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Demographics of Europe

Related subjects: European Geography

Background Information

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Distribution of population in the EU and EFTA countries, including candidate countries (2007)
  < 50 inhabitants per km2
  50 to 100 inhab. per km2
  100 to 150 inhab. per km2
  150 to 300 inhab. per km2
  300 to 1000 inhab. per km2
  > 1000 inhab. per km2
  no data available
Population growth and decline in Europe

Figures for the population of Europe vary according to which definition of European boundaries is used. The population within the standard physical geographical boundaries was 731 million in 2005 according to the United Nations. In 2010 the population is 711 million, using the definition which has been used for centuries, that Europe's boundaries are on the continental divides of the Caucasus and Ural mountains and the Bosporous, including the populated parts of countries of Russia, and a portion of Turkey. Population growth is comparatively slow, and median age comparatively high in relation to the world's other continents.

Since the Renaissance, Europe has had a dominating influence in culture, economics and social movements in the world. European demography is important not only historically, but also in understanding current international relations and population issues.

Some current and past issues in European demography have included religious emigration, ethnic relations, economic immigration, a declining birth rate and an ageing population. In some countries, such as Poland, access to abortion is currently limited and it is entirely illegal in the Mediterranean nation of Malta. In the past, such restrictions and also restrictions on artificial birth control were commonplace throughout Europe. Furthermore, some European countries (currently Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Switzerland) have allowed a limited form of voluntary euthanasia. It remains to be seen how much demographic impact this may have.

Total population

In 2007 the population of Europe was estimated to be 731 million according to the United Nations, which was slightly more than 11% of world population. The precise figure depends on the exact definition of the geographic extent of Europe. The population of the EU was 499 million as of 2008. Non-EU countries situated in Europe in their entirety account for another 94 million. Five transcontinental countries have a total of 240 million people, of which about half reside in Europe proper.

A century ago, Europe was home to 25% of the world's population. While the population of the continent has grown, it hasn't come close to the pace of Asia or Africa. As it stands now, around 12% of the world's people live on this continent, but if demographic trends keep their pace, Europe's share may fall to around 7% in 2050. Declining birth rates (particularly in Germany) and a high life expectancy in most European states means that the aging and declining population will be a problem for many European economies, political and social institutions. Countries on the edges of Europe except for Southern Europe have generally stronger growth than Central European counterparts. Albania (Although in Southern Europe) and Ireland have strong growth, all hitting 1%.

Population by country

Modern political map (2006).
"European countries" according to the EU.
Council of Europe nations, with founding nations in yellow.
Regional grouping according to the UN.
  Northern Europe
  Western Europe
       Eastern Europe
       Southern Europe
             Asian portions of European countries
  Non-European countries

According to different definitions, such as consideration of the concept of Central Europe, the following territories and regions may be subject to various other categorisations aside from geographic conventions.

