- Migration will continue a key role for population growth in Europe. Almost three quarters of all regions will have a larger population in 2050, if current migration flows continue
- The most relevant gains in population growth due to migration are mainly located in Eastern Europe, a challenge for territorial cohesion
- For urban regions, the impact of migration in population growth is diverse. Migration plays a positive role for population development in some urban areas, such as Bucharest or the hinterland of Prague
- However, in other urban regions, such as Paris, a negative internal migration balance is the result of migration to settlements outside urban areas
Observations for policy
In many European regions demographic growth or decline is strongly influenced by migration flows. This regards both intra-European migration and extra-European migration. Without immigration a vast majority of regions would experience considerable population decline over the next decades. Whereas most regions will be able to increase their population figures with immigration from other parts of the EU and beyond, others are likely to see their population decline because of out-migration.
At the same time, immigration can only partly compensate the impacts of ageing and low fertility. Furthermore, the causality between immigration and economic performance is not completely clear. Immigration is to be considered a short-term measure only and not capable of solving long-term demographic problems.
The European policy debate regularly addresses how demographic changes present serious challenges for (territorial) development. Demographic and migratory developments pose challenges belonging to the broad policy context in Europe. The 2012 European Ageing Report for the European Commission shows that priority should be given to the demographic challenges with a new sense of urgency in light of the financial crisis. Also, in the Territorial Agenda 2020 and the Europe 2020 Strategy demographic issues are addressed.
The overall impact of migration on population growth is considerable. Three quarters of all European regions will have a larger population in 2050, if current migration flows continue. In one quarter of the regions, the 2050 population size will be 30% higher. Migration seems to have and will continue having a significant impact on the demography and labour force development in Europe.
At the European level, the most relevant gains seem to take place in the Mediterranean arc along Southern Italy to South-Western France and some regions in South-Western Spain and Portugal, as well as in East and South-West England. On the other side, European regions that pay for these gains, and in which migration will have a negative impact on population development are mainly located in Eastern Europe, namely Romania and Poland.
Overall, the main challenges in terms of territorial balanced development are related to wealth and accessibility: affluent regions, including large agglomerations in Central and Eastern Europe, but also regions with a mild climate will gain on migration whereas less accessible and less economic successful regions might lose. The situation should therefore be considered a challenge in relation to increasing regional disparities in Europe.
Within some European countries, in particular France, Czech Republic, Poland and Bulgaria, the diversity of regions in terms of population growth due to migration is significant. This may pose particular concern related to balanced regional development inside these countries.
Some European urban regions, such as Lisbon, Rome, Madrid or Vienna might gain population due to external migration whereas internal migration plays a role for the population increase in Bucharest or Prague. However, many urban regions face a negative internal migration balance as a result of migration to settlements outside urban areas. In Paris, large internal out-migration is resulting in a negative population balance. At the same time, urban regions usually attract international migrants because of the availability of cheap housing and jobs, but also the presence of a resident migrant population.
Urban regions, especially those that encompass big cities, often attract young populations (i.e. students, young active and foreign immigrants) and expel older active ones, such as in Inner London.
The map only reflects the gains and losses caused by migration. If natural population development was to be considered, the picture would show even greater disparities between regions.
Concepts and methods
Migration impact was assessed by the mean of three reference scenarios. The Status Quo scenario simulates the state of population in 2050, if demographic regimes from 2050 continue unchanged. No Migration scenario shows regional population changes due to birth and death only whereas No Extra-Europe Migration scenario shows natural population change, including internal and international changes in regions and larger territories covered by ESPON 2013.