These Fourteen European Countries are Disappearing

(sorted by population growth rate):

Pop Growth Rate 2018

[Note: Fertility Rate is the ratio of ‘total children born’ to ‘all women’ in a given population. In order for a given population to stay constant (not counting net migration) the ratio needs to be between 2.0 and 2.1.]

What can we surmise from viewing and correlating these figures with what we see happening in the world today?

No. 1: Germany needs to increase the number of its permanent immigrants in order to maintain or grow its population, despite that it already has a relatively high net migration rate: 1.5 net new migrants per 1000 population. But, politically, there is currently a movement away from increased immigration which has created a problem for the current leadership of the country. Note that Germany records the highest median age and the largest percent of the population over 64, in the list above.

No. 2: Greece’s high net migration rate (2.3 per 1000) is barely adequate to keep its population stable. But the ability of Greece to accommodate large numbers of new residents and citizens is problematical, given its current economic distress. What is not known at this point, is the long-term effects of the tens of thousands of refugees who have recently arrived in Greece. 

screenhunter_453-oct-16-09-36No. 3: The three, small Baltic Sea countries of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania are seriously losing population (-0.6% to  -1.1% annually). Further, their fertility rates are low (1.5-1.6), and immigration from elsewhere is not occurring. What can be the future of these countries if they continue to fade away? [Note: they all share a border with Russia.] Despite different cultures and ethnicities in these three countries, their age measures are almost identical. In that they were dominated and occupied by the Soviet Union, I wonder if there is a uniting thread resultant from this. There are no separate measures available for the entity named ‘Kaliningrad’, a Russian exclave between Poland and Lithuania on the Baltic Sea, around one-third the size of the neighboring Baltic States. According to the 2010 Census, its population was 431,902

No. 4: The neighbor countries of Bulgaria and Romania, like the Three Baltic states, are losing population and are not gaining immigrants. Their current populations are much larger than the Baltics so it will take longer for them to “disappear.” In that they border the Black Sea, Russians flock to these countries during the tourist season and have bought many properties along the coast. Russians are a palpable presence in these two countries, which unofficially affects national politics. Their net migration rates are only slightly negative, but their fertility rates are very low, below 1.5.


No. 5: Four of the six former provinces of united Yugoslavia, which have reverted to their former independent states, are losing population: Croatia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Bosnia & Herzegovina. Slovenia is growing slightly at 0.3%.  Macedonia (not in the above chart), is also slowly growing, despite negative net migration and low fertility rate. (I suspect the data provided by Macedonia to the CIA are not accurate).

Of the six countries of the former Yugoslavia, only Slovenia has a positive net migration rate.  The bottom line: the former Yugoslavia is slowly fading away, as are Bulgaria and Romania, above. [Note: The present-day state of Kosovo was, until recently, a province of Serbia. We have no data for Kosovo, other than population: 1,907,592]. The populations of the other five are slightly younger than others on this list, but they are not reproducing. Their fertility rates are at or near the bottom of the list.

No. 6: The remaining two states in the above chart are Hungary and Poland. Both are currently aligned politically to resist immigration from non-European countries. But, unless they reverse this position, they will fade along with the others mentioned here. Hungary’s fertility rate is 1.45 and Poland’s is even lower at 1.36.

Of Note: Germany, Greece, and Portugal all have net positive immigration rates, yet they still are losing population. They all have extremely low fertility rates, around 1.4 births per woman. (Reminder: a country needs between 2.0 and 2.1 births per woman for the population to stay constant, assuming no migration in or out of the country).  

On the other hand: These 14 countries in Europe are currently growing at an annual rate between 0.5% and 1.9% (sorted by population growth rate):

Pop Growth Rate 2018 up

Why are these countries not fading away like the others?

The quick answer is immigration. The net migration rates for all are relatively high, ranging from 2.1 in Denmark to 15.5 in Luxembourg. The highest fertility rates are in Iceland and Ireland; the lowest are in Cyprus, Malta, and Spain. In the latter three, if their current fertility rates and immigration rates continue, the indigenous Cypriots, Maltese, and Spaniards will be in the minority within a lifetime. Is this a problem? I guess it depends on the person viewing the situation. Such things have happened many times in the past, peacefully and otherwise.