Name of region and
territory, with flag
(1 July 2010 est.)
Population density
(per km2)
Albania Albania 28,748 2,994,667 125.2 Tirana
Andorra Andorra 468 82,403 146.2 Andorra la Vella
Armenia Armenia 29,743 3,262,000 (in Asia) 108.4 Yerevan
Austria Austria 83,858 8,414,638 100.3 Vienna
Azerbaijan Azerbaijan 86,600 9,165,000 (nearly all in Asia) 105.8 Baku
Belarus Belarus 207,600 9,503,807 49.8 Minsk
Belgium Belgium 30,510 11,007,020 336.8 Brussels
Bosnia and Herzegovina Bosnia and Herzegovina 51,129 4,048,500 77.5 Sarajevo
Bulgaria Bulgaria 110,910 7,621,337 68.7 Sofia
Croatia Croatia 56,542 4,637,460 77.7 Zagreb
Cyprus Cyprus 9,251 863,457 (in Asia) 85.0 Nicosia
Czech Republic Czech Republic 78,866 10,535,811 130.1 Prague
Denmark Denmark 43,094 5,568,854 124.6 Copenhagen
Estonia Estonia 45,226 1,315,681 31.3 Tallinn
Faroe Islands Faroe Islands (Denmark) 1,399 46,011 32.9 Tórshavn
Finland Finland 336,593 5,357,537 15.3 Helsinki
France France 551,695 63,460,000 115.0 Paris
Georgia (country) Georgia 69,700 4,461,473 (mostly in Asia) 64.0 Tbilisi
Germany Germany 357,021 81,757,600 233.2 Berlin
Gibraltar Gibraltar (UK) 5.9 27,714 4,697.3 Gibraltar
Greece Greece 131,940 11,645,343 80.7 Athens
Greenland Greenland (Denmark) 2,166,086 56,452 0.027 Nuuk
Guernsey Guernsey 78 66,587 828.0 St. Peter Port
Hungary Hungary 93,030 9,979,000 108.3 Budapest
Iceland Iceland 103,000 304,261 2.7 Reykjavík
Republic of Ireland Ireland 70,280 4,434,925 60.3 Dublin
Isle of Man Isle of Man 572 80,873 129.1 Douglas
Italy Italy 301,230 60,418,711 191.6 Rome
Jersey Jersey 116 89,775 773.9 Saint Helier
Republic of Kosovo Kosovo 10,908 1,733,872 159.0 Pristina
Latvia Latvia 64,589 2,366,515 36.6 Riga
Liechtenstein Liechtenstein 160 35,322 205.3 Vaduz
Lithuania Lithuania 65,200 3,401,138 55.2 Vilnius
Luxembourg Luxembourg 2,586 472,569 173.5 Luxembourg
Republic of Macedonia Republic of Macedonia 25,713 2,054,800 81.1 Skopje
Malta Malta 316 408,009 1,257.9 Valletta
Moldova Moldova 33,843 3,834,547 131.0 Chişinău
Monaco Monaco 1.95 32,087 16,403.6 Monaco
Montenegro Montenegro 13,812 672,180 44.6 Podgorica
Netherlands Netherlands 41,526 16,696,700 393.0 Amsterdam
Norway Norway 324,220 4,930,116 14.0 Oslo
Poland Poland 312,685 38,192,000 123.5 Warsaw
Portugal Portugal 91,568 10,607,995 110.1 Lisbon
Romania Romania 238,391 19,042,936 80.0 Bucharest
Russia Russia 17,075,400 (3,960,000 in European Russia) 142,905,208 (110,000,000 in European Russia) 8.3 (27.8 in European Russia) Moscow
San Marino San Marino 61 31,730 454.6 San Marino
Serbia Serbia 88,361 7,345,000 94.8 Belgrade
Slovakia Slovakia 48,845 5,422,366 111.0 Bratislava
Slovenia Slovenia 20,273 2,012,917 95.3 Ljubljana
Spain Spain 504,851 47,150,800 89.3 Madrid
Norway Svalbard and Jan
Mayen Islands (Norway)
62,049 2,868 0.046 Longyearbyen
Sweden Sweden 449,964 9,360,113 19.7 Stockholm
Switzerland Switzerland 41,290 7,785,000 176.8 Bern
Turkey Turkey 744,820 73,722,988 (10,920,000 in Europe) 98.9 Ankara
Ukraine Ukraine 603,628 45,939,820 76.0 Kiev
United Kingdom United Kingdom 244,820 62,041,708 244.2 London
Vatican City Vatican City 0.44 900 2,045.5 Vatican City
Total 10,180,000 711,064,145 69.85
Åland Islands Åland (within Finland) 1,551 26,008 16.8 Mariehamn

Population map (Numbers in thousands)


Perhaps mirroring its declining population growth, European countries tend to have older populations overall. European countries had nine of the top ten highest median ages in national populations in 2005. Only Japan had an older population.


Over the last several decades, religious practice has been on the decline in a process of " Secularization." European countries have experienced a decline in church attendance, as well as a decline in the number of people professing a belief in a god. The Eurobarometer Poll 2010 found that, on average, 51% of the citizens of EU member states state that they believe in a god, 26% believe there is some sort of spirit or life Force while 20% do not believe there is any sort of spirit, god or Life Force, and 3% declined to answer. According to a recent study, 47% of Frenchmen declared themselves as agnostic in 2003. This situation is often called " Post-Christian Europe".

