat does not correct or comment on national-level data.

The EU-15 includes Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.

The EU-25 includes the EU-15 plus 10 Member States that joined in 2004: Cyprus (Greek part only), the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia.

Preparing to join the EU in 2007 are Bulgaria and Romania. Croatia and Turkey began accession negotiations in October 2005. Macedonia became an EU candidate country in December 2005.

The EEA includes the EU-25 plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway; Switzerland is an associated country.

Population Numbers

In early 2006, the total population of Western and Central Europe, the Balkans, and Turkey was 594 million. The European Union (EU-25) had 462 million inhabitants, 389 million (84 percent) of which were either citizens or foreign residents of the EU-15. The other 73 million were citizens or foreign residents of the 10 new EU Member States.

Outside the EU-25, 29.3 million people were living in the accession countries of Bulgaria and Romania. Turkey, which started official accession discussions with the EU last year, had a population of 72.5 million. Together, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland accounted for another 12 million people in Western Europe. In the western Balkans, there were 17 million people in Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, and Serbia and Montenegro (including Kosovo).

Natural Population Change

Demographic stagnation best describes Europe's native populations. Between 2000 and 2004, the annual natural population change (births minus deaths) in the EU-15 was as low as +0.1 percent. Most new EU Member States in Central Europe and several countries in Southern Europe experienced natural population decline.

In the EU-25, natural growth amounted to +0.07 percent. As a result, Europe's population increase of more than 2.0 million people between January 2005 and January 2006 was mainly driven by immigration (see Table 1).

Table 1. Demographic Indicators in Europe, 2005
 Pop. January 2005 (in thousands) Births per 1,000 populationDeaths per 1,000 populationNat. pop. decrease/increaseNet migration Total pop. changePop. January 2006 (in thousands)
EU-25459,48810.59.70.73.74.4461,507
Germany82,5018.410.1-1.71.2-0.582,456
France60,56112.68.83.71.75.460,892
UK60,03511.99.92.03.35.360,354
Italy58,4629.910.4-0.55.85.358,772
Spain43,03810.98.82.115.017.143,781
Poland38,1749.49.7-0.3-0.3-0.738,148
Netherlands16,30611.68.43.1-1.22.016,338
Greece11,0769.49.20.23.13.311,112
Portugal10,52910.59.70.83.94.710,579
Belgium10,44611.410.01.43.24.610,494
Czech Rep.10,22110.010.5-0.53.52.910,251
Hungary10,0989.613.5-3.91.8-2.110,076
Sweden9,01110.49.90.52.73.29,040
Austria8,2079.49.00.47.47.88,270
Denmark5,41111.810.31.61.43.05,428
Slovakia5,38510.09.80.20.80.95,390
Finland5,23711.09.21.81.73.55,255
Ireland4,10915.36.58.811.420.24,193
Lithuania3,4258.912.9-4.0-3.0-7.03,401
Latvia2,3069.314.2-4.9-0.5-5.42,294
Slovenia1,9988.89.2-0.53.63.12,004
Estonia1,34710.613.1-2.5-0.3-2.81,343
Cyprus*74910.96.74.127.231.3773
Luxembourg45511.57.63.93.47.3458
Malta4039.97.22.75.07.8406
Other EEA
Iceland29414.26.27.92.010.0297
Liechtenstein3510.86.44.53.88.335
Norway4,60612.48.83.74.78.44,645
 EEA464,42310.59.70.73.74.4466,484
Switzerland7,4159.68.31.34.76.07,460
Accession & candidate countries***105,47216.08.37.6-4.17.5106,276
Croatia4,4449.411.1-1.72.60.94,448
Bulgaria7,7619.014.6-5.6-1.8-7.47,704
Romania21,65910.212.3-2.1-0.5-2.521,604
Turkey**71,60918.96.212.6-5.912.672,520
Notes:*Greek part of Cyprus only. **Data for Turkey on net migration are from 2003. ***Excluding Macedonia

Source: EUROSTAT, Chronos Database.

In 2005, Western and Central Europe still experienced a population increase. In the 28 countries of the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland, total population growth was +2.1 million. But nine of the 28 EU/EEA countries as well as both EU accession countries of the next enlargement round (Bulgaria and Romania) as well as candidate country Croatia had more deaths than births. The other 19 countries analyzed in Table 1 still experienced some natural population growth. Net migration was positive in 25 of the 30 analyzed countries. Due to the low number of births, the number of countries with declining domestic populations will increase.

Immigration-Driven Population Growth

During the 1990s and early 2000s, immigration to southern Europe — particularly Italy, Portugal, and Spain — as well as to Austria, Ireland, and the UK increased considerably. At the same time, the number of immigrants arriving in Belgium, Germany, and the Netherlands decreased. Some countries — including Croatia, Slovakia, and Slovenia — still had more emigration than immigration in the early 1990s but have become immigration countries over the last decade.

