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Demographics of the European Union

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Demographics of the European Union

The population density of the EU is 114 people per km².
A cartogram depicting population distribution within the European Union at the member state level. Roughly half of all citizens of the EU live in the four largest member states: Germany, France, the UK, and Italy.
A cartogram of population density
Map with the population density in EU at 2014.

The demographics of the European Union show a highly populated, culturally diverse union of 28 member states. As of 1 January 2015, the population of the EU is about 508.2 million people.[1]

Population by nation

The most populous member state is Germany, with an estimated 82.1 million people, and the least populous member state is Malta with 0.4 million. Birth rates in the EU are low with the average woman having 1.6 children. The highest birth-rates are found in Ireland with 16.876 births per thousand people per year and France with 13.013 births per thousand people per year. Germany has the lowest birth rate in Europe with 8.221 births per thousand people per year.

Population and land area of the 28 member states of the European Union
(1 January 2014 estimate[2])
Member State Population Percent
of total EU pop.
Land area
of total EU land area
Pop. density
 EU 507,416,607 100.00% 4,324,782 100.00 116.0
 Austria 8,507,786 1.68% 83,858 1.9 99.7
 Belgium 11,203,992 2.21% 30,510 0.7 352.0
 Bulgaria 7,245,677 1.43% 110,912 2.5 68.5
 Croatia 4,246,700 0.84% 56,594 1.3 75.8
 Cyprus 858,000 0.17% 9,250 0.2 86.6
 Czech Republic 10,512,419 2.07% 78,866 1.8 132.8
 Denmark 5,627,235 1.11% 43,094 1.0 128.1
 Estonia 1,315,819 0.26% 45,226 1.0 29.6
 Finland 5,451,270 1.07% 337,030 7.6 15.8
 France[3] 65,856,609 12.98% 643,548 14.6 99.6
 Germany 80,780,000 15.92% 357,021 8.1 229.9
 Greece 10,992,589 2.17% 131,957 3.0 85.4
 Hungary 9,879,000 1.95% 93,030 2.1 107.8
 Ireland 4,604,029 0.91% 70,280 1.6 64.3
 Italy 60,782,668 11.98% 301,320 6.8 200.4
 Latvia 2,001,468 0.39% 64,589 1.5 35.0
 Lithuania 2,943,472 0.58% 65,200 1.5 51.4
 Luxembourg 549,680 0.11% 2,586 0.1 190.1
 Malta 425,384 0.08% 316 0.0 1,305.7
 Netherlands 16,829,289 3.32% 41,526 0.9 396.9
 Poland 38,495,659 7.59% 312,685 7.1 121.9
 Portugal 10,427,301 2.05% 92,931 2.1 114.4
 Romania 19,942,642 3.93% 238,391 5.4 90.2
 Slovakia 5,415,949 1.07% 48,845 1.1 110.8
 Slovenia 2,061,085 0.41% 20,253 0.5 101.4
 Spain 46,507,760 9.17% 504,782 11.4 93.4
 Sweden 9,644,864 1.90% 449,964 10.2 20.6
 United Kingdom 64,308,261 12.67% 244,820 5.5 251.7

Most populous areas

The European Union has a significant number of global cities. It contains 13 of the 60 cities which compose the 2008 Global Cities Index,[4] as well as 16 of the 41 "alpha" global cities classified by GaWC (including London, Paris, Milan, Amsterdam and Brussels among others).[5] The following is a list of the ten most populous cities, urban areas and urban zones in the European Union, with their population:

City proper

Urban area


London 7.5 Paris 10.2 London 12.0
Berlin 3.4 London 8.6 Paris 11.6
Madrid 3.1 Ruhr Area 7.3 Madrid 5.6
Rome 2.7 Madrid 5.4 Ruhr Area 5.4 London Berlin Madrid Rome
Paris 2.2 Milan 4.3 Berlin 5.0
Bucharest 2.1 Barcelona 4.2 Barcelona 4.2
Hamburg 1.8 Athens 3.8 Athens 4.0
Budapest 1.7 Berlin 3.7 Rome 3.5
Vienna 1.7 Naples 3.0 Hamburg 3.1
Warsaw 1.7 Rome 2.7 Milan 3.1 Paris Bucharest Hamburg Budapest

