On 1 January 2023, Belgium had 11,697,557 inhabitants
On 1 January 2023, Belgium had 11,697,557 legal inhabitants. Last year, the Belgian population has grown by 113,594 inhabitants, or by 0.98%. So the population growth was much higher than normal, with a growth rate of about 0.5%, according to the official figures of Statbel, the Belgian statistical office.
The population growth can be explained by a limited statistical adjustment (-208) and two key demographic phenomena:
- A negative natural balance (-2,787);
- A positive international migration balance (+116,554).
So the population growth in 2022 is the result of a positive international migration balance, which offset the negative natural balance while still ensuring a solid population growth. The strongly positive international migration balance in 2022 can be explained by the war in Ukraine.
Population development in Belgium
2022 was marked by a strong population growth of 0.98% or 113,549 inhabitants. In normal circumstances, we expect an annual population growth of about 0.5%.
The natural balance, i.e. the difference between the number of births and deaths, was negative in 2022 (-2,787). A negative natural balance is exceptional. In 2020, year marked by the COVID-19 pandemic, this balance was also negative (-13,111). But before that, we have to go back to the early 1940s to find a negative natural balance. The natural balance, also before COVID-19, had been showing a declining trend for several years. This downward trend could and can be mainly explained by a declining trend in the number of births. 113,593 births were registered in 2022. In addition, 116,380 deaths were registered in 2022.
Number of births, deatsh and natural balance in Belgium 2017-2022
The high number of deaths in 2022 can be explained by several factors: a changing population structure (ageing population), significant excess mortality in the summer (exceptionally hot weather and strong air pollution), the flu virus circulated twice (April and December), in addition, the RSV virus also circulated in December and we experienced a cold snap with poorer air quality that month.
The international migration balance, i.e. the difference between the number of immigrations and emigrations, was positive in 2022 (+116,544). A positive international migration balance is in line with expectations, but the balance is more positive than normal. This can be explained by the large number of international immigrations in 2022: 233,629 immigrations were recorded. The higher number of immigrations is partly due to the war in Ukraine, as 57,514 (24.6%) immigrants are of Ukrainian nationality. In addition, 117,085 international emigrations were recorded in 2022, this is more in line with expectations.
Number of international immigration and emigration and International migration balance in Belgium 2017-2022
|International migration balance||44,536||50,180||55,031||41,756||58,118||116,544|
The solid population growth in 2022 in Belgium is due to a positive international migration balance, which offset the negative natural balance while still ensuring a strong population growth of 0.98% or 113,549 inhabitants.
Evolution of the population in the Flemish Region
2022 was also marked by a strong population growth of 1.13% or 75,931 inhabitants in Flanders.
The natural balance was negative in 2022 (-4,244). 63,284 births and 67,528 deaths were recorded that year.
The international migration balance was positive in 2022 (+64,589). 118,704 immigrations and 54,115 emigrations were registered that year. 33,565 immigrants had the Ukrainian nationality.
At all geographical levels lower than Belgium, a third balance comes into play: the internal migration balance. This balance sums up the number of moves within Belgium. The internal migration balance, the difference between the number of people moving in and out of the Flemish Region, was positive (+15,781). So there were more people moving from another region to Flanders (38,617) than people moving from Flanders to another region (22,836).
The solid population growth in the Flemish Region in 2022 is the result of a positive internal migration balance and a strongly positive international migration balance. These offset a negative natural balance and at the same time ensured a solid population growth of 1.13% or 75,931 inhabitants.
Population development in the Walloon Region
Wallonia registered in 2022 a population growth of 0.52% or 19,080 inhabitants.
The natural balance was negative in 2022 (-4,373). 35,565 births and 39,938 deaths were recorded that year.
The international migration balance was positive in 2022 (+20,270). 52,403 immigrations and 32,133 emigrations were registered that year. 12,928 immigrants had the Ukrainian nationality.
The internal migration balance was positive (+3,526). So there were more people moving from another region to Wallonia (24,740) than people moving from Wallonia to another region (21,214).
The population growth in 2022 in Wallonia is the result of a positive internal migration balance and a positive international migration balance. These offset a negative natural balance and at the same time ensured another population growth of 0.52% or 19,080 inhabitants.
Evolution of the population in the Brussels-Capital Region
In 2022, Brussels was also marked by a strong population growth of 1.52% or 18,538 inhabitants.
Brussels was the only region where the natural balance remained positive in 2022 (+5,830). 14,744 births and 8,914 deaths were recorded that year. Despite the still positive natural balance, a decreasing trend in this balance is also seen in Brussels. The decline here is also driven by a decreasing trend in the number of births.
The international migration balance was positive in 2022 (+31,685). 62,522 immigrations and 30,837 emigrations were registered that year. 11,021 immigrants had the Ukrainian nationality.
The internal migration balance was negative (-19,307). So there were fewer people moving from another region to Brussels (25,011) than people moving from Brussels to another region (44,318).
The solid population growth in 2022 in the Brussels-Capital Region is the result of a positive natural balance and a strongly positive international migration balance. These offset a negative internal balance and at the same time ensured a solid population growth of 1.52% or 18,538 inhabitants.
