Academic journal article Population

Recent Demographic Trends in the Developed Countries

Academic journal article Population

Recent Demographic Trends in the Developed Countries

Article excerpt

I. Population change(1)

The population of Europe (including the Caucasian successor republics of the former USSR) stood at 738.6 million on 1 January 2003 - a drop of 80,000 people in 2002. This change is the result of very diversified population trends across the continent, a rise in western Europe contrasting with a decrease in the continent's other broad geographical regions. The European population decline would have been much more acute had the natural decrease not been offset by net immigration (Table A). Across the whole continent, a surplus of deaths over births produced a population loss of 1.1 million, which is deepening over time(2). The sharpest population decline is to be found in the former socialist states, mainly those resulting from the break-up of the former USSR, and especially Russia, where the births deficit is compounded by a negative balance of migration. It is worth observing, however, that the net excess of deaths over births has not worsened in recent years, with the notable exception of the central European countries. Notwithstanding the impression given by the table, western Europe, and the broader European Union, is not thriving, insofar as the natural increase is declining year over year, and is five times lower(3) than that recorded in the United States.

Across the continent, population trends are becoming ever more diversified (Table A). While growth rates in 2000 ranged from 3.9%c in western Europe to -6.6[per thousand] in eastern Europe, the difference was from 4.3[per thousand] to -8.7[per thousand] in 2002. Since 1989, in its 15-member formation, and since 1992, in its new makeup, immigration has accounted more than natural increase for population growth in the European Union. Its share of the total increase in the Union of 15 has exceeded 80% since 1999, even rising after the recent enlargement to 85% in 2002.

Continuing population growth in western Europe as a whole, notwithstanding a negative natural balance, as in Germany, Greece or Italy, is being driven by these countries' pull for foreign populations. This contrasts with central and eastern Europe, where almost all countries have recorded population falls, apart from a handful of central European countries (Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, Serbia-Montenegro, Slovakia) andAzerbaijan (Table 1). In all these countries which are experiencing population decline, there is a net births deficit (except for the Caucasian republics), including Slovakia, where migratory growth is just counterbalancing the surplus of deaths over births.

While the western European countries are all immigration countries to differing degrees, this is anything but the case in central Europe, and especially eastern Europe, and this is hastening the pace of population decline. In eastern Europe, only Russia and Belarus have kept positive balances of migration, but they are declining steadily. Central Europe, especially Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, still exerts attraction, but for a very particular type of immigration. Migration here is not just a matter of outflows to wealthy countries and inflows from the old Soviet bloc, but also intra-regional migratory exchanges which generally involve ethnic minorities or stem from the break-up of former federal states(4). Arguably, integration into the European Union by countries in the region may have changed the fundamentals of migration somewhat, but agreements limiting freedom of movement for persons have been put in place. This could produce a rise in the presence of nationals of western European countries, and an increase in the pressure on the borders of these countries, since integration should boost their economies and hence their attraction.

While the main immigration countries in western Europe are Germany and the United Kingdom, and increasingly Spain and Italy in southern Europe(5), the highest net migration rates are observed in Ireland, Portugal, Italy, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Spain, and most of all Cyprus. …

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