Population movement

On 1 January 2020, Belgium had 11,492,641 inhabitants

Population
On 1 January 2020, Belgium had 11,492,641 inhabitants

According to official figures from Statbel, the Belgian statistical office, the legally resident population of Belgium was 11,492,641 on 1 January 2020, 51 % of which were women (or 5,832,577 in absolute figures) and 49 % were men (or 5,660,064), excluding the waiting register[1]. The Belgian population has grown by 61,235 persons, or 0.54 % on a yearly basis. This growth rate is fully in line with the growth of previous years (still around half a percent). This publication concerns the legal population on 1 January 2020 and the changes in population observed in the course of 2019. The coronavirus crisis and its impact on the population is therefore not visible in these figures. The figures about the COVID19 are available on a separate page on our website.

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National population growth is mainly driven by two demographic factors[2]:

  • a positive “natural balance”, more births than deaths (+6,820 persons in 2019), which accounts for 11.0 % of the total population growth, but especially;
  • the positive migration balance: more immigrations than emigrations (+55,031 persons in 2019), which explains by far the largest part of the growth rate (89.0 %).

Most of the parameters are in line with what we observed in the previous years. The underlying trend of sustained growth, which has been going on for 30 years now, is nevertheless striking.

The most striking phenomenon for 2019 is the continued decrease in the number of births: 115,565 for 2019. In 2016 there seemed to be a slowdown in the declining birth rate, with only 552 births less than in 2015. That seemed to indicate an end to the downward trend. But since the number of births dropped below 120,000 in 2017, the decline has again become more pronounced. In 2017, the number of births decreased by 2,059 compared to the year before. In 2018 there were 1,302 fewer births and in 2019 2,235 fewer babies were born.

Despite this downward trend in the natural balance, the total population continues to grow. International migration is the main driving force of the sustained population growth. In 2019, international migration accounted for 89 % of the population growth observed.

The top five nationalities immigrating to Belgium are:

  1. Belgians (who come back to Belgium after a stay abroad)
  2. Romanians
  3. French
  4. Dutch
  5. Italians

For people who emigrate from Belgium, almost the same top five is observed, except that Italians rank 6th and Poles 5th. However, the picture changes when looking at the balance between international immigration and emigration by nationality: the largest absolute increase is found among Romanians (+10,259), followed by Moroccans (+4,983), French (+4,067), Bulgarians (+3,743) and Italians (+2,987).

Place of residence Population on 1st January 2019 Natural balance Internal migration balance International migration balance Statistical adjustment Total growth Population on 1st January 2020
Belgium 11,431,406 6,820 0 55,031 -616 61,235 11,492,641
Brussels-Capital Region 1,208,542 7,719 -15,722 17,799 -83 9,713 1,218,255
Flemish Region 6,589,069 442 11,840 28,511 -719 40,074 6,629,143
Walloon Region 3,633,795 -1,341 3,882 8,721 186 11,448 3,645,243
German-speaking Community 77,527 45 65 316 -4 422 77,949
Province of Antwerp 1,857,986 2,390 -902 10,424 -168 11,744 1,869,730
Province of Limburg 874,048 -175 660 2,987 -150 3,322 877,370
Province of East Flanders 1,515,064 -299 3,882 6,739 -131 10,191 1,525,255
Province of Flemish Brabant 1,146,175 610 5,497 3,732 -171 9,668 1,155,843
Province of West Flanders 1,195,796 -2,084 2,703 4,629 -99 5,149 1,200,945
Province of Walloon Brabant 403,599 173 1,716 585 -54 2,420 406,019
Province of Hainaut 1,344,241 -1,524 1,244 2,659 220 2,599 1,346,840
Province of Liège 1,106,992 -18 -650 3,395 81 2,808 1,109,800
Province of Luxembourg 284,638 452 774 930 -42 2,114 286,752
Province of Namur 494,325 -424 798 1,152 -19 1,507 495,832


[1] Data are derived from the National Register. The official population figures do not take into account the waiting register of asylum seekers, which comprises people with an ongoing asylum application (Law of 24 May 1994 establishing a waiting register for foreigners who declare themselves refugees or who ask to be recognised as refugees). However, the figures published by Eurostat contain an estimate of people entered in the waiting register.

[2] A limited number of registrations in the National Register are late or incorrect. Therefore, the observed population growth (difference between the population on 1 January 2020 and 1 January 2019) is not 100 % in line with the balance obtained based on births, deaths and migrations. The statistical adjustment this year amounts to -616 units. This is an indication that the data are of high quality.

