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This map shows how Europe's population changed and shifted in the first decade of the 21st century

Immigration – I know this sounds unlikely, but bear with us a moment here – is in the news rather a lot at the moment.

For one thing, there’s the Mediterranean migrant crisis, which EU leaders are meeting to discuss this week. Then there’s the non-stop thrill ride of Britain’s debate over whether or not it’s a good idea to alienate the entirety of the continent just across the English Channel; one of the main arguments put forward by the Eurosceptic and definitely not racist right-wing party UKIP is that pulling out of Europe would give us back control of our borders.


This, though, isn’t the only demographic story playing out in Europe at the moment. While Britain debates how to handle population growth, other countries are facing a crisis brought on by emigration and falling birth rates – a gradual depopulation of the sort that could utterly wreck welfare systems.

What this movement of people looks like across an entire continent can be hard to visualise. Lucky, then, that someone has done it for us.

To be specific, it’s the good people of the Bundesinstitut für Bau-, Stadt- und Raumforschung – or, if your German’s a bit rusty, the Federal Institute for Research on Building, Urban Affairs & Spatial Development.

The BBSR, as all the hepcats of Germany’s sexy young demographic forecasting community like to call it, has produced a map, showing how the population of every municipality in Europe (LAU2 units, to use the technical name) changed between 2001 and 2011.

The colours represent average annual population change. The three shades of red represent growth (light pink up to 1 per cent, darker pink 1-2 per cent; dark red 2 per cent or over); the three shades of blue represent the same figures, except with a minus sign in front of them. Yellow areas are basically stable.

Here’s the map:

The BBSR highlighted some of its findings in a statement accompanying the map. (It’s in German, and our German is pretty rusty, too, so we’re relying on internet translation tools. But you get the sense, at least.)

Especially in the countries of Eastern and Southern Europe, the population has declinded significantly… Growing and shrinking populations are sometimes right next to each other, for example in the German-Polish border regions…

Many regions in western Europe, however, show strong gains [in population] – in France, England and the Benelux countries, many areas recorded growth in population.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, one of the clearest trends shown on the map is the shift to the cities:

Cities and suburban municipalities reported rising population figures in almost all countries. In many countries, especially in eastern Europe, they are the only growth regions. In the Baltic states and in Bulgaria, growth is concentrated in the capital regions.

(Emphasis ours.)

The notes also highlight the “spiderweb” growth of London, affecting not just the city proper but axes radiating out from it. It’s a sign that London’s functional economic area extends beyond the city proper and along major commuter rail routes.

Some other trends we’ve spotted:

  • The Scandinavians seem to be moving south – though we suspect this is a function of urbanisation, rather than a response to the weather.
  • The Mediterranean coasts are getting more populated, too. Look at north eastern Spain, northern Italy, or even Turkey.

  • Germany is facing significant depopulation – a trend that’s especially pronounced in the old communist-controlled part of the country.
  • Last but not least, check out the north of Scotland. That’s the Aberdeen oil boom right there.

EDIT TO ADD: On Twitter, David Freeborn has noted another trend that we missed:

@CityMetric A beautiful trend you didn’t mention: suburbanisation in Poland as people move from old Communist-era inner cities to suburbs.

— DavidPWFreeborn (@DPWF0) June 16, 2015

He’s not wrong.

You can see the map, with official commentary, in German, here.
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