On 1 January 2022, the legal population in Belgium was 11,584,008 inhabitants
On 1 January 2022, the legal population(1) in Belgium was 11,584,008 inhabitants, according to the official figures of Statbel, the Belgian statistical office.
Cloë Ost, statistician in demography at Statbel: ‘During the past year, the Belgian population has grown by 62,770 inhabitants. In percentage terms, the population has grown by 0.54%. This growth rate is twice as high as last year, when the COVID-19 pandemic caused a slowdown. It is in line with what was common before COVID-19, namely around 0.5%.’
‘The largest part of the population growth can be explained by a strong positive international migration balance. Of the 62,770 additional inhabitants, the ‘positive migration balance’ was 58,118 persons. So there were 58,118 more immigrants than emigrants. In addition, we again see a positive natural balance. In 2021, 5,623 more babies were born than people died. That number is rather low if we compare with the period before the COVID-19 pandemic. Finally, the statistical adjustment was -971 inhabitants.’
There are also clear differences between the regions and provinces in 2021. Cloë Ost: ‘The Flemish Region remains by far the strongest growing region, with 45,814 additional inhabitants, or a growth rate of 0.69%. In the Walloon Region the percentage was 0.39%, with 14,289 additional inhabitants. In Brussels we see a growth of 2,667 persons or 0.22%, a percentage that remains relatively low compared to the years before the COVID-19 pandemic.’
‘In the Flemish provinces, we see the largest population growth in Flemish Brabant, with 0.98%. The slowest growing Flemish province is West Flanders, with 0.47%. In Wallonia, Luxembourg recorded the largest growth, with 0.84%. The province of Liège grows the slowest in terms of population, with 0.17% in 2021.’
In the text below, we take a closer look at the figures on natural and migration balance, and the three regions. This publication contains the legal population on 1 January 2022 and the changes observed in the course of 2021. The impact of the war in Ukraine and the related refugee crisis on the population is therefore not yet visible in these figures.
Overall, the impact of COVID-19 on the various demographic phenomena, such as the natural balance and the international migration balance, seems to be much smaller in 2021 than in 2020. In 2021, the Belgian population increased by 62,770 inhabitants. That increase in the population can be explained by a limited statistical adjustment (-971) and by two important demographic phenomena (2)
- The natural balance, that was exceptionnally negative the previous year, is positive again (+5,623). In 2021 more babies were born than people died.
- As in previous years, the international migration balance is positive (+58,118). In 2021, more immigrations than emigrations were registered.
The population growth in 2021 is the result of a slightly positive natural balance and a strongly positive international migration balance. The main driver of population growth is therefore the international migration balance, which explains 90% of the population growth. The remaining 10% of the population growth can be explained by the natural balance. Below, we will discuss these figures in more detail.
After a slower population growth of 0.25% in 2020, largely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, population growth recovers to 0.54% in 2021. Growth is therefore again in line with the levels observed before the COVID-19 pandemic:
- After a negative natural balance in 2020 (-13,111), the natural balance in 2021 is again positive (+5,623) and closer to the natural balance of 2019 (+8,358).
- On the one hand, there seems to be a recovery in terms of births. Compared to 2019 (117,103 births), we saw a sharp decline in the number of births in 2020 to 113,739 (-2.9%) and then a recovery in 2021 to 117,914 births (+0.7%).
- On the other hand, the COVID-19 pandemic still seems to have an impact on the number of deaths in 2021, although the effect seems much more limited than in 2020. In 2019, there were 108,745 deaths, this rose sharply to 126,850 deaths in 2020 (+16.6%), before falling back to 112,291 deaths in 2021 (+3.3%).
- The international migration balance in 2021 is +58,118. This balance is much higher than in 2020 where it was +41,756 and is more in line with the international migration balance of +55,031 in 2019.
- Firstly, there seems to be a recovery in the number of international immigrations(3). Compared to 2019, the number of immigrations decreased sharply from 174,591 immigrations to 144,169 in 2020 (-17.4%), after which it increased again to 165,534 immigrations in 2021 (-5.2%).
- o There also seems to be a recovery in the number of international emigrations(4). In 2019, there were 119,560 emigrations, this decreased sharply to 102,413 in 2020 (-14.3%) and increased somewhat in 2021 to 107,416 (-10.2%).