Not Reproducing

Only one European country in the forty studied here has a positive fertility rate: France, at 2.06 births per woman.  

Pop Growth Rate 2018 France

rvxnf4bujdek3kcm2dwdq6jy France has had waves of immigration from North Africa in the past and, more recently, from the Near East whose birth rates are higher than the indigenous population. These people, in my intuition, are responsible for France’s higher fertility rate. Nonetheless, France’s annual population growth rate of 0.37% is not remarkable or significantly different from other European countries. The non-immigrant residents are reproducing at a much lower rate than the immigrant population. The accompanying chart was for the year 2004, and the ensuing fourteen years have seen a significant rise in the immigrants from ‘Asia.’

Why are European countries Not Reproducing?

The answer is given by Col. Robert de Marcellus (Ret.) in an article “Falling Fertility: The World at the Tipping Point,” in the online magazine of the Population Research Institute:

  • The great increase in the number of wives who must work in the paid economy to help support the family due to the loss of the “family wage” concept
  • The increasing cost of raising children
  • High taxation that reduces family disposable income
  • Educational debt
  • Lifestyle changes that increasingly cause luxuries to be considered necessities
  • More years spent by young people in higher education. delaying family formation
  • Older average marriage ages, which greatly reduce wives’ childbearing years
  • Less family support as young couples move far away from other family members

Please read the entire article for a lucid discussion of these and other factors.

My Final Intuitive Statements

Depressed spirits tend not to reproduce. Where is Europe’s ‘spirit’? 

We can point to European Culture, starting from its putative origins in Ancient Greece and Rome, then The Renaissance, then The Enlightenment, and so on—Art, Music, Literature, Philosophy, Science… and the relationship of the Church to any of these. But it all seems more and more like a museum.

The European ‘Union’ is reeling, nationalism on the rise, tribalism is more evident.

Popular arts are declining, public figures ever more powerless and ridiculous.


Perhaps the above is providing something necessary for rebirth?

“Without mud, there can be no lotus,” Thich Nhat Hanh, a renown Buddhist teacher.

For comparison, here are other country statistics:

Pop Growth Rate 2018

The data are taken from the current listings, by country, in the CIA World Factbook.

The data for all European countries can be seen here: European Statistics 2018.

I analyzed all countries in Europe (41), not just those in the European Union (28). NB: Greenland is part of Denmark, but its numbers are not included in Denmark’s.

I excluded Russia and Turkey, even though some parts of these nation-states are in what is geographically determined as Europe,

I excluded five other “European” countries because they are dominated politically and/or economically either by Russia or Turkey: Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine.

About Ron Pavellas

Expatriate American living in Sweden with wife. Retired from employment in the USA. Currently focused on blog articles, memoirs, and creative writing.
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15 Responses to These Fourteen European Countries are Disappearing

  1. Pingback: Russia is not the Soviet Union—what are ‘we’ afraid of? | The Pavellas Perspective

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  3. Brian Joseph says:

    Fascinating information. I have a vague idea that these population drops will eventually stabilize. I also have a vague idea that other parts of the world will begin to experience these issues. Though I know that population growth in some parts of the world is still high, I think the general trend is slowly. I am also thinking about the 1970s era doom and gloom predictions of wild, exponential population growth completely overwhelming the planet.


  4. I’m not sure of the significance of temporary population changes. Throughout European history, there have been multiple periods of shift in population for reasons of governmental collapse, economic crashes, poverty, war, disease, emigration, etc. Populations drop for a time and then go back up again.

    You write that, “The European ‘Union’ is reeling, nationalism on the rise, tribalism is more evident. Popular arts are declining, public figures ever more powerless and ridiculous.” Periods of dismay, of public feelings of decay and decadence, sometimes moral panic, none of that is new. It’s happened many times before. In the US, the fear of decline is a regular motif that reappears every few generations, often combined with influx of immigrants that are perceived as swamping and threatening the native population. I’d recommend reading Rebirth of a Nation by Jackson Lears and American Nervousness, 1903 by Tom Lutz.

