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September 2002, Volume 9, Number 9

EU: Population, Enlargement

The European Union's population rose by 1.6 million to 380 million in 2001, with 75 percent of the growth due to "net migration." Only in France, the Netherlands and Finland did natural increase-births minus deaths-exceed immigration. Ireland had the fastest-growing population in the EU in 2001, 58,100 to 3.9 million. Austria and Germany had the slowest population increases- 0.2 percent. Women in the EU had an average of 1.47 children, 1.25 in Spain and Italy, 1.3 in Germany, and 1.9 in France. In 2001, babies born to unmarried parents accounted for 55 percent of all births in Sweden and 40 percent in Denmark, France, Finland and Britain, but four percent in Greece and 10 percent in Italy.

In 1950, the 15 current members of the EU had a population of 296 million, compared to 152 million in the US, a difference of 144 million. Today, the difference is about 95 million, and the gap is closing, as the US population rises by about three million a year due to higher fertility and immigration. If current trends continue, the median age in Europe in 2050 will be 53, compared to 36 in the US; currently, median ages are 38 and 36.

Auguste Comte, a 19th-century French philosopher, said demography is destiny. It appears that the US and Canada are on a different demographic course than Europe, with higher fertility assuring population growth.

Enlargement. Denmark, Ireland, the Netherlands and Sweden have announced that they will allow nationals of new EU entrants to live and work in their countries from the first day that their countries are members.

Rivers overflowed in Austria, Czech Republic, Eastern Germany and Slovakia in August 2002, prompting the EU to offer aid to all four countries, including the two that are candidates to join the EU.