- It may seem strange that despite the fact that international immigration and emigration have not yet recovered to the level before the COVID-19 pandemic, the international migration balance in 2021 is more positive than in 2019. This is because international immigration seems to be recovering faster than international emigration, so the difference (or balance) between these two movements is increasing.
The Flemish Region
After a slower population growth of 0.36% in 2020, the population growth in 2021 in the Flemish Region bounces back to 0.69%. This population growth is slightly higher than before the COVID-19 pandemic, when it hovered around 0.60%. The stronger growth seems to be mainly due to an increased international migration balance. It is important to note that in absolute figures, international immigration and emigration are still lower than before the COVID-19 pandemic. The reason for the increase of the international migration balance seems to be the faster recovery of international immigration compared to international emigration.
- The natural balance in the Flemish Region is again positive +1,239 in 2021 and, after a negative balance of -8,121 in 2020, is more in line with the natural balance of +1,301 in 2019.
- The number of births seems to be picking up in 2021 and seems to be offsetting last year's lower number of births. In 2019, the number of births was 63,721, this decreased slightly to 62,798 in 2020 (-1.4%) before recovering again in 2021 to 65,747 (+3.2%).
- The number of deaths in 2021 is lower than in 2020, but still higher than in 2019. The number of deaths rose from 62,420 in 2019 to 70,919 in 2020 (+13.6%) and to 64,508 in 2020 (+3.3%).
- The slightly higher number of births in 2021 seems to compensate for the higher number of deaths in 2021, so that in Flanders the natural balance of 2021 is almost the same as that of 2019.
- The international migration balance in the Flemish Region in 2021 is +30,166. This balance is significantly higher than in 2020 (+20,098) and also slightly higher than in 2019 (+28,511).
- Compared to 2019 with 80,423 international immigrations, this number of immigrations drops sharply in 2020 to 66,899 (-16.8%) and to 77,764 (-3.3%) in 2021.
- The number of international emigrations also decreased sharply from 51,912 in 2019 to 46,801 in 2020 (-9.8%) and to 47,598 in 2021 (-8.3%).
- In the Flemish Region, international immigration seems to recover faster than international emigration.
- The Flemish Region has the largest positive internal migration balance of all regions (+15,262). This means that more people from Wallonia and Brussels move to Flanders than there are Flemish people who move to the other two regions.
The Walloon Region
After a slower population growth of 0.08% in 2020, the population growth in 2021 in the Walloon Region increases to 0.39%. This population growth is slightly higher than before the COVID-19 pandemic, when it hovered around 0.32%. As in the Flemish Region, the explanation is an increased international migration balance. But again, this is not the result of a larger absolute number of immigrations, but of the faster recovery of international immigration in comparison with international emigration.
- In the Walloon Region, the natural balance has been negative since 2015 and 2021 will not change this either (-2,457). Although this is less negative than in 2020 (-9,853), it is more negative than in 2019 (-881).
- The number of births seems to be recovering in 2021 and is approximately at the level of 2019. In 2019, the number of births was 36,528, this decreased to 35,094 in 2020 (-3.9%) before recovering again in 2021 to 36,477 (-0.1%).
- The number of deaths decreased in 2021 compared to 2020, but remains higher than in 2019. The number of deaths rose from 37,409 in 2019 to 44,947 in 2020 (+20.2%) and 38,934 in 2021 (+4.1%).
- The decrease in the natural balance seems mainly due to the number of deaths, which is still slightly higher than before the COVID-19 pandemic.
- The international migration balance in the Walloon Region in 2021 was +10,987. This is clearly higher than in 2020 (+8,023) and 2019 (+8,721).
- Compared to 2019, the number of international immigrations decreased in 2020, but recovered almost completely in 2021. International immigration decreased from 39,851 in 2019 to 34,522 in 2020 (-13.4%) and increased to 39,356 in 2021 (-1.2%).
- In 2021 and 2020, the number of international emigrations was lower than in 2019. In 2019, the number of international emigrations was 31,130, which decreased to 26,499 in 2020 (-14.9%) and 28,369 in 2021 (-8.9%).
- International immigration also seems to be recovering faster in Wallonia than international emigration, resulting in a higher international migration balance.
- As in the Flemish Region, we also see a positive internal migration balance in the Walloon Region (+5,789).
