The European Union's population reached the half-a-billion mark at the beginning of 2010, with immigration pushing it up higher than the net increase would have been following the year's births and deaths, new figures from the EU's statistics agency, Eurostat, showed on Tuesday (27 July).
The EU's population as of January 2010 was estimated to be 501.1 million, compared to 499.7 million last year. The EU gained an additional 1.4 million residents, with 900,000 immigrants entering the bloc atop a 'natural increase' – the net boost after births and deaths are taken into account – of 500,000.
Overall, the population increased in nineteen member states and decreased in eight, with the largest relative increases observed in Luxembourg (up 17.2 per 1.000 inhabitants) and the largest decreases in Lithuania (down 6.2 per 1.000).
When compared to the previous year, the number of children born per 1000 people slightly fell during the 2009 while the number of deaths remained constant. Net migration fell more significantly, Eurostat said.
More than 5.3 million children were born in 2009 across the EU. Ireland was again reported as the country with the highest birth rate (16.8 per 1,000 inhabitants), followed by the UK (12.8 per 1,000) and France (12.7 per 1,000).
At the other end, Germany, although still the most populous country, still holds the record for the lowest birth rate in the EU with only 7.9 births per 1,000 inhabitants, followed by Austria (9.1) and Portugal (9.4).
The highest natural growth in population was registered in Ireland, ahead of Cyprus and France. Ten member states had a negative natural growth, with the largest declines in Bulgaria and Latvia, Hungary and Germany.
Over 60 percent of the increase in the EU population came from immigration. Luxembourg welcomed the most new inhabitants per capita (13.2 per 1,000), followed by Sweden (6.7) and Slovenia (5.8).
Ireland, once a popular immigration destination for jobseekers, has returned to its traditional pattern of being a nation of emigrants, recording the highest net outflow (down 9.0 per 1,000).