MADRID – Where the European Union saw the number of inhabitants decrease in 2020, Spain saw the number of inhabitants increase. The overall decrease in the EU appears to be mainly due to the corona pandemic, but lower birth rates, aging and a lower life expectancy also play a role.
On January 1, 2021, the European Union had 312,000 fewer inhabitants than the year before. At that time, 447 million Europeans lived in Europe, compared to 447.3 million exactly a year earlier. It is the first time since 2011 that the number of inhabitants in the EU has fallen. Seventeen of the twenty-seven Member States saw their population increase in the last year. The other ten countries actually saw it fall.
Spain is also among the first group of Member States, with an increase in the number of inhabitants of more than 60,000 in 2020, despite the 81,000 deaths due to the corona pandemic. That is the largest increase since the start of the measurements in 2001. Only Turkey, France and the Netherlands had an even larger increase. This is what the European statistical office Eurostat reports in the publication Demography of Europe.
Increase due to migration
According to the Spanish Statistical Institute (INE), the increase in the number of inhabitants is due to the high migration rate. The flow of immigrants is compensating for the low birth rate and high number of deaths from the corona pandemic.
In Italy, Ukraine and Romania – countries hardest hit by the corona pandemic – the population decreased the most.
Looking at the past 20 years, Luxembourg, Malta, Ireland and Cyprus are the countries that have registered the greatest population growth, at more than 20%. In Lithuania and Latvia, the population has decreased since 2001, also by a percentage of around 20%.
Low birth rate in Spain
After Malta and Ukraine, Spain is the country with the lowest birth rate in the European Union. After some minor ups and downs between 2013 and 2016, Spain is now back at the level it was 20 years ago, with an average of 1.23 children per woman. France is the European country with the highest birth rate, with an average of 1.86 children.
Average age increased
Eurostat data also show that the average age in the EU is increasing. The percentage of people over the age of 65 has increased from 16 to 21% in the past 20 years. The number of Europeans over 80 has almost doubled in that time, from 3.4 to 6%. On the other hand, the number of young people under 19 has decreased, from 23% in 2001 to 20% in 2021.
As a result of these developments, the average age of Europeans has risen from 38.4 to 43.9 years. The difference is even greater in Spain, where the average age has risen over the past twenty years from 37.6 to 44.3 years. In the Netherlands and Belgium, the average age has also risen, but is still below the European average. In the Netherlands it has increased over the past twenty years from 37.6 to 42.7 years and in Belgium from 39 to 41.8 years.
Spain European country where life expectancy fell the most
Last year, life expectancy fell in 23 of the 27 Member States, with Spain leading the way. Here, life expectancy has fallen from 84 years in 2019 to 82.4 years in 2020. The European average is 81.3 years. The Netherlands is just above that with a life expectancy of 81.5 years. The life expectancy of Belgians is slightly below the European average, at 80.9 years. The European country with the lowest life expectancy is Bulgaria, with an average age of 73.6 years.