Population and population change statistics

From Statistics Explained

Data from May 2014. Most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Main tables and Database. Planned article update: May 2015.
Figure 1: Population, EU-28, 1960–2013 (1)
(at 1 January, million persons) - Source: Eurostat (demo_gind)
Figure 2: Population change by component
(annual crude rates), EU-28, 1960–2012 (1)
(per 1 000 inhabitants) - Source: Eurostat (demo_gind)
Figure 3: Births and deaths, EU-28, 1961–2012 (1)
(million) - Source: Eurostat (demo_gind)
Table 1: Demographic balance, 2012
(1 000) - Source: Eurostat (demo_gind)
Table 2: Crude rates of population change, 2010–12
(per 1 000 inhabitants) - Source: Eurostat (demo_gind)
Table 3: Contribution of natural change and net migration
(and statistical adjustment) to population change, 2012 - 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-28 population continues to grow

Croatia joined the EU on 1 July 2013 as its 28th Member State, adding a population of 4.3 million to the population of the former EU-27. In this article rates and aggregates are presented for the EU-28 for all years, in order to allow an analysis over time.

On 1 January 2013 the population of the EU-28 was estimated at 505.7 million, representing growth of 1.1 million people compared with a year before when the number of inhabitants in the EU-28 was 504.6 million. As such, these latest developments meant that the pattern of uninterrupted population growth experienced since 1960 (when the series began) continued. The number of inhabitants in the EU-28 grew from 406.7 million in 1960, an increase of 98.9 million people by 2012 (see Figure 1).

In 2012, natural increase (the positive difference between live births and deaths) added 0.22 million inhabitants to the population in the EU-28. Net migration plus statistical adjustment added a further 0.90 million, therefore continuing to be the main determinant for population growth in the EU-28. As such, natural increase was responsible for one fifth (20 %) of the EU’s population growth, while the remaining four fifths (80 %) of population growth came from net migration plus statistical adjustment.

The contribution of net migration plus statistical adjustment to total population change in the EU-28 has been continuously greater than that of natural change since 1992 (see Figure 2), reaching a relative peak in 2003 when it contributed 95 % of the change in population. Between 2003 and 2009, the contribution of net migration plus statistical adjustment decreased somewhat and the share of natural change in total population growth therefore regained some importance. By 2009, the share of natural change in population increase had reached 43 %, while the share of net migration plus statistical adjustment was 57 %. After 2009, the importance of natural change in the EU’s total population growth started to decline again.

The relatively low contribution of natural change to total population growth is the result of two factors: net migration in the EU-28 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-28 narrowed considerably from 1960 onwards (see Figure 3), almost reaching parity in 2002 and 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; this is already the case in several EU Member States.

Population change at a national level

The number of inhabitants in individual EU Member States on 1 January 2013 ranged from 80.5 million in Germany to 0.4 million in Malta. Germany, together with France, the United Kingdom and Italy comprised more than half (53 %) of the EU-28’s population on 1 January 2013 (see Table 1).

Although the population of the EU-28 as a whole increased during 2012, population growth was unevenly distributed across the EU Member States. A total of 17 Member States observed an increase in their respective populations, while the number of inhabitants fell in 11. Luxembourg, Malta, Sweden, the United Kingdom and Belgium recorded the highest population growth rates in 2012 (6.0 persons or more per 1 000 inhabitants), which was almost three times the EU-28 average of 2.2 persons per 1 000 inhabitants (see Table 2). The largest relative decreases in population were reported by Lithuania (-10.6 per 1 000 inhabitants) and Latvia (-10.3 per 1 000 inhabitants).

In 2012, the highest rate of natural increase of population was registered in Ireland (9.5 persons per 1 000 inhabitants), well ahead of Cyprus (5.2), Luxembourg (4.0), France and the United Kingdom (both 3.8). A total of 12 EU Member States had negative natural rates of change, with the largest decreases in Bulgaria (-5.5 per 1 000 inhabitants), Latvia (-4.5), Hungary (-3.9) and Lithuania (-3.5). In relative terms, Luxembourg (18.9), Malta (7.4) and Italy (6.2) had the largest positive net migration rates, while Ireland (-7.6 per 1 000 inhabitants), Lithuania (-7.1) and Latvia (-5.8) recorded the highest negative net migration rates in 2012.

Analysing the two components of population change in the national data, 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.

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)
Demography - National data (t_demo)
Population on 1 January (tps00001)
Crude rate of population change (tps00006)
Natural population change (tps00007)
Crude rate of net migration plus adjustment (tsdde230)
Number of live births (tps00111)
Crude birth rate (tps00112)


Demography (pop)
Demography - National data (demo)
Demographic balance and crude rates (demo_gind)
Population (demo_pop)
Fertility (demo_fer)
Mortality (demo_mor)
Demography - Regional data (demoreg)

Dedicated section

Methodology / Metadata

  • Fertility (ESMS metadata file — demo_fer_esms)
  • Mortality (ESMS metadata file — demo_mor_esms)
  • Population (ESMS metadata file — demo_pop_esms)

Source data for tables and figures (MS Excel)