Natural Population Change and Migration in Europe, 2001-2005

Pop-Development-2001-2005Which population development profiles do the various regions in Europe have? This month, ESPON presents a map that was included in the Territorial Observation No.1 on a European regional typology with regard to population development. The typology combines the two components of population development: natural population change and net-migration. The map of the month shows the development 2001-2005 of the various European regions with regard to population development and its relation to regional competitiveness and territorial cohesion.


Regional population change depends on natural population change and net-migration. Natural population change is calculated as the number of births minus the number of deaths and net-migration is corresponds to the difference between in- and out-migration. Based on this, a typology consisting of six differing types has been constructed showing the demographic trend for various regions.

Independent of the cause of the growth, the map clearly shows which regions are showing population growth in the period 2001-2005 (areas coloured red and orange) and which regions are having population decline (blue areas). The gradient of the colours indicate the cause to which the changes are related.


At a European level there is a considerable regional diversity both in migratory and natural population balances. The trend of population development in Europe in the period 2001-2005 suggests an East-West polarisation between regions with population growth (reddish areas) and regions affected by population decline (blue areas). The regional figures for population development confirm this trend. Most of the regions with population growth are located in the Central-Western part of Europe, the Southern part of the Nordic countries and Iceland. In addition, some regions with good amenities in Greece and Cyprus, as well the immediate surroundings of capital city regions in Eastern Europe reveal a positive population development.

In the Western European countries, the capital regions stand out as the most favourable regions concerning demographic development. Another situation is observed in Eastern parts of Europe, where the immediate neighbouring regions often experience higher population growth compared to the capital city.

The detailed analysis on the components of population development in Europe shows that regional population growth is mainly due to a positive migratory balance. This means to a large extent that in-migration regions have a higher demographic potential for population growth. However, a consequence of high in-migration rates can be important challenges related to ethnic diversity and the patchwork of cultural groups.


European demographic development is showing a number of positive trends which can contribute to a positive regional development. However, the territorial pattern is not always favourable for all parts of Europe and all types of regions. In this respect, a trend of East-West polarisation of the pattern of demographic development is visible in 2001-2005. Regions with population growth are mainly located in Central-Western Europe while regions with population decline are more dominant in Eastern European countries. This is in fact a change compared with the population development 1995-1999, which showed a more scattered situation within the European territory with regions with positive and negative population “side by side”.

At all levels, capital regions in Europe are favourable hotspots of demographic development, mainly due to in-migration. Particularly in Eastern Europe, the immediate neighbouring regions to capital cities stand out with respect to population growth compared to the inner parts of the capital region. Finally, it is important to point out that currently migration plays a key role for population growth in Europe and has counterbalanced the impact of a negative natural population development in many regions. The regional contribution to European competitiveness and cohesion in the short-medium term underlines the importance of migration.

Further reading:

ESPON Territorial Observation No 1 - “Territorial dynamics in Europe: Trends in population development



  • Acrobat Document | 521KB