Population shifts


The movement of people within the Union i.e. internal migration, remains limited; it has traditionally followed two patterns:

  • Younger workers from less economically developed regions and countries of the EU tend to move to more prosperous regions in their country or to EU countries with good economic prospects (i.e. UK, Ireland, Germany, Netherlands, France, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Poland[11])
  • Retirees from wealthier places with colder weather (i.e. Benelux, Britain and Germany) tend to move to the sun belt in southern Europe - i.e. Spain, Portugal, Southern France, Italian peninsula and Greece.

Citizens from the European Union make up a growing proportion of immigrants in Spain. They mainly come from countries like the UK and Germany, but the British migration case is of particular interest due to its magnitude. The British authorities estimate that the real population of UK citizens living in Spain is much bigger than Spanish official figures suggest, establishing them at about 1,000,000 and about 800,000 being permanent residents.[12][13][14][15][16][17][18]

Immigration and emigration

At present, more people immigrate into the European Union than emigrate from it. Immigration is a controversial issue in many member states, including Belgium, Sweden, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, France, and the UK.

In 2010, 47.3 million people living in the EU, or 9.4% of the total population, had been born outside their resident country. Of these, 31.4 million (6.3%) had been born outside the EU; 16.0 million (3.2%) had been born in another member state. The largest absolute numbers of people born outside the EU were in Germany (6.4 million), France (5.1 million), the United Kingdom (4.7 million), Spain (4.1 million), Italy (3.2 million), and the Netherlands (1.4 million).[19]

Spain in particular receives most of the immigrants coming illegally to Europe from Africa, probably due to its large coastal area and its proximity to and land borders with Morocco at Ceuta and Melilla; African immigrants try to enter the country by boat from Morocco or Senegal or by jumping the border fences. For example, during just the first weekend of September 2006, more than 1,300 illegal immigrants arrived on beaches in the Canary Islands[20] and estimates are that between 50,000 and 70,000 people enter the European Union illegally through Spanish borders or beaches. Border fences have been built at both the Ceuta and Melilla borders in an attempt to stop illegal entrance to the country. Illegal immigration is an issue in Spanish politics, and also a big human rights problem, since many people die during the journey. Spain has been Europe's largest absorber of migrants for the past six years, with its immigrant population increasing fourfold as 2.8 million people have arrived, mostly from Latin America. Spectacular growth in Spain's immigrant population came as the country's economy created more than half of all the new jobs in the European Union between 2001 and 2006.[21]

The net migration rate for the EU in 2008 was 3.1 per 1,000 inhabitants;[22] this figure is for migration into and out of the European Union, and therefore excludes any internal movements between member states. Annual net migration has varied from 1.5 to 2.0 million people since 2003.[22]

Country Total population 2010 (1000) Total Foreign-born (1000) % Born in other EU state (1000) % Born in a non EU state (1000) %[23]
 European Union 501,098 47,348 9.4 15,980 3.2 31,368 6.3
 Germany 81,802 9,812 12.0 3,396 4.2 6,415 7.8
 France 64,716 7,196 11.1 2,118 3.3 5,078 7.8
 United Kingdom 62,008 7,012 11.3 2,245 3.6 4,767 8.1
 Spain 45,989 6,422 14.0 2,328 5.1 4,094 8.9
 Italy 60,340 4,798 8.0 1,592 2.6 3,205 6.5
 Netherlands 16,575 1,832 11.1 428 2.6 1,404 8.5
 Greece 11,305 1,256 11.1 315 2.8 940 8.3
 Sweden 9,340 1,337 14.3 477 5.1 859 10.2
 Austria 8,367 1,276 15.2 512 6.1 764 9.1
 Belgium 10,666 1,380 12.9 695 6.5 927.6 7.3
 Portugal 10,637 793 7.5 191 1.8 602 5.7
 Denmark 5,534 500 9.0 152 2.8 348 6.3


The EU has significant religious diversity, mirroring its diverse history and culture. The largest religious group professes Christianity account 72% of EU population,[24] predominantly Roman Catholicism, Protestantism and Eastern Orthodoxy. Several EU nations do not have Christian majorities for example (in the Czech Republic, Estonia, and The Netherlands, the majority has no religious affiliation).

