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Population and population change statistics

From Statistics Explained

Data from October 2012. Most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Main tables and Database.
Figure 1: Population, EU-27, 1960-2012 (1)
(at 1 January, million persons) - Source: Eurostat (demo_gind)
Figure 2: Population change by component
(annual crude rates), EU-27, 1960-2011 (1)
(per 1 000 inhabitants) - Source: Eurostat (demo_gind)
Figure 3: Births and deaths, EU-27, 1961-2011 (1)
(million) - Source: Eurostat (demo_gind)
Table 1: Demographic balance, 2011 (1)
(1 000) - Source: Eurostat (demo_gind)
Table 2: Crude rates of population change, 2009-2011
(per 1 000 inhabitants) - Source: Eurostat (demo_gind)

[[Image:Contribution of natural change and net migration (and statistical adjustment) to population change, 2011.png|thumb|right|350px|Table 3: Contribution of natural change and net migration
(and statistical adjustment) to population change, 2011 - Source: Eurostat (demo_gind)]]

This article gives an overview of the development of European Union (EU) population statistics, detailing the two components of population change: natural population change and net migration plus statistical adjustment. More information on net migration is provided within an article on migration and migrant population statistics.

Main statistical findings

EU-27 population continues to grow

On 1 January 2012 the population of the EU-27 was estimated at 503.7 million; this was 1.3 million people more than the year before and therefore continued a pattern of uninterrupted EU-27 population growth that has been apparent since 1960. The number of inhabitants in the EU-27 grew from 402.6 million in 1960, rising by more than 100 million persons through to 2012 (see Figure 1).

In 2011, natural increase (the positive difference between live births and deaths) added 0.4 million (32 %) to the population growth in the EU-27. Some 68 % of the EU-27's population growth came from net migration plus statistical adjustment, which continued to be the main determinant of population growth, contributing 0.9 million in 2011.

The contribution of net migration plus statistical adjustment to the total population change in the EU-27 has been greater than that of natural change since 1992 (see Figure 2). The share of net migration plus statistical adjustment in total population growth peaked, in relative terms, in 2003 (95 % of total change). Since this date, the contribution of net migration plus statistical adjustment decreased somewhat. Thus, the share of natural change in total population growth followed an upward development up to 2009 (37 %), and declined again over the most recent years (from 2010 onwards).

The relatively low contribution of natural change to total population growth is the result of two factors: net migration in the EU-27 increased considerably from the mid-1980s onwards; secondly, the number of live births fell, while the number of deaths increased.

The gap between live births and deaths in the EU-27 narrowed considerably from 1960 onwards (see Figure 3), almost reaching parity in 2003 before diverging again somewhat. Since the number of deaths is expected to increase as the baby-boom generation moves into retirement, and, assuming that the fertility rate continues to remain at a relatively low level, negative natural change (more deaths than births) cannot be excluded in the future. In this event, the extent of population decline or population growth is likely to depend on the contribution made by migration.

Population change at a national level

The number of inhabitants in individual EU Member States on 1 January 2012 ranged from 81.8 million in Germany to 0.4 million in Malta. Germany together with France, the United Kingdom and Italy comprised more than half (54 %) of the total EU-27 population on 1 January 2012 (see Table 1).

Although the population of the EU-27 as a whole increased during 2011, population growth was unevenly distributed across the Member States. A total of 18 EU Member States observed an increase in their respective populations, while the number of inhabitants fell in nine. Cyprus, Luxembourg, the United Kingdom, Sweden and France recorded the highest population growth rates in 2011 (more than 5 persons per 1 000 inhabitants), which was more than twice the EU-27 average of 2.5 persons per 1 000 inhabitants (see Table 2). The largest relative decreases in population were reported by Latvia (-16.0 per 1 000 inhabitants) and Lithuania (-14.8 per 1 000 inhabitants).

Analysing the two components of population change at national level, eight types of population change can be distinguished, separating growth from decline, and the relative weights of natural change and net migration – see Table 3 for the full typology. In 2011, the highest rates of natural increase of population were registered in Ireland (10.0 persons per 1 000 inhabitants), Cyprus (4.8), France (4.2) and the United Kingdom (4.1), while the largest negative natural changes occurred in Bulgaria (-5.1 per 1 000 inhabitants), Latvia (-4.7) and Hungary (-4.1). In relative terms, Cyprus (21.3 per 1 000 inhabitants) and Luxembourg (21.2) had the largest positive net migration rates, while Lithuania (-12.6 per 1 000 inhabitants) and Latvia (-11.2) recorded the highest negative net migration rates in 2011.

Data sources and availability

The demographic balance provides an overview of annual demographic developments in the EU Member States; statistics on population change are available in absolute figures and as crude rates.

Population change – or population growth – in a given year is the difference between the population size on 1 January of the given year and the corresponding level from 1 January of the previous year. It consists of two components: natural change and net migration plus statistical adjustment. Natural population change is the difference between the number of live births and the number of deaths. If natural change is positive then it is often referred to as a natural increase. Net migration is the difference between the number of immigrants and the number of emigrants. In the context of the annual demographic balance, Eurostat produces net migration figures by taking the difference between total population change and natural change; this concept is referred to as net migration plus statistical adjustment.


Statistics on population change and the structure of population are increasingly used to support policymaking and to provide the opportunity to monitor demographic behaviour within political, economic, social and cultural contexts. In particular, this concerns demographic developments that focus on a likely reduction in the relative importance of the working age population and a corresponding increase in the number of older persons. These statistics may be used to support a range of different analyses, including studies relating to population ageing and its effects on the sustainability of public finance and welfare, the evaluation of fertility as a background for family policies, or the economic and social impact of demographic change. The European Commission assessed many of these issues in a Communication titled, ‘The demographic future of Europe – from challenge to opportunity’ (COM(2006) 571 final).

See also

Further Eurostat information


Main tables

Demography (t_pop)
Main demographic indicators (t_demo_gen)
Population change (tps00006)
Natural population change (tps00007)
Crude rate of net migration plus adjustment (tsdde230)(tsdde230)


Demography (pop)
Demography - National data (demo)
Total population and demographic events - Annual balance (demo_gen)
Demographic balance and crude rates (demo_gind)
Population (demo_pop)
Fertility (demo_fer)
Mortality (demo_mor)
Marriage and divorce (demo_nup)
Demography - Regional data (demoreg)

Dedicated section

Methodology / Metadata

Source data for tables and figures (MS Excel)