Why is the population of Europe set to shrink?

The population of Europe has been steadily increasing in recent years but it is soon set to peak and then go into decline. We explain why and also the countries in Europe where you are most likely to live to a hundred years old.

Why is the population of Europe set to shrink?
The EU population already dropped in 2020 and 2021 due to 1.2 million additional deaths associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. 2022 saw a recovery, also due to the arrival of almost 4 million refugees from Ukraine. Photo: Pixabay.

“Italy is disappearing!” tweeted businessman Elon Musk at the news that the country’s birthrate is at an all-time low while mortality remains high.

On 1 January 2023, Italy’s population was 58.85 million, 179,000 smaller than the previous year despite a 20,000 increase in foreign-born residents. In 2022, the country recorded less than 7 newborns and more than 12 deaths per 1,000 inhabitants.

READ ALSO: How Europe’s population is changing and what the EU is doing about it

The number of 100-year-olds however reached almost 22,000, an increase of over 2,000 on 2021 and the highest level ever, according to the national statistical office Istat.

A shrinking and aging population is not only an Italian trend. Residents in the European Union are projected to drop by 27.3 million, or 6 percent, by 2100 compared to 2022, the latest data by the EU statistical office Eurostat shows.

The EU’s population, 451 million on 1 January 2023, has been steadily growing in the past decades due to an increase in life expectancy and positive net migration (more people moving to the EU than leaving).

This is expected to continue, although at a slower pace, until 2029, when it will start to decline. In some EU countries the decline will happen earlier, while in others it will not be seen until later.

This is the situation for the countries covered by The Local.

Short-term population increase

The EU population already dropped in 2020 and 2021 due to 1.2 million additional deaths associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. 2022 saw a recovery, also due to the arrival of almost 4 million refugees from Ukraine.

Based on assumptions related to fertility, mortality and migration trends, Eurostat projects the EU population to peak at some 453 million people in 2025, then slowly decline to reach 420 million in 2100.

In Italy, the population has already started to decline and is expected to drop from 59 million in 2022 to 50.1 million in 2100 (-15 percent). For Spain the drop will be from 47.4 to 45.1 million (-5 percent) after a peak of 50.5 million in 2045.


The largest declines are however projected for Latvia (-38 percent), Lithuania (-37 percent) and Greece (-31 percent).

On the other hand, Luxembourg, Malta, Sweden, Ireland, Cyprus, Belgium, Austria, Denmark, Netherlands and Germany will see their population increasing by 2100.

The number of inhabitants is projected to rise from 10.4 to 13.2 million (+27 percent) for Sweden and from 8.9 to 9.5 million (+6 percent) for Austria. The population in Denmark is expected to increase from 5.8 to 6.1 million (+4 percent) but would be on the decline from 2075. Germany will also experience population growth, from 83.2 in 2022 to 84.1 million (+1 percent) in 2100, after a peak of 85.2 million in 2030.

For France the population will remain around 68 million after reaching 70.7 million around 2045.

The population of Norway and Switzerland, which are not in the EU, will also see a major increase, from 5.4 to 6.7 million (+24 percent) and from 8.7 to 10.1 million (+15 percent) respectively in 2100 over 2022.

These projections “have a long time horizon, which means that the further we move away from the first observed year (2022), the more their accuracy decreases,” a spokesperson for the European Commission told The Local.

“In principle, fertility and migration are the major determinants of population change. The data points to the continuous decline in total fertility rate for almost all EU countries over the last decades and to the high volatility of migration, particularly due to the situation in Syrian and in Ukraine,” he added.

For Italy and Spain, “the decline should be seen as an outcome of overall fertility, mortality and migration trends. The continuously decreasing fertility rate in the past and the high volatility of migration for the two countries plays a key role in the projected results,” the spokesperson continued.

“For the countries with projected increases in population, the explanation is again in the combined impact of fertility, mortality and migration trends. The result for Germany, which has a high migration influx, is particularly driven by the assumption of increased fertility,” he said.

READ ALSO: IN NUMBERS: Five things to know about Germany’s foreign population

Fewer young people, more elderly

At the same time, the proportion of children and young people (aged 0 to 19) in the overall population is projected to drop from 20 percent in 2022 to 18 percent by the end of the century. This projection concerns all countries covered by The Local, except for Germany, where the proportion of young people should increase from 18.6 per cent in 2022 to 19.5 per cent in 2100.

The share of people in working age (20-64 years) is also expected to decline, from 59 percent in 2022 to 50 percent in 2100, with all our countries affected.

On the other hand, the proportion of people aged 65 or more is projected to increase. In particular, the share of those aged 80 or more is foreseen to more than double, from 6 percent to 15 percent of the overall population. In Italy and Spain, this will reach 16 percent, while in the other countries covered by The Local the proportion will be around 13-14 percent.

