The 8th Cohesion Report presents the main changes in territorial disparities in the EU over the past decade and how EU and national policies have affected those disparities. The full report is available here.
On this page, you can explore a selection of interactive maps and figures on regional demographic trends.
One in three people in the EU live in a region that lost population between 2010 and 2020
During the 2010s, the EU population grew by 1.9 per 1000 inhabitants a year. The highest population growth rate was in the north-western EU (4 per 1000 inhabitants a year). Population growth in the southern EU was lower (1 per 1000), while the population in the eastern EU declined (-2 per 1000). The population reductions in the eastern EU meant that two out of three people there lived in a region that lost population over the past decade. This was the case for one out of three in the southern EU and only one out of five people in the north-western EU.
Projections indicate that by 2040, half the EU population will live in a shrinking region. This will affect eastern regions more than northwestern ones. Projections suggest that in 2040, 85% of the population of eastern regions will live in a shrinking region compared to 37% in north-western regions.
Rural and non-metro regions have been shrinking
Between 2010 and 2020, population in rural and non-metro regions reduced slowly (-1.6 and -1.0 per 1000 inhabitants a year respectively). In contrast, population growth was positive in urban regions and capital metro regions (4.5 and 6.2 per 1000 inhabitants a year respectively).
Rapid population reductions ( <-7.5 per 1000 a year) are likely to have a bigger impact on regions leading to a significantly lower demand for services and infrastructure and possibly lower housing values. Rapid reductions are more likely to occur in rural regions than in urban ones: 11% of the rural population lives in rapid shrinking regions compared to 1% of the urban population. Rapid reductions are also more common in the eastern EU, where 14% of the population lives in such a region compared to 2% in the north-western EU.
- To quickly zoom in to an area, hold down the Shift button and click on the map to draw a rectangle
- Click on a region to see its name and its population change rate.
Natural population change is the main source of population reductions
At the EU level, positive net-migration (2.2 per 1000) compensated for negative natural population change (-0.3 per 1000). Looking by urban-rural regional typology and geographic region shows that natural change was negative or close to zero in all types of regions, except north-western urban regions. Net-migration was positive in all types of regions except eastern rural and intermediate regions. This highlights that the main source of regional population reductions is negative natural change. The two interactive maps below show that regional negative natural change is far more common than negative net migration: three out of four regions experience negative natural change compared to one out of four for negative net migration.
- The zoom level on one map will be replicated on the other map.
- Zoom in on Germany to see net-migration into city centres and on Poland to see the migration out of the city into the surrounding regions.
- Click on a region to see its name and its population change rate.
An ageing baby boom leads to population reductions and more people aged 65 and over
When the first population pyramid was published in 1874, high birth and death rates meant that it actually resembled a pyramid: wide at the bottom and narrow at the top. The growth of life expectancy and low fertility rates in the EU have led to a radically different age structure. Today, the EU’s population ‘pyramid’ looks more like a light bulb, narrower at the bottom and wider in the middle before becoming narrow again at the top. The wide middle is due to a larger number of births in the past, often referred to as a baby boom.
The EU population aged 0 to 29 is 24% smaller than the population aged 30 to 59. This generation gap is the equivalent of 10% of the EU’s total population and is significantly larger than the current number of people born outside the EU (44 million as against 36 million). Although future migration is likely to fill some of this gap, it is unlikely to fill the whole gap. As a result, the EU population will start to shrink in the coming years and decades.
Urban regions tend to have a higher share of young adults, while intermediate regions tend to have more middle aged people and rural regions have more people aged 65 and over. This is in part due to the movement between regions. Young adults are more likely to move to an urban region to study and find their first job. The middle aged are more likely to move out of the urban region to an intermediate region to find larger and less expensive housing for them (and their children). The older population is likely to move out of urban and intermediate regions into rural regions looking for a less hectic lifestyle and more affordable housing closer to nature. Despite the differences in today's age structure, all three types of region will be confronted with reduction in young and working-age people and a big increase in people 65 and over as is shown in the animated population pyramids below.
- Push the 'play' button on the graph below to see how this ageing baby boom slowly moves up the population pyramids in urban, intermediate and rural regions
- Push play again to see the contrast between 2050 and 2020
Fewer young and working age people and more people 65 and over by 2030
The number of young people (aged 0 to 19) is projected to shrink by 5% in the EU over the next decade, with many southern and eastern regions facing reductions of over 10% (see map). By contrast, the number of young people is projected to grow in Cyprus, Malta and several regions in Germany and Sweden. Large reductions in the number of young people are likely to lead to a reduction of the number of schools, which may lead to longer distances to the closest school especially in rural areas where distances are already relatively long.
Working age population (defined as those aged 20-64) is projected to shrink by 4% over the next decade. To visualise this map, please click on the button 'Ages 20-64'. This is likely to affect most regions with some facing reductions of over 10%. This could lead to labour market shortages. It may force companies to choose between investing more in labour-saving and labour augmenting technologies or foregoing potential growth.
Virtually all EU regions will experience an increase of the population aged 65 and over. To visualise this map, please click on the button 'Ages 65+'. Only in a few regions in Bulgaria, Greece, Portugal and Romania is this age group projected to decline. In contrast, in many regions in Austria, Ireland, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain and Slovakia this age group is projected to grow by more than 25% over the next decade. This is likely to lead to an increase in the demand for healthcare in these regions, which will have to adapt their infrastructure and services to make them more accessible to people with limited mobility and increase the capacity of healthcare services.
- The buttons on the map allow you to see the maps for three different age groups: 0-19, 20-64 and 65+
- Each map uses the same legend, which makes it easy to compare the changes in the three groups from big reductions of young people to big increases in those aged 65 and over
- The full Cohesion report and supporting materials (including the data) is available on this webpage.
- EUROSTAT webpage on population statistics at regional level - explained
- Data stories linked to the 8th Cohesion Report: Regional COVID-19 impact - Regional innovation gaps - Regional demographic trends
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Twitter: EUinmyRegion - REGIOEvaluation
Authors: Lewis DIJKSTRA
Text: December 2022