Europe's natural population drops for the first time in modern history

18 August 2016 2 min. read
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Last year Europe, for the first time in modern history, recorded negative natural population growth. In 2015, the mortality rate was 5.2 million, slightly higher than the birth rate of 5.1 million. The overall population grew however by 0.5% to 510 million as a result of immigration.

Each year, Eurostat – a Directorate-General of the European Commission and provider of statistical information to EU institutions – releases statistics regarding changes in the EU’s 28 members’ populations. An analysis on the latest edition, which took a snapshot on 1 January 2016, shows that of the EU’s 510.1 million people in Europe, the largest number live in Germany, at 16.1% of total (82.2 million), followed by France with 13.1% of total (66.7 million).

Share of member states population 1 January 2016

The UK comes in third, housing 12.8% of the EU’s total population, while Italy comes in fourth at 11.9%. The Netherlands had almost crossed the 17 million mark at the start of 2016, with 16.9 million (3.3% of total). Eleven member states have a share of less than 1.5% each, for a collective total of 8.4% of the continent’s population. 

According to the statistics agency, the EU saw a slight uptick in total population in 2015, up by 2 million people. Luxembourg saw the biggest increase, up +23.3 people per 1,000 residents (‰), followed by Austria and Germany, which saw increases of +14.4‰ and +11.8‰ respectively. The UK saw an increase of almost +9‰.

Total population change in the EU member states 2015

Lithuania, Latvia and Croatia each saw decreases, at -11.3‰, -8.7‰ and -8.2‰ respectfully. Poland saw a slight contraction, while Spain was almost stagnant in its population base.

Births and deaths
The statisticians also compared the number of births to the number of deaths in the EU, also known as the ‘natural change of population’. This year the total EU natural change of population was slightly negative (-0.3‰), as deaths outnumbered births. The highest birth rates, as a % of total vital events, was found to be in Ireland – 14.2 births per 1,000 residents compared to 6.5 for deaths per 1,000 residents. Cyprus took the number two spot, with a net +3.9‰, followed by Luxembourg +3.7‰, France +3.0‰, and the UK +2.7‰.

Births and deaths EU member states 2015

The natural shrinkage of the population in Europe – caused largely by ageing – was in particularly noticeable due to decreases in the large population bases of Germany and Italy, down -2.3‰ and -2.7‰ respectively. In Germany, the death rate was one quarter higher than the birth rate; in Italy even a third higher. Eastern European countries such as Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary and Romania are the furthest from a balance between natural births and natural deaths. The growth in the EU population, which increased around 0.5% from 508 million to 510.1 million, is attributed to net migration flows.