Today, theism is losing prevalence in Europe in favour of atheism and agnosticism, and religion is losing prevalence in favour of secularism. European countries have experienced a decline in church attendance, as well as a decline in the number of people professing a belief in a god. The Eurobarometer Poll 2005 found that, on average, 52% of the citizens of EU member states state that they believe in a god, 27% believe there is some sort of spirit or Life Force while 18% do not believe there is any sort of spirit, god or Life Force, and 3% declined to answer.

A decrease in church membership and/ or church attendance in Europe (especially Belgium, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Sweden) has been noted, church attendance (percentage wise of the total population by country) in Northern and western Europe is typically in the single digits.

The recent influx of immigrants to the affluent EU nations has brought in various religions of their native homelands, including Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism and Bahá'í Faith. Judaism has had a long history in Europe and has coexisted with the native populations for centuries, despite centuries of discrimination against Jewish people and several attendant periods of persecution or genocide by European rulers. Islam too has had a long history in Europe with Spain and Portugal at one time having a Muslim majority.[25] Large Muslim population also exists in Balkans and parts of Eastern Europe, a legacy of centuries of Ottoman rule.As the Christian churches have historically wielded much power in Europe, reaction to this has allowed secularism to plant deep roots on European soil which has contributed to the rise in atheism and agnosticism.


The first official languages of each of the 28 member countries has the status of an official language of the European Union. In total there are 23, with Irish, Bulgarian and Romanian gaining official language status on 1 January 2007, when the last two countries joined the union.

English is the most spoken language in the EU, being spoken by around 51% of its population. This high proportion is because 38% of EU citizens speak it as a language other than their mother tongue (i.e. second or foreign language). German is the most spoken first language, spoken by more than 18% of the population.

Demographic future

The EU faces challenges in its demographic future. Most concerns center around several related issues: an ageing population, growing life expectancy and immigrant flow.

After hitting a historical low of 1.47 children born per female, the total fertility rate of the EU started to increase again, to reach a level of 1.60 in 2008.[26] The positive trend was observed in all member states with the exception of Luxembourg, Malta and Portugal. The largest increases over this period were observed in Bulgaria (from 1.23 children per woman in 2003 to 1.57 in 2009), Slovenia (from 1.20 to 1.53), the Czech Republic (from 1.18 to 1.49) and Lithuania (from 1.26 to 1.55).[26] In 2009, the Member States with the highest fertility rates were Ireland (2.06), France (2.00), Sweden (1.94), and the United Kingdom (1.90), all approaching the replacement level of 2.1 children born per female.[26] The lowest rates were observed in Latvia (1.31), Hungary and Portugal (both 1.32) and Germany (1.36). The increasing fertility rate has also been accompanied by an upward trend in the natural increase of the population which is due to the moderate increase of the crude birth rate that reached 10.9 births per 1000 inhabitants in 2008, an increase of 0.3 compared with 2007. The increase was observed in all member countries except Germany. The EU crude death rate remained stable at 9.7 per 1000 inhabitants.[22] The relatively low fertility rate means retirement age workers are not entirely replaced by younger workers joining the workforce. The EU faces a potential future dominated by an ever-increasing population of retired citizens, without enough younger workers to fund (via taxes) retirement programs or other state welfare agendas.[27]

