Search form

menu menu
  • Daily & Weekly newsletters
  • Buy & download The Bulletin
  • Comment on our articles

Belgian population: births to rise in Flanders, decline in Brussels and Wallonia

08:13 15/02/2024

The population in Flanders is predicted to grow by 17% between 2023 and 2070, while Brussels and Wallonia will likely see much lower growth rates of 4% and 2% respectively, according to the latest data from Belgian statistics agency Statbel.

“Some 110,400 births were recorded in Belgium in 2023, which is 5,200 fewer than the average for the period 2019-2022, or a 4.5% decrease,” Statbel said in its assessment.

“Regional differences are significant: the figures show a decrease in the Flemish region (-2.3%) and the Walloon region (-5%) and a substantial drop in the Brussels region (-12%) compared to the period 2019-2022.”

Those numbers point to a trend, according to Statbel, with Belgium predicted to have a population of 12.9 million by 2070 – a figure that has increased from the previous prediction of 11.7 million.

One factor influencing the predictions is migration: the Federal Planning Bureau (FPB) expects the migration balance - the difference between immigration and emigration - to be the main driver of population growth.

From 2040 onwards, population growth could even be driven solely by migration, which is expected to stabilise at some 160,000 immigrants a year in the coming years.

Immigration from non-EU countries will increase, while immigration from the last new EU member states will decrease.

The FPB said regional differences will only widen as the years go on, adding that Brussels in particular is losing inhabitants to Flanders.

The population of the Brussels region is expected to increase by an average of 500 inhabitants per year until 2040, after which it will lose an average of 1,900 inhabitants per year.

Those inhabitants will move to Flanders and to Wallonia and international migration will no longer be able to compensate for the losses, nor will the natural balance - the difference between births and deaths.

The population of the Brussels region is therefore expected to be 1.195 million in 2070, compared with 1.240 million in 2023.

“The Belgian population will certainly continue to grow, but at a slower rate than that observed over the last 50 years,” FPB summarised.

“The Belgian population is ageing more and more: while in 2023 there will be 3.6 people aged 18 to 66 for every person aged 67 and over, this ratio will be 2.4 in 2070.”

As a result of that trend, the size of households is set to fall from an average of 2.3 people in 2023 to 2.1 in 2070, with the number of senior citizens living in one-person households expected to increase.

At the same time, the average number of children born per woman has been falling for more than 10 years. The FPB even revised downwards the assumption used since 2020 in its demographic projections.

Experts now assume an average of 1.6 children per woman in 2070, lower than that observed at the end of the 2000s (1.9 children per woman), but higher than that currently observed (1.52).

One reason for the decline in births is that families put off having children during times of crisis. Despite better economic indicators just before the Covid-19 pandemic, fertility has not gone back up since the pandemic.

Other factors cited include difficulties in combining work and family life, increased uncertainty and insecurity at individual and global level, instability in relationships and careers, and the cost of housing.

Some couples also simply want fewer children than in the past.

Written by Helen Lyons