According to data released by Eurostat, the EU’s population declined in 2021 for the second year in a row.
The total population of the 27 EU member states fell from 447 million on 1 January 2021 to 446.8 on 1 January 2022, a net decline of approximately 172,000 people.
The figures varied between countries, with ten EU member states seeing a decrease in population and 17 seeing an increase. Ital recorded the largest drop of 253,100, while France had the biggest increase at 185,900.
It was noted in the report that the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are partly to blame for this decline, as it has changed birth rates, death rates, and immigration patterns.
Eurostat says: “The negative natural variation (more deaths than births) has not been offset in number by a positive net migration, for the second year in a row, most likely due to the impact of the pandemic.”
There were 113,000 more deaths in 2021 compared to 2020. At the same time, the birth rate stagnated and was almost the same as it was in the previous year.
“Given the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic since 2020, the fact that the number of deaths is expected to increase further due to population ageing, and assuming that fertility rates remain at a relatively low level, this negative natural variation could well continue,” Eurostat added.
Net migration increased in 2021
In 2021, the EU attracted more migrants from outside the bloc than in 2021 – 1.06 people arrived in 2021, compared with 800,00 in the previous year.
However, this increase still wasn’t enough to offset the imbalance between the EU’s birth and death rates, and the population size still declined overall.
Since records began in the 1960s, the only time the EU recorded a drop in population size was in 2011, but this went up the following year due to higher levels of migration.
“If this is the case, the EU’s future population decline or growth will probably depend largely on the contribution made by immigration,” Eurostat said.
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