Booming 100-year-olds

The most striking trend, however, is about people projected to become 100 years or older by 2100. Their overall number is expected to increase more than 14-fold, from 126,056 in 2022 to 1.8 million in 2100. Of these, more than 1.3 million will be women.

In Denmark the number of centenarians is expected to increase from 1,220 in 2022 to 24,004 in 2100; in Germany from 23,513 to 318,927; in Spain from 14,288 to 244,341; in France from 29,209 to 313,489; in Italy from 19,714 to 242,073; in Austria from 1,677 to 33,550; in Sweden from 2,662 to 43,840; in Norway from 1,309 to 25,786 and in Switzerland from 1,888 to 40,132.

But to live in a country with a statistically higher chance of becoming 100, it might be good to move to Iceland, which will see a 54-fold increase in centenarians, from 44 in 2022 to 2,389 in 2100, or Romania, with a 50-fold increase, from 1,294 to 64,496.

This article is published in cooperation with Europe Street News.

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Former barracks running out of space as more migrants reach Germany

A short distance from the border with Poland, Olaf Jansen, the director of a migrant processing centre in eastern Germany, is looking anxiously at the numbers of latest arrivals.

Former barracks running out of space as more migrants reach Germany

The former barracks turned 1,500-bed facility in Eisenhüttenstadt risks running out of space soon as migrants are turning up in Germany in numbers not seen since 2015, when then chancellor Angela Merkel opened the doors to hundreds of thousands of refugees from Syria and beyond.

The new influx has pushed Olaf Scholz’s government to take steps to limit entries into Germany, reignited a bitter debate over immigration and given a push to the far right in the polls.

READ ALSO: Why are some Germans turning towards the far right?

The Eisenhüttenstadt facility was already hosting 1,400 this week, and while every day, migrants who have received offers of more permanent housing move on, fewer are leaving now as cities and towns report shrinking capacity to take them in.

“Every day around 100 people arrive here. And that could go up to 120,” Jansen, 63, told AFP.

“If you add together the asylum seekers and those coming from Ukraine – who do not have to file (an asylum) application in Germany – it is like 2015,” he said.

Two routes

There had been an “explosion” in the “number of illegal crossings on the German-Polish border”, regional interior minister Michael Stuebgen said earlier this week.

“It has never been this high,” Stuebgen said of the number of arrivals in his region, Brandenburg.

Residents sit in the courtyard between housing blocks at Brandenburg's Central Immigration Authority (ZABH) center, housing some 1400 asylum seekers in eastern Germany, on September 28, 2023.

Residents sit in the courtyard between housing blocks at Brandenburg’s Central Immigration Authority (ZABH) center, housing some 1400 asylum seekers in eastern Germany, on September 28, 2023. Photo by Odd ANDERSEN / AFP

On Friday, Interior Minister Nancy Faeser said Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic will join hands to boost border controls to crack down on people smugglers.

To arrive at the Polish border and cross in to Germany, there are two main routes for migrants.

“Half of the migrants in Eisenhüttenstadt have come via Moscow and Belarus, and the other half took the route through the Balkans, which also goes through Hungary and Slovakia,” said Jansen.

Abdel Hamid Azraq, 34, from Aleppo in Syria is one of the recent arrivals.

“From Turkey to Greece it was $500 (471 euros). From Greece to Serbia, $1,000 and the same again to get to Germany,” he told AFP.

Azraq’s journey came relatively cheap, according to Jansen. “The sums asked for by smugglers are between $3,000 and $15,000, depending on the degree of comfort,” he estimated.

Syrians like Azraq make up the largest group at the Eisenhuettenstadt centre – between 15 and 20 percent. Other new arrivals include Afghans, Kurds from Turkey, Georgians, Russians, Pakistanis, Cameroonians and Kenyans.

In Jansen’s opinion, the move to beef up police checks at the borders is a positive step.

Staying put

“With every new control, more smugglers are stopped. One smuggler fewer means dozens of people who they cannot smuggle over,” Jansen said.

According to Jansen, Belarus has continued to send migrants from the Middle East into Poland, from where they travel on to Germany, a strategy already put into use by Minsk in 2021.

“It is 12 months now that we have a lot of arrivals coming from that country,” Jansen said of Belarus, recounting that migrants report being given “ladders and big scissors to make holes in the fences” put up by Poland to keep them out.

Around 80 percent of the migrants who arrive in Eisenhüttenstadt are escorted by police who stopped them close to the border. The other 20 percent make their own way there.

At the centre, where migrants normally stay three or four months before being sent on, new arrivals are able to make their first asylum request.

Around half of the migrants in Eisenhüttenstadt have a chance of having their requests granted, Jansen said.

The chances of staying look good for 24-year-old Iraqi Ali Ogaili, who told AFP he was a homosexual. In Eisenhüttenstadt , women and LGBT people have their own building to keep them safe.

Staying in Germany is the hope of many at the camp. Azraq told AFP he wants to “work, bring my family here, settle down and serve this country and German society”.