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> home > 2 - Economic structures > 2.1. Residential population, working population and employment > 2.1.1. Population

2.1.1. Population

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Sustained demographic growth

Whereas the number of inhabitants in the Grand Duchy was less than 340 000 in the 1970 population census, the 450 000 mark will be exceeded during the first half of the present decade. So in 30 years, the residential population has grown by some 100 000. A comparison with neighbouring and nearby countries shows that this demographic growth is rather unusual, and that during the nineties in particular Luxembourg stood out from the rest. The increase of 30 % was distinctly higher than that recorded in Belgium, the FRG (before reunification) or Austria. In France and Switzerland, the increase was only half as much and, among all the countries considered, only the Netherlands comes anywhere close.

Demographic growth in selected countries (1970 = 100.0)
Year
Luxembourg Belgium France Germany Netherlands Switzerland Austria
1970
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
1980
107.4
102.0
106.3
100.4
108.7
102.2
101.2
1990
112.1
103.0
112.0
102.4
114.9
108.2
103.1
2000
130.4
106.2
116.8
109.4
123.4
116.8
108.9
Source: EUROSTAT

The salient feature of demographic growth in Luxembourg is the dominant role played by immigration. Nationals themselves saw their numbers stagnating, and without naturalisations and “options” they would even have fallen. Between 1970 and 2001, the records show 114 877 native deaths against 90 995 births, leaving a natural negative balance of 23 882. This deficit was more than offset by foreign residents taking up Luxembourg nationality. However, it should be noted that this “integration” trend remained modest, considering the big increase in the stock of foreign population eligible to acquire Luxembourg nationality.

Going back to the 1950s,we find that the curve showing rates of increase in the population closely follows the one showing the net rate of immigration. Luxembourg’s demographic development is influenced by migratory movements that are much larger than natural movements (births and deaths).Whereas the excess of births over deaths rarely exceeds a rate of 4 ‰, migratory balances have peaks as high as 14 ‰. The particularly dynamic growth over the past decade, following the much more modest growth of the 1980s, results mainly from a big increase in annual migratory balances.

Zoom Rate of population increase: total, natural, net immigration (in o/oo)

Luxembourg’s migratory balance stood at an annual average of more than 10 ‰ during the 1990- 2000 decade, whereas in the 15 EU countries, the corresponding figure was about 2.3 ‰.

Zoom Annual average migratory balance 1990-2000 per 1000 inhabitants

The contribution of foreigners to the rise in population isn’t limited just to annual migratory flows. Natural, mainly positive balances contribute as well. Owing to their particularly young age profile, there are relatively few deaths and the number of births is continually rising. In 2001, it rose above that of natives for the first time.

Zoom Number of birth and excess of birth over deaths

All these developments have led to a continual rise in the proportion of foreigners in the residential population, which rose from 18.4 % in 1970 to 37.5 % in 2002. No such percentage has been reached in any other European country.Among the countries with a large proportion of foreigners, we should cite Liechtenstein (34 %) and Switzerland (20 %). In practically all the other countries, the proportion of foreigners remains below 10 %.

Zoom Residential population (nationals and foreigners)

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Marriage, divorce and fertility rates: changing behaviour

As in other European countries, the number of marriages, divorces and births is affected by changes in demographic behaviour.The spread of non-marital unions and the increasingly strong propensity to live alone, are contributing to the fall in marriages between single people, as shown by the change in first marriage indicators. If the proportion of single people entering a first marriage observed over the past few years is maintained in the future, then 50 % of them would never marry. Another indication of this relative disaffection with marriage is the percentage of births outside marriage. It was about 4 % around 1970, and now stands at more than 20 %.

This decrease in marriage is coupled with an increase in divorce. The behaviour observed over the past few years seems to suggest that half the married couples will eventually get divorced.

During the 1970s, the clear reduction in fertility among women of Luxembourg nationality caused a certain amount of concern.The fall in the conjunctural fertility indicator (average number of children per woman calculated, for a given year, from the levels of fertility by age of all generations of childbearing age) seemed spectacular. It fell from 2.36 around 1960 to 1.38 around 1985.Of course,if you refer to the number of children brought into the world by women born in the same year and not to this fictitious generation as a base for calculating the conjunctural indicator, the reduction in fertility is much less pronounced, while remaining very real. Seen, as unusual, in European terms, it soon became apparent that this was affecting a great many countries, especially Southern countries with a traditionally high level of fertility, such as Italy and Portugal. Developments in these countries did not leave their natives established in Luxembourg unaffected, as the conjunctural indicator for foreign women also fell sharply, as the related chart shows. At a certain point, the level was almost the same as for natives, but the latest figures again show a widening gap.