Population development in the provinces
The fastest growing province in Belgium in 2022 was Antwerp with a growth of 1.29%. In the Flemish Region, the provinces of Flemish Brabant (1.20%), East Flanders (1.13%) and Limburg (1.02%) follow at positions 2, 3 and 4 respectively. The slowest growing province in Flanders was West Flanders with a growth of 0.91%.
The fastest growing province in 2022 in Wallonia was Luxembourg with a growth of 1.02%. All the other provinces in the Walloon Region registered a smaller growth than in the Flemish provinces: Walloon Brabant (0.77%), Namur (0.56%), Hainaut (0.43%) and Liège (0.41%).
Population movement in 2022 in Belgium, the regions and the provinces
|Place of residence||Population on 1st January 2022||Natural balance||Internal migration balance||International migration balance||Statistical adjustment||Total growth||Population on 1st January 2023|
|Province of Antwerp||1,886,609||1,000||123||23,274||-54||24,343||1,910,952|
|Province of Limburg||885,951||-1,232||1,664||8,692||-45||9,079||895,030|
|Province of East Flanders||1,543,865||-779||5,373||12,804||53||17,451||1,561,316|
|Province of Flemish Brabant||1,173,440||0||4,914||9,358||-229||14,043||1,187,483|
|Province of West Flanders||1,209,011||-3,233||3,707||10,461||80||11,015||1,220,026|
|Province of Walloon Brabant||409,782||-282||989||2,499||-54||3,152||412,934|
|Province of Hainaut||1,351,127||-2,208||2,520||5,477||-21||5,768||1,356,895|
|Province of Liège||1,110,989||-1,412||-381||6,652||-330||4,529||1,115,518|
|Province of Luxembourg||291,143||101||-168||2,879||12||2,824||293,967|
|Province of Namur||499,454||-572||566||2,763||50||2,807||502,261|
- 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.
- 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 2023 and 1 January 2022) is not 100% in line with the balance obtained based on births, deaths and migrations. The statistical adjustment this year amounts to -208 units at Belgian level. This is an indication that the data are of high quality.
- International immigration consists of three movements:
- classic international immigration,
- change of register ‘in’ (transfer from the waiting register to the aliens’ register) and
- re-registration (following an automatic deletion).
- International migration consists of three movements:
- classic international emigration,
- change of register ‘out’ (transfer to the waiting register) and
- automatic deletion.
Purpose and brief description
The structure of the population contains statistics relating to the population and the characteristics of this population. This includes the number of inhabitants and the following characteristics: sex, age, place of residence, civil status, nationality and households.
These statistics concern the residential population, as recorded in the National Register of Natural Persons (RNPP), on 1st January of the reference period in question. 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.
The characteristics of the population are available in 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 structure of the population 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.
Sex: is one of the basic data that is immediately collected at the first registration and is part of IT000. Remark: in the case of a sex change, the old file of the person is totally cancelled and a whole new file is created. Therefore, a person who changes his/her sex will have, from the day of the official modification, this new sex from birth.
Age: the date of birth is, just like the sex, collected at the time of the first registration and is part of IT000. The age is calculated as the age that the person, based on the date of birth, has on 1st January of the reference year concerned.
Place of residence: the municipality of the main residence is available under IT001. The actual address of the residence (postal code, street code, house number and box number) is available under IT020. The main residence is defined by the RNPP as follows: the place where the members of a household composed of several persons usually live, regardless of whether those persons are related or not, or the place where a single person usually lives.
Statistical sector: the statistical sector where one lives is determined based on the address (IT020) mentioned in the RNPP. To this end, a coupling with other databases is used. These databases contain all addresses coupled with their geographical coordinates: for example CRAB (Flanders), URBIS (Brussels) and PICC (Wallonia). These coordinates are then used to determine in which statistical sector an address is situated.
Civil status: the civil status is collected under IT120. There are four different statuses in our statistics: unmarried, married, divorced and widowed.
Nationality: the nationality is available under IT031. The nationality refers to the nationality of the person on 1st January of the reference year. It should be noted that persons with dual nationality are only counted once. In case one of these nationalities is the Belgian one, they are considered as people with the Belgian nationality and the second nationality is not taken into account.
Variations on the variable nationality are the first nationality and the country of birth. The first nationality is also registered under IT031. This IT contains the whole history of nationalities for everyone. The first nationality is the nationality that one has when first registering in Belgium. The place of birth is collected under IT100. This IT contains information on the municipality where one is born. However, when one was born abroad, the country code in question is filled in.
Households: information regarding households are collected in two separate ITs: IT140 contains the reference persons of households and IT141 contains the relations of all household members towards the reference person. This last IT also contains information indicating whether this is a private household or a collective household. Statbel has developed an algorithm that determines, based on this information a) the type of household and b) the position of each household member within the household. Moreover, the household size can also be derived. More information on the determination of the household type and the position is available in the metadata “Households: types and positions”.
Six-monthly ; Yearly
Timing of publication
Results available 6 months after the reference period