Belgium & Regions
Content

Population movement 2019

Place of residence Population on 1st January 2019 Natural balance Internal migration balance International migration balance Statistical adjustment Total growth Population on 1st January 2020
Belgium 11,431,406 6,820 0 55,031 -616 61,235 11,492,641
Brussels-Capital Region 1,208,542 7,719 -15,722 17,799 -83 9,713 1,218,255
Flemish Region 6,589,069 442 11,840 28,511 -719 40,074 6,629,143
Walloon Region 3,633,795 -1,341 3,882 8,721 186 11,448 3,645,243
German-speaking Community 77,527 45 65 316 -4 422 77,949
Provinces
Content

Population movement in 2019 per province

Place of residence Population on 1st January 2019 Natural balance Internal migration balance International migration balance Statistical adjustment Total growth Population on 1st January 2020
Province of Antwerp 1,857,986 2,390 -902 10,424 -168 11,744 1,869,730
Province of Limburg 874,048 -175 660 2,987 -150 3,322 877,370
Province of East Flanders 1,515,064 -299 3,882 6,739 -131 10,191 1,525,255
Province of Flemish Brabant 1,146,175 610 5,497 3,732 -171 9,668 1,155,843
Province of West Flanders 1,195,796 -2,084 2,703 4,629 -99 5,149 1,200,945
Province of Walloon Brabant 403,599 173 1,716 585 -54 2,420 406,019
Province of Hainaut 1,344,241 -1,524 1,244 2,659 220 2,599 1,346,840
Province of Liège 1,106,992 -18 -650 3,395 81 2,808 1,109,800
Province of Luxembourg 284,638 452 774 930 -42 2,114 286,752
Province of Namur 494,325 -424 798 1,152 -19 1,507 495,832

Purpose and brief description

The population movement contains statistics that make it possible to explain the evolution of the residential population, as registered in the National Register of Natural Persons (RNPP).

These statistics concern the change in the residential population, as registered in the National Register of Natural Persons (RNPP), during one reference year. The Belgian population is composed of Belgians and non-Belgians admitted or authorised to settle or stay on the territory, but does not include non-Belgians who stay on the territory for less than 3 months, asylum seekers and non-Belgians in an irregular situation. (Law of 19 July 1991 and law of 1 February 1995)

The number of inhabitants evolves during the year following a number of events, also called “movements”. At Belgian level, the following movements are responsible for a change in the number of inhabitants: births, deaths, international migrations (both immigration and emigration) and changes of nationality. The same movements can also be identified at a lower geographical level, for example at municipal level. At this lower level, an additional movement can be examined: a change of residence in Belgium, which is also called an internal migration.

The changes in the residential population can be derived from the RNPP that is managed by the FPS Home Affairs. The RNPP is an information system and ensures the registration, the storage and the communication of people’s identification data. These data are collected by the municipalities (and the Immigration Office for some categories). The information in the National Register is organised in “information types (IT)”, i.e. the various parts of the legal information. The population movement is determined based on these information types. Statbel is authorised to receive every year some ITs from the National Register in order to fulfil its statistical mission. More information on the various information types in the RNPP is available on the website of the FPS Home Affairs, Directorate General for Institutions and Population.

More figures on international migration movements are available in the theme “migration” on Statbel’s website.

More figures on nationality changes are available in the theme “changes of nationality” on Statbel’s website.

Population

Inwoners in België

Frequency

Yearly.

Timing of publication

Results available 6 months after the reference period

Description of the various population movements

Natural balance

The natural balance of the population is calculated as the number of births minus the number of deaths recorded during a whole reference year. When the number of births is higher than the number of deaths, the natural balance is positive.

Information regarding the number of births can be derived from IT100, the place of birth. In order to determine the number of births during the reference year, the date of birth is taken into account. This date should be in the reference year concerned. The place of birth is also taken into account. The birth must have taken place in a Belgian municipality.

Information on the number of deaths is derived from IT150, place and date of death. In order to determine the number of deaths during the reference year, the date of death and the place where the person was registered at the time of death are taken into account. The death is only taken into account if the person was officially staying in a Belgian municipality (and therefore belonged to the residential population) at the time of death.

Internal migration Balance

The internal migration balance can only be calculated at sub-Belgian level. It concerns people who move out of a municipality to another municipality in Belgium. Such a move can at the same time include moves between arrondissements, provinces and even regions. When more people move in a municipality during the reference year than out of it, the internal migration balance is positive.

Information on the residence is available in the RNPP under IT001 municipality of residence and IT020 address of the main residence. In order to obtain the internal migration balance at municipal level, IT001 suffices to identify the moves between Belgian municipalities.