A low fertility rate, without supplement from immigration, also suggests a declining overall EU population,[28] which further suggests economic contraction or even a possible economic crisis.[29] Some media have noted the 'baby crisis' in the EU,[30] some governments have noted the problem,[31] and the UN and other multinational authorities continue to warn of a possible crisis.[32] At this point however such a decrease in the population of the EU is not observed as the overall natural growth remains positive and the EU continues to attract large numbers of immigrants. In 2010, a breakdown of the population by citizenship showed that there were 20.1 million foreign citizens living in the EU representing 4% of the population.[26]

Over the last 50 years, life expectancy at birth in the EU27 has increased by around 10 years for both women and men, to reach 82.4 years for women and 76.4 years for men in 2008. The life expectancy at birth rose in all Member States, with the largest increases for both women and men recorded in Estonia and Slovenia.[26]

Population projections

In 2008, EUROPA released projections for 2035 and 2060. Overall the population of the EU would increase to 520 million then decrease to 505 million in 2060.

The table figures below are in thousands.[33]

Ethnic composition

There is no precise or universally accepted definition of the terms "ethnic group" or "nationality". In the context of European ethnography in particular, the terms ethnic group, people (without nation state), nationality, national minority, ethnic minority, linguistic community, linguistic group and linguistic minority are used as mostly synonymous, although preference may vary in usage with respect to the situation specific to the individual countries of Europe.[34]

The largest groups that account for about 450 million people in the European Union are:

  1.  Germany (ca. 65 million)
  2.  France (ca. 60 million)[35]
  3.  United Kingdom (ca. 60 million) (includes English 48 million, Scots 5 million, Welsh 3 million and Northern Irish 1.7 million)[1][36]
  4.  Italy (ca. 55 million)
  5.  Spain (ca. 47 million)
  6.  Poland (ca. 46 million)
  7.  Romania (ca. 16 million) (not counting Moldovans and Aromanians)
  8.  Greece (ca. 15 million)
  9.  Netherlands (ca. 13 million)
  10.  Portugal (ca. 11 million)

The rest are various smaller ethnic groups include Czechs (ca. 9,5 million), Hungarians (ca. 8 million), Swedes (ca. 7 million), Austrians (ca. 6 million), Bulgarians (ca. 6 million), Flemish, Croats, Slovaks, Silesians, Danes, Finns, Irish, Walloons, Lithuanians, Slovenes, Latvians, Estonians, Russians, Maltese, Moravians, Frisians and Basques.

On current trends European populations will become more ethnically diverse, with the possibility that today's majority ethnic groups will no longer comprise a numerical majority in some countries.[37]

In 2011, almost a quarter of new EU citizens were Moroccans, Turks, Ecuadorian or Indians. The new citizens in the EU27 in 2011 came mainly from Africa (26% of the total number of citizenships acquired), Asia (23%), non-EU27 Europe (19%), North and South America (17%) or another EU27 Member State (11%). In 2011, the largest groups that acquired citizenship of an EU27 Member State were citizens of Morocco (64 300 persons, of which 55% acquired citizenship of France or Spain), Turkey (48 900, 58% acquired German citizenship), Ecuador (33 700, 95% acquired Spanish citizenship) and India (31 700, 83% acquired British citizenship).[38]

In 2012, 34.3 million foreign citizens lived in the 27 European Union member states, accounting for 6.8% of the European Union population,[39] of whom 20.5 million were third country nationals (i.e. nationals of non-EU countries). The number of foreign-born (which includes those who have naturalised or are dual nationals) was 48.9 million or 9.7 per cent of the total population.[40]

A total of 8.0 million citizens from European countries outside of the EU-27 were residing in the EU at the beginning of 2012; among these more than half were citizens of Turkey, Albania or Ukraine. The next biggest group was from Africa (24.5%), followed by Asia (22.0%), the Americas (14.2%) and Oceania (0.8%). Romanians (living in another EU Member State) and Turkish citizens made up the biggest groups of non-nationals living in the EU-27 in 2012. There were 2.4 million Romanian citizens living outside of Romania within the EU-27 and 2.3 million Turkish citizens living in the EU-27; each of these two groups of people accounted for 7.0% of all foreigners living in the EU-27 in 2012. The third largest group was Moroccans (1.9 million people, or 5.6% of all foreigners).[41]

Approximately 20 million non-Europeans live in the EU, 4% of the overall population.[42]

Miscellaneous statistics

Age structure: (2006 est.)