The Brussels-Capital Region
After a slower population growth of 0.14% in 2020, it partially recovered to 0.22% in 2021 in the Brussels-Capital Region. However, unlike the other regions, this population growth remains rather low compared to before the COVID-19 pandemic.
- The natural balance remains positive in the Brussels-Capital Region in 2021 (+6,841). It is more positive than in 2020 (+4,863), but less than in 2019 (+7,938).
- Unlike the other regions, the number of births in Brussels does not seem to be recovering. In 2019, there were 16,854 births, that number fell to 15,847 in 2020 (-6.0%) and 15,690 in 2021 (-6.9%).
- The number of deaths decreased in 2021 compared to 2020 and is at the same level as in 2019. The number of deaths rose from 8,916 in 2019 to 10,984 in 2020 (+23.2%) and 8,849 in 2021 (-0.8%).
- The decrease in the natural balance compared to before the COVID-19 pandemic thus seems to be mainly due to the decrease in the number of births.
- The international migration balance in the Brussels-Capital Region in 2021 is +16,965. This is higher than in 2020 (+13,635), but lower than in 2019 (+17,799).
- o Compared to 2019, the number of international immigrations decreased in 2020 and partially recovered in 2021. International immigration decreased from 54,317 in 2019 to 42,748 in 2020 (-21.3%) and is recovering to 48,414 in 2021 (-10.9%).
- In 2021 and 2020, the number of international emigrations was lower than in 2019. In 2019, the number of international emigrations was 36,518, which decreased to 29,113 in 2020 (-20.3%) and 31,449 in 2021 (-13.9%).
- When mapping the number of relocations between the regions, it has been observed for years that more people move from the Brussels-Capital Region to one of the two other regions than there are Flemish and Walloon people who decide to live in the Brussels-Capital Region. The internal migration balance is also negative in 2021 for the Brussels-Capital Region and amounted to -21,051. This is again more negative than in 2020 (-17,319).
The fastest growing province in Belgium in 2021 is Flemish Brabant with a growth of 0.98%. In the Flemish Region, the provinces of East Flanders (0.79%), Limburg (0.63%) and Antwerp (0.59%) follow at positions 2, 3 and 4 respectively. The slowest growing province in Flanders was West Flanders with a growth of 0.47%.
The province of Luxembourg is the fastest growing province in Wallonia with a growth rate of 0.84%. In the Walloon Region, Walloon Brabant follows in position 2 (0.59%) and Namur in position 3 (0.48%). The provinces of Hainaut (0.38%) and Liège (0.17%) had the lowest population growth in both Wallonia and Belgium.
Population movement during 2021 in Belgium, the regions and the provinces
|Place of residence||Population on 1st January 2021||Natural balance||Internal migration balance||International migration balance||Statistical adjustment||Total growth||Population on 1st January 2022|
|Province of Antwerp||1,875,524||2,581||-1,073||9,898||-321||11,085||1,886,609|
|Province of Limburg||880,397||-518||2,091||4,146||-165||5,554||885,951|
|Province of East Flanders||1,531,745||648||4,926||6,634||-88||12,120||1,543,865|
|Province of Flemish Brabant||1,162,084||1,026||5,786||4,745||-201||11,356||1,173,440|
|Province of West Flanders||1,203,312||-2,498||3,532||4,743||-78||5,699||1,209,011|
|Province of Walloon Brabant||407,397||168||1,827||420||-30||2,385||409,782|
|Province of Hainaut||1,345,947||-1,936||2,671||4,420||25||5,180||1,351,127|
|Province of Liège||1,109,067||-619||-490||3,003||28||1,922||1,110,989|
|Province of Luxembourg||288,722||174||643||1,607||-3||2,421||291,143|
|Province of Namur||497,073||-244||1,138||1,537||-50||2,381||499,454|
(1) The data come 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 2022 and 1 January 2021) is not 100 % in line with the balance obtained based on births, deaths and migrations. The statistical adjustment this year amounts to -971 units at Belgian level. This is an indication that the data are of high quality.
(3) Immigration consists of three movements: (1) classic international immigration, (2) change of register within (transfer from the waiting register to the aliens’ register) and (3) re-registration (following an automatic deletion).
(4) Emigration consists of three movements: (1) classic international emigration, (2) change of register ‘out’ (transfer to the waiting register) and (3) 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