However, knowing the exact address allows for other applications: for example, the number of moves within the same municipality can be identified, which makes it possible to determine, among other things, the total number of moves in Belgium. In big cities, even moves between various sectors can eventually be identified. See metadata internal migration.

International Migration Balance

The international migration balance is calculated as the number of international immigrations minus the number of international emigrations that have taken place during the reference year. When the number of international immigrations is higher than that of international emigrations, the international migration balance is positive.

International immigration is composed of three distinct movements:

  1. International immigration, available since 1992: IT001, or the municipality of residence is used. A person is considered as an immigrant in Belgium if:
    a.   A registration in a Belgian municipality is available, where the previous registration under IT001 refers to a stay abroad, or;
    b.   This is the very first registration in a Belgian municipality that took place at a later date than the date of birth.
    A person can immigrate to Belgium only once in the current year. This is why IT210, or the mention of the register, is also used to select the correct arrival date.
  2. Re-registration, available since 1992: when a person has been automatically deleted, but later re-registers in a Belgian municipality, we speak of a re-registration. A person is considered as re-registered if:
    a.   A registration in a Belgian municipality is available, where the previous registration under IT001 refers to a deletion of the person, and;
    b.   A time component is also applicable: a person is only considered as deleted if a new registration in a Belgian municipality takes place after 1st March in the following year. If the deletion and re-registration are close to each other, the person is neither considered as deleted nor as re-registered.
  3. Change of register (in), available since 2000: when an asylum seeker is recognized, he is transferred from the waiting register to the aliens' register. This information is available under IT210, mention of the register.

International emigration is also composed of three distinct movements:

  1. Emigration, available since 1992: IT001, or the municipality of residence is used. A person is considered as an emigrant when this person has been registered, during the reference year, as living abroad and where the previous registration under IT001 refers to a stay in a Belgian municipality.
  2. Automatic deletion, available since 1992: IT001, or the municipality of residence is used. A person is considered as automatically deleted when this person has been deleted during the reference year and where the previous registration under IT001 refers to a stay in a Belgian municipality. A time component is also taken into account: the person is only considered as deleted when this person has not been registered in a Belgian municipality before 1st March of the following year.
  3. Changes of register (out), available since 2010: IT210, or the mention of the register, is used. These are people who, during the year, are transferred from any register to the waiting register. These are usually people who are transferred from the aliens' register to the waiting register.

Statistical Adjustmensts

Ideally, the sum of the various balances should be equal to the change in the population size that we observe between the year Y and the year Y+1. In other words, the population on 1st January of year Y+1 is equal to the sum of the population on 1st January in year Y, the natural balance, the internal migration balance and the international migration balance during year Y.

However, in practice, this is rarely the case. The difference between both is calculated and is called the statistical adjustment. The statistical adjustment gives an indication of the quality for the population figures. The statistical adjustments are in the order of a thousand units. Out of a total of hundreds of thousands of registrations that determine the population movement throughout the year, this can be called a minimum error rate.

Changes of nationalities

The acquisition and granting of the Belgian nationality are complex legal matters. Statbel’s approach for the calculation of nationality changes is very simple: someone changes his/her nationality when his/her nationality as registered under IT031 of the RNPP changes.
Therefore, we only take into account the people for whom another nationality was already registered. Persons who acquire the Belgian nationality when no previous nationality has been registered are not included in these statistics.

This definition, although without any real legal content, covers a large number of legal categories from the Code of Belgian Nationality (naturalisation, acquisition by declaration, etc.). The condition of having a previous nationality means that a number of situations are not included in this statistic. This is largely the case, for example, when the Belgian nationality is granted based on the nationality of the father or the mother (Art. 8 of the Law of 4 December 2012 and previous laws). Usually, no previous nationality is registered in this case.

The nationality is registered in the National Register under “information type 031”. For more information about the acquisition of the nationality and the “information type 031”, please visit the websites of the FPS Home Affairs - Directorate General for Institutions and Population and of the FPS Justice.

Growth and index

The growth is the absolute change in the number of inhabitants. In other words, it is equal to the sum of the various balances, i.e. the natural balance, the internal migration balance and the international migration balance. A positive figure indicates a growth of the population, a negative figure refers to a decline in the population.

The index in year Y is calculated as follows: the growth in the reference year Y is divided by the population on 1st January in the year Y and multiplied by 100 (the population growth rate during the year Y). This figure is then added to 100. An index higher than 100 refers to a population growth, an index lower than 100 indicates a population decline. The farther the number is from 100, the sharper is the growth or decline of the population.

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