  • 0–14 years: 16.03% (male 37,608,010/female 35,632,351)
  • 15–64 years: 67.17% (male 154,439,536/female 152,479,619)
  • 65 years and over: 16.81% (male 31,515,921/female 45,277,821)

Birth rate: 10.9 births/1,000 population (2008)[43]

Death rate: 9.7 deaths/1,000 population (2008)[43]

Net migration rate: 3.1 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2008)[43]

Marriage rate: 4.9 marriages/1,000 population (2007)[44]

Divorce rate: 2.0 divorces/1,000 population (2005)[45]

Sex ratio: (2006 est.)

  • at birth: 1.06 male(s)/female
  • under 15 years: 1.06 male(s)/female
  • 15–64 years: 1.01 male(s)/female
  • 65 years and older: 0.69 male(s)/female
  • total population: 0.96 male(s)/female

Infant mortality rate: (2005)[45]

  • total: 4.5 deaths/1,000 live births
  • male: N/A
  • female: N/A

Life expectancy: (2005)[45]

  • total population: 78.9 years
  • male: 75.8 years
  • female: 81.9 years

Total fertility rate: 1.59 children born/woman 2009[46]

Live Births outside marriage: 40% of total live births in 2012[47]

See also

The demographics of the member states of the European Union:


  1. ^ Also known as Britons. Figure includes ca. 2 million British people resident in other countries in the European Union.)


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ Figures for France include the four overseas departments (French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Réunion) which are integral parts of the European Union, but do not include the overseas collectivities and territories, which (but Saint Barthélemy and Saint Martin) are not part of the European Union.
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ Eurostat - Total Population
  7. ^ Eurostat - Crude rate of population change
  8. ^ Eurostat - Natural population change
  9. ^ Eurostat - Crude rate of net migration plus adjustment
  10. ^ Eurostat - Total fertility rate
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^ 6.5% of the EU population are foreigners and 9.4% were born abroad, Eurostat, Katya VASILEVA, 34/2011.
  20. ^ Canaries migrant surge tops 1,300 BBC News, 4 September 2006. Retrieved 4 September 2006.
  21. ^ Spain attracts record levels of immigrants seeking jobs and sun, The Guardian. Retrieved 26 July 2006.
  22. ^ a b c
  23. ^
  24. ^
  25. ^ Hourani, Albert, History of the Arab Peoples, Faber & Faber, 2002, ISBN 0-571-21591-2
  26. ^ a b c d e Demography Report 2010. Latest figures on the demographic challenges in the EU
  27. ^ Economic and Financial Affairs -The Economic Policy Committee- Ageing
  28. ^
  29. ^
  30. ^
  31. ^
  32. ^
  33. ^
  34. ^ Pan and Pfeil (2004), "Problems with Terminology", pp. xvii–xx.
  35. ^ Pan and Pfeil (2004) give 55 million for the French-speaking groups, excluding the Occitans. Recensement officiel de l'Insee give 65 million.
  36. ^
  37. ^ Immigration, Population and Ethnicity: The UK in International Perspective
  38. ^ Eurostat - Acquisition of citizenship in the EU EU27 Member States granted citizenship to around 780 000 persons in 2011
  39. ^ Eurostat: All social statistics on the EU in one publication
  40. ^ European Commission - Evolving trends in migration and multiculturalism
  41. ^ Eurostat - Migration and migrant population statistics
  42. ^ 2011: Year of Arab spring and pressure at Greek borders
  43. ^ a b c "Eurostat 2008"
  44. ^ Eurostat 2007
  45. ^ a b c Eurostat 2005
  46. ^,_1960-2011_%28live_births_per_woman%29.png&filetimestamp=20130129121040
  47. ^

External links

  • 10 Million Europeans – Will Europe's population collapse?
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