Several countries, in particular the Czech Republic, Italy, Greece, Slovenia, and Slovakia, only showed a population growth in 2005 because of immigration. In other countries, such as Germany and Hungary, recent population decline would have been much larger without a positive migration balance. The EU-25, in 2005, had an overall net migration rate of +3.7 per 1,000 inhabitants and a net gain from international migration of +1.8 million people. This accounts for almost 85 percent of Europe's total population growth in 2005.

Relative to population size, the Greek part of Cyprus had the largest positive migration balance (+27.2 per 1,000 inhabitants), followed by Spain (+15.0), Ireland (+11.4), Austria (+7.4), Italy (+5.8), Malta (+5.0), Switzerland (+4.7), Norway (4.7), and Portugal (+3.8). In contrast, Lithuania (-3.0 per 1,000 inhabitants), the Netherlands (-1.8), Latvia (-0.5), Poland (-0.3), Estonia (-0.3), Romania (-0.5), and Bulgaria (-1.8) had a negative migration balance.

Net migration in absolute numbers in 2005 was largest in Spain (+652,000) and Italy (+338,000), followed by the UK (+196,000), France (+103,000), Germany (+99,000), Portugal (+64,000), Austria (+61,000), and Ireland (+47,000). Among the new EU Member States and accession countries in Central Europe, the Czech Republic experienced the largest net migration gain (+36,000). But Hungary, Slovakia, and Slovenia also had a positive migration balance, as did EU candidate country Croatia.

Foreign-Born Population

In most of today's EU and EEA countries, the number and share of the foreign-born population has increased. Since the early 1990s, the largest increases occurred in Spain. Relative to population size, increases have also been considerable in Austria, Cyprus, Ireland, and Luxembourg.

Of the 474 million citizens and legal foreign residents of the EU/EEA and Switzerland, some 42 million were born outside their European country of residence. In absolute terms, Germany had by far the largest foreign-born population (10.1 million), followed by France (6.4 million), the UK (5.8 million), Spain (4.8 million), Italy (2.5 million), Switzerland (1.7 million), and the Netherlands (1.6 million).

Relative to population size, two of Europe's smallest countries — Luxembourg (37.4 percent) and Liechtenstein (33.9 percent) — had the largest stock of immigrants, followed by Switzerland (22.9 percent), the Baltic states of Latvia (19.5 percent) and Estonia (15.4 percent), Austria (15.1 percent), Ireland (14.1 percent), Cyprus (13.9 percent), Sweden (12.4 percent), and Germany (12.3 percent).

It is worth noting, however, that the majority of the foreign-born populations in Estonia and Latvia are of ethnic Russian origin. These Russians had settled as internal migrants during the Soviet era and only "became" international migrants when the former Soviet Union broke up. Indeed, the size of Latvia and Estonia's foreign-born populations decreased in the 1990s as ethnic Russians returned to Russia.

In the majority of Western European countries, the foreign-born population accounted for between seven and 15 percent of the total population. In most of the new EU Member States in Central Europe (with the exception of the Baltic States and Slovenia) the share of foreign born was still below five percent (see Table 2).

Table 2. Foreign-Born Populations in Europe (EU/EEA + Switzerland), 2005
CountrySize of foreign-born population, 2005 (in thousands)Foreign-born as share of total population, 2005 (in percent)Share of foreign-born with citizenship of country of residence, 2000-04 (in percent)*
EU-25
Austria1,23415.141
Belgium7196.941
Cyprus**11613.9 
Czech Republic4534.480
Denmark3887.240
Estonia20215.2 
Finland1563.042
France6,47110.753
Germany10,14412.346
Greece9748.842
Hungary3163.171
Ireland58514.145
Italy2,5194.3 
Latvia44919.5 
Lithuania1654.8 
Luxembourg17737.413
Malta112.765
Netherlands1,63810.1 
Poland7031.896
Portugal7647.366
Slovakia1242.384
Slovenia1678.5 
Spain4,7908.531
Sweden1,11712.463
UK5,4089.1 
Subtotal39,7908.6 
Other EEA + Switzerland
Iceland237.3 
Liechtenstein1233.9 
Norway3347.448
Switzerland1,66022.929
Total41,8298.9 
Note:*Latest available year (2000-2004). **Greek part of Cyprus only.

Source: OECD Database, UN Migration Database (2005)

Conclusion

Europe's demographic situation is characterized by growing life expectancy and declining birth rates. This leads to a situation in which more and more countries are experiencing a decrease in the size of their native populations.

In contrast to earlier historical periods, most countries of Europe now see more immigrants entering than emigrants leaving. As a result, the EU as a whole and most Member States report population growth mainly driven by net gains from migration.