fewer births than deaths in the Netherlands for the first time since 1900

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Last year, for the first time since 1900, more people died in the Netherlands than were born. This appears from an estimate from the Central Statistics Office. Nevertheless, the population grew due to the high number of migrants who came to the Netherlands.

The birth and death rates are close to each other, 168,000 babies were born last year, while 169,000 people lost their lives.

“It is very special that you have a natural decline in the population for the first time,” says Dick ter Steege from CBS i NOS Radio 1 Journal. The statistics office has not seen that before. At least not since 1900, the year with the oldest comparable data available to Statistics Netherlands.


The figures for December were not yet in. For that month, Statistics Netherlands has based itself on an estimate in order to be able to present the population figures in January. This is how it goes every year, and the forecast for December is usually good, says Ter Steege.

The excess mortality partly consists of victims of the corona virus, but no explanation has yet been found for some of it. Even in World War II, the number of births exceeded the number of deaths.

It is not yet certain whether the contraction will continue. “We have seen that births have been falling for years, and that mortality is also increasing, but that mortality has been somewhat higher in the past three years because of corona,” says Ter Steege. “So in that sense, this dip may be temporary. If the excess mortality is over next year, the number of babies will be slightly higher than the number of people dying.”


Despite the natural decline, the population grew as a result of migration. Compared to a year earlier, growth has almost doubled. In 2021, 115,000 inhabitants were added, last year the increase was just under 227,000 inhabitants. The Netherlands now has a total of more than 17.8 million people.

Last year, a record number of migrants came to our country: 402,000. That is 150,000 more than the previous year.


In particular, the war in Ukraine has contributed to the significant increase in the number of migrants. Especially in the first months after the invasion of Russia (February 24, 2022), relatively many people came to the Netherlands.

The Ukrainian refugees spread over almost all municipalities. Renswoude (Utrecht), Gennep (Limburg) and Pekela (Groningen) received relatively the most newcomers from the country: more than 20 per thousand inhabitants.

In the five largest groups of migrants who came to the Netherlands last year, Syria, Turkey and India are in second to fourth place. A year earlier, the Poles were still the second largest group of newcomers, after Syria. But the Polish migrants now make up the fifth largest group of new arrivals in the Netherlands.

It is difficult to predict whether migrants will continue to come to the Netherlands at the same rate, according to Ter Steege. “In terms of migration, we never really know what will happen. In recent years we have seen that migration is really high. There is a lot of work in the Netherlands, you can study here, so our country has a lot of attraction We don’t know , what happens to the people from Ukraine, it depends a lot on the situation in Ukraine itself. Maybe they will return, maybe not.”


Urk gave more natural growth

Only nine of the 344 Dutch municipalities experienced a decrease in the number of inhabitants last year. Heumen municipality in Gelderland took the cake with a drop of 21.8 people per thousand inhabitants. Followed by Terschelling (-5.6 per thousand) and Uitgeest (-5.3 per thousand).

On the other side of the spectrum, Urk municipality achieved the highest growth in 2022 as a result of ‘natural increase’ (births minus deaths). There were 13 people per thousand inhabitants. In any case, population growth was fastest in Flevoland, and Almere and Zeewolde are also in the top ten fastest growing municipalities.

See in the graph below whether your municipality grew in 2022


Statistics Netherlands also expects the population to grow relatively quickly in the coming years, but after that the pace will slow. According to a forecast from the statistics office, the Netherlands will have 20 million inhabitants in 2056.

Watch this special from NOS up the 3 on population growth:

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