Zoom Conjunctural fertility indicator (natives, foreigners)

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Decline in mortality

Over a period of 30 years, life expectancy at birth (the synthetic indicator normally used to measure progress recorded on the mortality front) has increased by eight years for men and six years for women. Today, it stands at about 75 years for men and some 81 years for women. The clear decline in infant mortality has played a central role in this trend. The number of deaths of infants under one year of age per 1 000 live births has dropped through several levels. Between 1970 and 1975, it remained higher than 15 on average. Then, for nearly 10 years, it stood between 10 and 15. After 1985, it fell and remained below 10.Over the past few years, it has hovered around five, which matches the level in many European countries.

Zoom Infant mortality (deaths under one year of age per 100 live births)

This drop in mortality can also be observed at more advanced ages.Male life expectancy at 70 years old increased from 9.5 years in 1970 to 12.2 years in 2000. For women, it increased from 11.9 years to 15.5 years.

Life expectancies at different ages
Year
Men Women
  age 0 age 50 age 70 age 0 age 50 age 70
1970
67.3
22.4
9.5
74.5
27.5
11.9
1980
70.0
23.6
9.9
76.7
29.2
13.0
1990
72.6
26.4
11.9
79.1
31.5
14.9
2000
74.7
27.4
12.2
81.1
32.8
15.5
Source: STATEC

However, these improvements should be put into perspective. In its White Paper “Health for All”, published in 1994, the Ministry of Health recognised that “the comparative rates of mortality by age and gender are higher than in most EU countries”. Regarding the causes of death, the same document states that between the late 1970s and the late 1980s, “the cancer death rates are increasing while deaths from cardio-vascular disease are tending to decrease.The most spectacular deterioration is seen in the case of deaths from breast cancer (+34.6 %)”.

Fertility and infant mortality in certain European countries
Year
Luxembourg Belgium France Germany Italy Portugal Austria Switzerland
Conjunctural fertility indicator
1970
1.97
2.25
2.47
1.99
2.43
3.01
2.29
2.10
1980
1.49
1.68
1.95
1.45
1.64
2.25
1.65
1.55
1990
1.60
1.62
1.78
1.45
1.33
1.57
1.45
1.58
2000
1.79
1.66
1.89
1.36
1.23
1.52
1.34
1.50
Infant mortality (deaths under one year of age per 1000 non life)
1970
24.9
21.1
18.2
23.4
29.3
58.4
25.6
15.1
1980
11.6
12.2
10.1
12.7
14.4
24.2
14.4
9.1
1990
7.4
6.6
7.4
7.1
8.2
11.0
7.9
6.9
2000
5.1
4.9
4.8
4.6
4.6
5.5
4.8
5.0
Source: STATEC

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An ageing population?

Generally, the ageing of a population is gauged by the proportion of people over a particular age, with the choice of this demographic threshold (60, 65 or 70 years) being largely arbitrary.

A distinction is often made between the “third age”, covering people who are between 65 and 79 years old, and the “fourth age” entered at 80. People aged 65 and over have increased in number from 42 800 in 1970 to 61 000 in 2000 (+42.8 %). The level of increase for those aged 80 and over was 20.3 % (5 900 in 1970 and 13 000 in 2000).

Two factors, one relating to the base and the other to the tip of the age pyramid, can cause ageing: a drop in birth rates and an increase in longevity. So the demographic process set in motion by sparse generations succeeding full generations gradually leads to an increase in the relative weight of older people.At a certain point, the sparse generations find themselves confronted with the full generations reaching the age of retirement. A clearly increasing life expectancy at higher ages (see above) obviously helps swell the numbers involved.

Although there is an undeniable increase in the absolute number of elderly people, their relative weight in the total population is only increasing much more slowly.This is due to strong net immigration, which is almost continually feeding the younger age groups.

People aged over 65 and 80
  65 and over 80 and over
Year No. of people as % of the total population No. of people as % of the total population
1970
42 800
12.6
5 900
1.7
1980
49 600
13.6
8 200
2.3
1990
50 800
13.4
11 600
3.1
2000
61 100
14.0
13 000
3.0
Source: STATEC

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Approaching 700 000 inhabitants?

The accelerating demographic growth during the first half of the 1990s led STATEC to propose, in its population forecasts, a variant resulting in more than 700 000 inhabitants by the year 2050. Alongside increased fertility (with an average number of children per woman of 1.95 after 2020), the annual net migration of some 4 000 people, equal to that observed prior to the base year and maintained over the entire forecast period, explains this large increase.

As soon as they are based on a net immigration of around 4 000, the scenarios produced by the International Labour Office, the UN, EUROSTAT and the Central Bank of Luxembourg all arrive at a similar conclusion: in 50 years’ time, Luxembourg will have some 700 000 inhabitants. The assumption that high immigration will be maintained is only valid if you bank on high economic growth creating a big demand for labour. There’s another uncertainty surrounding the numbers of this new labour force that will come and live in the Grand Duchy. Can’t future labour demands be met by even greater reliance on cross-border workers?

Zoom STATEC 1995 population forecasts

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