Population growth in EU and its neighbourhood, 2030

Pop-growth-EU-Neighbourhood-01This month, ESPON presents trends in population development, namely on population growth in EU and its neighbourhood. Demographic development will have a major influence on future territorial development in Europe. The human resources have a significant impact on the economic development of regions and cities. It is therefore a key concern for policy makers to attract and develop a highly skilled labour force in their regions and cities.

In this respect, migration and imbalance between EU Member States and neighbouring countries represents important opportunities as well as challenges. The diversity of population growth indicates the areas around the EU where one can expect a high level of interest for migrating to the EU.This map was included in the Territorial Observation No 1.


The population in 2030 was estimated for Europe and its neighbouring countries by studying, at country level, the population variation 2000-2030 using the United National World Population Prospect (1). The result is a picture of the estimated population in 2030 per country together with the expected annual change between 2000 and 2030.

The size of the circles in the map represents the total population estimated for 2030 for each country. The colour of the circles indicates the expected annual growth rates between 2000 and 2030. Thus, the map displays how many inhabitants each country is likely to have in 2030 and to what degree this is an increase or decrease as compared to the situation in 2000.


There are clear differences in annual growth rates between Europe and its neighbours to the South and the East. The Eastern neighbours are expected to experience a slow population decline of 0 - 1% annually (more in the Ukraine). The neighbouring countries to the south are on the contrary characterised by population increases. These increases go well beyond the population increase expected within EU 27 plus Norway and Switzerland. Further South in Africa, South of Sahara and beyond Europe’s immediate neighbouring countries, there is another group of countries whose annual population increases are even higher, up to 3% annually and even more in Niger.

Inside the EU, there are clear differences in population expectation for the Eastern and Western parts. Most of the countries towards the East are predicted to experience a slow population decline between 2000 and 2030 (0 – 1% per year). Almost all Member States east of a line running from Germany, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Slovenia to Italy may expect a loss of population. Exceptions from these estimates are Malta, Greece and Cyprus which are expected to have a stable or even slightly increasing population until 2030. Norway, Switzerland and the remaining EU Member States, can expect a population increase of up to 1% a year. Only two countries within the EU are expected to grow at a higher rate – around 2% annually – and these are Ireland and Luxembourg.


Significant geographical differences can be seen in population trends up to 2030. This influences the basic economic potential of the individual countries. Interesting is that Eastern Member states with currently a high level of GDP growth will experience a fall in the number of citizens living in these countries,  which probably will have a negative influence on their economic development prospects.

For Western Europe, Greece, Cyprus and Malta, only a slow growth in population is previewed, including the expectations of continued internal migration from East to West in Europe in the years to come. In many of these countries the labour market will require an influx of human resources to sustain economic development.

The highest rates of population increase around Europe are predicted in the South-Mediterranean regions (Maghreb and Turkey), with even higher rates South of the Sahara and in the Persian Gulf.  This indicates that the current migration pressure from Southern neighbouring countries is likely to continue over the next decades, probably with a preference to settle in European countries, regions and cities offering the highest level of living conditions, which points mostly at the largest cities in Western Europe. 

Further reading:

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

(1) United Nations, World Population Prospects, 2005, medium variant (http://esa.un.org/unpp/).



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