    But there might be some things that stand out in the present. For example, in the United States, average sperm count has been severely dropping in recent generations. So, even when Americans are trying to get pregnant, they are having greater difficulty. This has to do with severe changes in diets, toxins, hormone mimics, and such.

    We are in the middle of a health crisis. In Western countries and increasingly in the rest of the world, there are skyrocketing rates of chronic diseases: metabolic syndrome (obesity, heart attacks, strokes, and diabetes), autoimmune disorders (multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s, etc), and mood disorders (depression, anxiety, etc). All of these are particularly being effected by diet that is causing malnourishment, leaky gut and leaky brain, inflammation, weakened or overactive immune system, and on and on.

    Take depression. Rates are rising. And that could contribute to decreasing sexual reproductivity for numerous reasons. The simplest is that depressed people are less motivated and have less sexual desire. Brain inflammation is common among depressives (probably because of leaky brain where things that shouldn’t be there get past the blood-brain barrier) and depression is common as an indicator of other health problems.

    These are issues that people in past centuries didn’t face, at least not like this. But it has been going on for a while. Think about this. When World War II rolled around, 40% of US draftees were too malnourished to serve in the military. It was the first generation to have been fully raised on an industrialized diet and it had become a public health crisis. Even though the government decided to add vitamins to enrich foods, in many ways the health problems have become far worse.

    This is at a time when economic inequality is rising and public trust is on the decline. Most Americans a half century ago trusted the government, media, corporations, and the healthcare system. According to recent polls, that is no longer the case. Similar trends are seen in Europe as well.


    • Ron Pavellas says:

      Thanks very much, Benjamin, for such a thoughtful and thorough reply. One ‘thing’ is quite different from the past: 7.3 billion people. Not addressed by either of us is the role a supreme, suprahuman power; that is, the belief in, or the lack of it, as a possible factor in the hubris displayed by leaders in politics, commerce, and other realms, including the academy.


      • Many different factors and effects can’t easily be separated, assuming they can be separated at all. There is population size, what some might consider over-population. Shrinking or not, European populations are larger now than they’ve ever been in history.

        Religion is another complication and not always as straightforward as it seems. In The Churching of America, Roger Finke and Rodney Stark make it clear how non-religious were early Americans, rarely attending church and with high rates of pregnancy before marriage. Furthermore, those early Americans might disagree with you about the hubris of the powerful. That wasn’t exactly an era of a humble ruling class. Early Americans were so fed up with elite hubris that they revolted numerous times during the colonial era and eventually started a revolution.

        But that isn’t to say that nothing has changed beyond such things as population, diet, etc. There have been profound cultural changes as well. I’ve often written about them. It was cultural changes such as individualism that was a precursor to the early modern revolutionary era. And class war played a pivotal role not only in the American Revolution, French Revolution, and Haitian Revolution but also in the earlier English Civil War where the first signs of socialism and anarchism appeared as part of the religious dissent that ended up shaping America to such a great degree.

        And about population crises as national identity crises, one of the greatest historical events of all time was what happened in Ireland. It wasn’t an accidental famine, as there was plenty of food to feed the entire population, but English aristocrats and capitalists decided to steal the food supply and sell it in other countries. This caused most of the Irish population to either die or flee. The majority of Irish emigrants ended up in the United States which is why there is today more people of Irish descent in the US than in Ireland. Yet Ireland survived and eventually regained its sovereignty.

        What is different now is that so many massive shifts have been building up over centuries. We are maybe finally hitting yet another breaking point. This time it might be much worse than what was seen before.

        It’s easy to forget that the national identities we speak of today were mostly invented a few centuries ago. In the US, most Americans identified more with their regions than with any national identity, that only changing with the nationalist propaganda of the world war era. That was true of Europe as well. Interestingly, I have an ancestor who came to the US as a child in the early 1800s. Various census records identity his place of birth variously as Germany, France, and Alsace-Lorraine — that is to say he lived in a border region, the same border region where Yiddish developed. Borders were shifting so often and national identities were still so irrelevant to most people of the time.

