New data on population trends show that in the 28-member country European Union growth was over 1m last year, with migrants being responsible for most of the rise. Meanwhile, the Irish birth rate was the highest in the region.
Data published on Wednesday by Eurostat, the EU's statistics office, shows that while the population shrunk in 2011 by 1.8m as recession hit Europe, there was a growth of 1.1m in 2012 with net migration responsible for almost four times the natural growth between births and deaths.
There was an annual rate of +2.2 per 1,000 inhabitants, due to a natural increase of 0.2m (+0.4‰) and net migration of 0.9m (+1.7%).
Germany and Italy recorded the biggest net migration inflows while Spain had the biggest outflow. Eurostat said the EU's total population last year was at 505.7m with 331m in the Eurozone.
Each of the biggest four EU countries posted growth. Germany had 80.5m, France 65.6m, UK 63.9m and Italy 59.7m residents.
Germany and Italy reported the largest net migration increases of 390,000 and 370,000 people respectively while Spain lost a net 162,000 and Ireland 35,000.
The UK had the biggest increase in population, almost 400,000 more people due to national growth and net immigration.
Irish most prolific
Eurostat estimated that 5.2m babies were born in the EU last year, with Ireland the most prolific at 15.7 live births per 1,000 residents. However, the number of babies born in Ireland in 2012 was down 3.2% on the year before.
At almost half that rate, Germany was least prolific with 8.4 births per 1,000. Portugal was at 8.5, and Italy had 9 per 1,000.
Ireland also had the lowest death rate at 6.3% while the highest death rates, in the range between 12 and 15%, occurred in the former Soviet Union-controlled countries of Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Romania and Croatia.
Lithuania's population dropped under 3m, losing a half-a-million people over the past 10 years.
Poland, which had significant outward migration after joining the EU in 2004, stabilised in 2012. The net Polish migration outflow fell to 7,000 people.
The highest natural growth of the population (the difference between live births and deaths per 1,000 inhabitants) was registered in Ireland (+9.5‰), well ahead of Cyprus (+5.2‰), Luxembourg (+4.0‰), France and the United Kingdom (both +3.8‰). Twelve member states had negative natural growth, with the largest falls in Bulgaria (-5.5‰), Latvia (-4.5‰), Hungary (-3.9‰), Lithuania (-3.5‰), Romania (-2.7‰) and Germany (-2.4‰).
The OECD says that the total fertility rate is
generally computed by summing up the age-specific fertility rates defined over a
five-year interval. Assuming there are no migration flows and that mortality
rates remain unchanged, a total fertility rate of 2.1 children per woman
generates broad stability of the population: it is also referred to as the
“replacement fertility rate” as it ensures replacement of the woman and her
partner with another 0.1 children per woman to counteract infant mortality.
Eurostat detail [pdf]
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