A decrease in religiousness and church attendance in western Europe (especially Belgium, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, United Kingdom, Norway, the Netherlands and Sweden) has been noted. The Eurobarometer poll must be taken with caution, however, as there are discrepancies between it and national census results. For example in the United Kingdom, the 2001 census revealed over 70% of the population regarded themselves as "Christian" with only 15% professing to have "no religion", though the wording of the question has been criticized as "leading" by the British Humanist Association.

Ethnic groups

Pan and Pfeil (2004) count 87 distinct "peoples of Europe", of which 33 form the majority population in at least one sovereign state, while the remaining 54 constitute ethnic minorities. The total number of national minority populations in Europe is estimated at 105 million people, or 14% of 770 million Europeans.(including europeans in asian russia)

The largest ethnic groups are the Russians, of whom 92 million reside in Europe, the Germans, with 82 million. In some countries such as the United Kingdom, France and Spain, the designation of nationality may controversially take on ethnic aspects, subsuming smaller ethnic groups such as Welsh, Bretons and Basques, making it difficult to quantify a "British" or "French" ethnicity, for example.

Non-European immigrant groups (Middle Eastern, African, Asian, American etc.) account for about 3% to 4% of the European population or 22 to 30 million people.


Most of the languages of Europe belong to the Indo-European language family. This family is divided into a number of branches, including Romance, Germanic, Baltic, Slavic, Albanian, Celtic and Greek. The Uralic languages, which include Hungarian, Finnish, and Estonian, also have a significant presence in Europe. The Turkic and Mongolic families also have several European members, while the North Caucasian and Kartvelian families are important in the southeastern extremity of geographical Europe. The Basque language of the western Pyrenees is an isolate unrelated to any other group, while Maltese is the only Semitic language in Europe with national language status.

The European Union (EU), which currently excludes many European countries (i.e. Norway, Russia and Switzerland), recognises 23 official languages as of 2007. According to the same source, the eight most natively spoken languages in the EU are (percentage of total EU population):

  1. 19% German
  2. 13% French
  3. 12% English
  4. 11% Italian
  5. 9% Polish
  6. 9% Spanish
  7. 7% Romanian
  8. 5% Dutch

These figures change when foreign language skills are taken into account. The list below shows the top eight European languages ordered by total number of speakers in the EU:

  1. 49% English
  2. 35% German
  3. 26% French
  4. 16% Italian
  5. 15% Spanish
  6. 10% Polish
  7. 7% Russian
  8. 6% Dutch

This makes German the most frequently spoken native language and English the most frequently spoken non-native language overall in the European Union, with German the second-most common language overall.

Languages that are not official state languages are protected in many European countries by the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. These can include languages spoken by relatively many people, such as Catalan and Basque in Spain, as well as languages spoken by relatively few such as Welsh, Cornish and Scottish Gaelic in the United Kingdom.

Genetic origins

Homo sapiens appeared in Europe roughly 40,000 years ago, with the settlement of the Cro-magnons. Over the prehistoric period there was continual immigration to Europe, notably by the immediate descendents of the Proto-Indo-Europeans who migrated west after the advent of the Neolithic revolution.

MtDna and Y-Dna

Studies of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) have suggested substantial genetic homogeneity of European populations, with only a few geographic or linguistic isolates appearing to be genetic isolates as well. On the other hand, analyses of the Y chromosome and of autosomal diversity have shown a general gradient of genetic similarity running from the southeast to the northwest of the continent.

But, well-known areas with Mt-Dna and Y-Dna differences, discovered by grouping and tracking prehistorical genotype migrations, are in Iberia, in relation to the Basques of northern Spain and southwest France; and the Balkans of southeast Europe. Both were areas of refuge where early modern humans settled over 50,000 years ago, during the last ice age.

Population structure

A very recent study in May 2009 that studied 19 populations from Europe using 270,000 SNPs highlighted the genetic diversity of European populations corresponding to the northwest to southeast gradient and distinguished "four several distinct regions" within Europe:

In this study, Fst ( Fixation index) was found to correlate considerably with geographic distances ranging from ≤0.0010 for neighbouring populations to 0.0230 for Southern Italy and Finland. For comparisons, pair-wise Fst of non-European samples were as follows: Europeans – Africans (Yoruba) 0.1530; Europeans – Chinese 0.1100; Africans (Yoruba) – Chinese 0.1900.

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