        It’s hard to know what it all adds up to. But some good books have been written in explaining the changes over time. Another one I’d recommend is Barbara Ehrenreich’s Dancing in the Streets, since she paints a picture of how different was feudalism. Some of the American founders such as Thomas Paine experienced the last traces of feudalism back in England and so they understood what was being lost; the reason the idea of the commons so strongly informed Paine’s writings. By the way, Paine (like many others of the time) saw hubris in organized religion itself which is why he advocated deism. Loss of faith in the institutions of faith was destabilizing the world centuries ago, an unintended side effect of the Protestant Reformation.


      • I would emphasize that populations as collective identities are fluid and shifting. I gave the example of my own ancestor. And my ancestors are typical in this regard.

        If you look at the long history of Europe, it’s not only that ethnic and national identities changed immensely. The very populations themselves changed as wars, diseases, famines, etc caused populations to move. The original Europeans no longer exist. The oldest remaining population in Europe came from a later wave. The only remnants of that second European population are the Basque. They were mostly overrun by further immigrants and then invaders from the Steppes. What we think of Scandinavians, Germans, Celts, and such were never homogeneous genetic and cultural populations. Rather, they were a diversity of thousands of tribes who didn’t share a collective identity.

        The Celts were one of the first non-ethnic identities, although not-quite a nationalist identity. They were more equivalent to the ancient Greeks, in that both populations were dispersed trading communities. To be Celt or Greek had little to do with one’s ancestry. Many of the most famous Greek thinkers, playwrights, etc weren’t even ethnically Greek. An example of that with the Celts can be found with the Irish who had adopted the Celtic culture and language while being of Basque ancestry along with some other ancestries mixed in, as seen with the darker-hued Irish.

        My favorite population or rather populations is that of the United Kingdom. Over thousands of years, it’s a mix of wave after wave of immigrants and conquerors. This consists of early populations like the Picts that mostly disappeared or were absorbed into other populations. The Picts originally the descendants of the Caledonii had a Celtic-related language, similar to the Britons, and they are thought to have merged with the Gaels. After invasions, the Gaelicized Picts lost their sovereignty under Viking rule and no longer were a distinct people. Many other tribes were similarly overrun and assimilated.

        It was the invaders who came to define the cultures we know today. The English Civil War was fought along the lines of these cultural divides, the Cavaliers versus the Roundheads. The latter were a mix of populations.

        The largely Germanic East Anglians are who typically gets identified as Roundheads, a population that had left for mainland Europe for a time where they were influenced by religious dissenter groups such as the French Huguenots (French Huguenots were also found among the Scots-Irish in their borderland of northern England). The Roundheads also included the Scandinavian-descended Quakers and some Scottish as well (my own Scottish ancestry were probably Cavaliers, though, because they left when the war turned against them; and to show the links I would point out that my Scottish ancestry apparently was originally Dutch; the Scottish also had close ties to the French and many Scottish thinkers taught in French universities).

        The Cavaliers were a mix as well, although they identified with the earlier Norman invaders who had brought aristocracy and monarchy to southern England. The Normans were the German tribes that had settled in France and became Romanized. Then they began the process of Anglicization in the creation of what we now think of as English, but the linguistic influence was largely Germanic. The combined influences is why English is the only language with both concepts for freedom (Germanic) and liberty (Latin), a topic discussed by David Hackett Fischer in Albion’s Seed which is a book about how those populations among others established the regional cultures in America (also see Colin Woodard’s American Nations). There wasn’t a national English identity until it was more fully enforced on the population when the British Empire came into its fullest power after the Glorious Revolution (or rather counterrevolution).

        That suppression of conflict in England toward nationalism simply shifted the conflict to another continent. Many religious dissenters, not only Puritans and Quakers, escaped to the American colonies and so did some Cavaliers that settled in Virginia. So, they re-created the conflict of their homeland. This played out again in the divisions seen during the American Revolution and later the American Civil War, the reason it took so long for nationalism to take hold in the US. A great book on this topic is The Cousins’ Wars by Kevin Phillips.

