Europe: Who Shrinks — And Who Doesn't

The population of the EU-27 is projected to grow just 2.1% by 2060, from 495.4 million today to 505.7 million. While some European countries’ populations will decrease quite significantly, others are expected to post sizable increases. We wonder: Which current EU country is forecast to be the most populous in 2060?

A. Germany
B. France
C. Poland
D. United Kingdom

A. Germany is not correct.

Ever since Germany's reunification in October 1990, the country has had the EU's largest population, with 82.2 million people at the start of 2008, according to Eurostat.

However, given a low fertility rate of just 1.53 births per woman, Germany's population — despite significant immigration gains — is expected to decline by over 11.4 million people over the next half century, reaching just 70.8 million in 2060. Germany would then be the third-largest of the current EU countries.

B. France is not correct.

At 1.93 children per woman, France's fertility rate is 26% higher than Germany's. Despite lower immigration than Germany, France is expected to add over 9.9 million people by 2060.

Germany currently has a population that is over 20 million larger than France's. By 2060, however, France's population — at 71.8 million — will be one million larger than Germany's.

C. Poland is not correct.

Among the countries joining the EU since 2004, Poland has by far the largest population. With 38.1 million people, it currently ranks as the sixth-largest among all EU members.

However, its fertility rate — at 1.49 children per woman — is below Germany's. Thus, Poland's population is expected to decrease by almost seven million people by 2060, to 31.1 million people. On a percentage basis Poland's expected population decline (18%) is also larger than Germany's (14%).

In contrast to Poland, the population of Italy — the other large, predominantly Catholic country in the EU — is expected to remain stable over the next half century, primarily as a consequence of an expected high level of immigration.

D. United Kingdom is correct.

The United Kingdom currently ranks in third place in the EU in terms of population. Owing to both a fertility rate and immigration level above the EU average, the UK is forecast to increase its population from 61.3 million in 2008 by 25% — or 15.4 million people — to reach 76.7 million by 2060.

However, it may not be the EU's largest country at that time. Turkey — which may eventually become an EU member— is expected to have a population of roughly 100 million by 2060.

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