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Population: declining birth rates in Europe. A new “Iron curtain” divides the north from the south of the continent

The latest Eurostat report on demography in the EU marks an overall increase in the number of inhabitants, that exceed 512 million. But the positive balance is due to migrations, while deaths exceed births; 90 thousand less births in a year. Ireland is the Country with highest number of babies, Italy – along with south-European countries – ranks last

(Foto: AFP/SIR)

The European population is growing, even though more deaths than births were recorded; excessive ageing in the EU is prevented by net migration. The negative trend in fertility rates continues, with Italy bringing up the rear. Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Commission, presented demographic data on the 28 member countries of the European Union for the period up to January 1, 2018, confirming some known trends and highlighting others that were not always given due consideration. These include a Europe divided in two parts as regards fertility-rates. In fact while north-European countries display signs of increase, declining births were registered in all Mediterranean countries.

More deaths than births. The figures speak for themselves. “On 1 January 2018, the population of the European Union (EU) was estimated at 512.6 million, compared with 511.5 million on 1 January 2017”, states the Eurostat Report released in Brussels. “During the year 2017, more deaths than births were recorded in the EU”, 5.3 million deaths and 5.1 million births.This means that the natural change of the EU population was negative. The population change (positive, with 1.1 million more inhabitants) was therefore due to net migration.” Regardless of the controversies on migration waves, these figures cannot be underestimated.

Increases and declines. With 82.9 million residents Germany is reconfirmed as the most populated EU Member State (16.2% of the total EU population), ahead of France (67.2 million), the United Kingdom (66.2 million), Italy (60.5), Spain (46.7) and Poland (38.0). Malta, Luxembourg and Cyprus – with less than one million inhabitants – are the demographically smallest Countries. However, Malta, registered an “unusual” population growth: +32.9 per 1 000 residents in 2017 (the granting of citizenship recently sparked off a major controversy in the country). Growing birth rates were registered also in Luxembourg, Sweden and Ireland. In contrast, population is decreasing in Countries with low birth rates and with no or scarce immigration (where youths and workers are emigrating to other EU Countries). The largest decreases were registered in Lithuania (-13.8 per thousand inhabitants), Croatia,  Latvia, Bulgaria, Romania. Population declined also in Italy (-1.7 per thousand, from 60. 589 million inhabitants to 60. 484million), Greece, Latvia, Hungary and Portugal.

Ireland felix. But the figures regarding birth-rates are dramatic. Eurostat reconfirmed trends previously registered at national level, however, figures are starkly impressive when viewed at European level “During the year 2017, 5.1 million babies were born in the EU, almost 90 000 less than the previous year.” Across Member States – states the Report – the highest birth rates in 2017 were recorded in Ireland (12.9 per 1 000 residents), followed by Sweden, the United Kingdom and France, Denmark, Luxembourg. The lowest were registered in Southern Member States: Italy (7.6‰), Greece Portugal and Spain, Croatia.” A new “Iron curtain” – that no longer separates the East and the West of Europe but the North and the South –  divides the continent.

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