        Anyway, my point is that the national identities we know of today were invented not that long ago. Many of the ethnic traditions were also invented. Check out The Invention of Tradition ed. by Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger; the authors discuss the myth of the Highland Scots which were largely a reactionary identity that formed as a sense of solidarity during English oppression. That kind of thing is the entire history of Europe and Britain, a constant influx and mixing of populations that form new cultures, religions, and languages. Consider European Catholicism and Protestantism which was a mixture of Roman Christianity with Pagan traditions. Did the Pagans die out as a population or simply changed? Either answer is equally meaningful or meaningless. The same is essentially true. No population or identity is static, but it may seem that way because our lifespans are so short as is public memory.

        So, what exactly are we talking about when we say a population is in decline? Everyone was an immigrant at some point, other than those tribes that never left Africa. Many European populations today are the result of fairly recent movement and mixing of populations. In the past, people were far less settled and would move as was necessary. They cared not about the later obsession with national identities and boundaries. That isn’t to say there is anything wrong with nationalism, per se. We just too easily forget how new and often superficial is nationalism, specifically ethnonationalism that papers over complicated histories and that are used for the purpose of xenophobic rhetoric.

        We might be wise to learn from our own past. Change is the norm for humanity, not to say change is ever easy or even something to be idealized, but it is the on-the-ground reality for longer than history has been written down. It just is what it is, nothing more and nothing less. The world goes on with little concern for our ideologies and identities, no matter how we cling to them.


      • Ron Pavellas says:

        Quite an essay in response. I’ll likewise respond more fully when I am back to my familiar work station 7 time zones and 2+ weeks from where I am now. Happy New Year.


      • As you probably could guess, it’s been a topic of long interest for me. Having spent my early life split between the Midwest and the South, I’ve thought a lot about regional culture.

        This focus was intensified when I started doing genealogical research some years back. As a purebred American mutt, my ancestry comes from many places.

        History fascinates me now in a way that it didn’t when I was in school. I was never good at learning factoids. And few teachers I’ve had rarely bothered to teach what continues to make history relevant to our lives.

        Respond as you wish when you have the time. Until then, enjoy the holidays.


      • Ron Pavellas says:

        The final sentence of your “essay” rings true: “The world goes on with little concern for our ideologies and identities, no matter how we cling to them.” As an individual with my own history and experience, I have my druthers and concerns about the way things are going, of course. If I take a leap ‘upward’ for an overview (and with a more limited or less focused set of facts/knowledge than yours), I see a few of the critical nodes in the history of Mankind: Alexander’s incursions in Asia, the several prophets/gods now faithfully observed, incursions of the several Asian hordes into “Europe,” various plagues and radical inventions, the presocratic enlightenment which provided the foundation for today’s sciences and philosophies… and the founding documents of the United States of America which took into account much of all the foregoing in its development of “checks and balances.” It is the latter that I treasure and see as precious. If and when these are overcome, we will slide into the abyss, I feel. Having now a fourth generation of children who follow me, it is difficult to remain calm about the apparent trends. Perhaps this is why I am ever more attracted to the Way of Zen and its poetry.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I understand your concern about the founding documents. That is one of my favorite topics. I probably have a few dozen posts on that and related stuff in early America.

        What I see going on now is, from my perspective, simply a continuation of the conflict between the mostly anti-democratic (pseudo-)Federalists and the generally more democratic Anti-Federalists (AKA actual Federalists). It’s partly because we forget that this conflict was the foundation of our country, never having been resolved, that it remains such a powerful threat to this day. And in our public amnesia, the threat gets worse. We need to remember what the American revolutionaries were fighting about, something that has largely been whitewashed from the history books, since it was the (pseudo-)Federalists having won the war of rhetoric and gained the upper hand.

        Compare the actual founding documents, the Declaration of Independence and the Articles of Confederation, with the later and second Constitution that was unconstitutional according to the first one. That clarifies what was at stake back then and what still is at stake now.

        The empire never ended. And neither did the revolution.


      • Ron Pavellas says:

        Will study this and respond later. I, too, have written on this, especially correspondence between Adams and Jefferson.


      • By the way, an earlier comment of mine above never got posted. I see it above. It still says that it is in moderation. Did it get lost in the trash or spam? If you could retrieve it, I’d appreciate it.


      • Ron Pavellas says:

        Do you see it fixed now? Sorry for the delay.

        Liked by 1 person

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