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

An extract from the BBSR's map of Europe's changing population.

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.

 
 
 
 

CityMetric is now City Monitor! Come see us at our new home

City Monitor is now live in beta at citymonitor.ai.

CityMetric is now City Monitor, a name that reflects both a ramping up of our ambitions as well as our membership in a network of like-minded publications from New Statesman Media Group. Our new site is now live in beta, so please visit us there going forward. Here’s what CityMetric readers should know about this exciting transition.  

Regular CityMetric readers may have already noticed a few changes around here since the spring. CityMetric’s beloved founding editor, Jonn Elledge, has moved on to some new adventures, and a new team has formed to take the site into the future. It’s led by yours truly – I’m Sommer Mathis, the editor-in-chief of City Monitor. Hello!

My background includes having served as the founding editor of CityLab, editor-in-chief of Atlas Obscura, and editor-in-chief of DCist, a local news publication in the District of Columbia. I’ve been reporting on and writing about cities in one way or another for the past 15 years. To me, there is no more important story in the world right now than how cities are changing and adapting to an increasingly challenging global landscape. The majority of the world’s population lives in cities, and if we’re ever going to be able to tackle the most pressing issues currently facing our planet – the climate emergency, rising inequality, the Covid-19 pandemic ­­­– cities are going to have to lead the way.

That’s why City Monitor is now a global publication dedicated to the future of cities everywhere – not just in the UK (nor for that matter just in the US, where I live). Our mission is to help our readers, many of whom are in leadership positions around the globe, navigate how cities are changing and discover what’s next in the world of urban policy. We’ll do that through original reporting, expert opinion and most crucially, a data-driven approach that emphasises evidence and rigorous analysis. We want to arm local decision-makers and those they work in concert with – whether that’s elected officials, bureaucratic leaders, policy advocates, neighbourhood activists, academics and researchers, entrepreneurs, or plain-old engaged citizens – with real insights and potential answers to tough problems. Subjects we cover include transportation, infrastructure, housing, urban design, public safety, the environment, the economy, and much more.

The City Monitor team is made up of some of the most experienced urban policy journalists in the world. Our managing editor is Adam Sneed, also a CityLab alum where he served as a senior associate editor. Before that he was a technology reporter at Politico. Allison Arieff is City Monitor’s senior editor. She was previously editorial director of the urban planning and policy think tank SPUR, as well as a contributing columnist for The New York Times. Staff writer Jake Blumgart most recently covered development, housing and politics for WHYY, the local public radio station in Philadelphia. And our data reporter is Alexandra Kanik, whose previous roles include data reporting for Louisville Public Media in Kentucky and PublicSource in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Our team will continue to grow in the coming weeks, and we’ll also be collaborating closely with our editorial colleagues across New Statesman Media Group. In fact, we’re launching a whole network of new publications, covering topics such as the clean energy transition, foreign direct investment, technology, banks and more. Many of these sectors will frequently overlap with our cities coverage, and a key part of our plan is make the most of the expertise that all of these newsrooms combined will bring to bear on our journalism.

Please visit citymonitor.ai going forward, where you can also sign up for our free email newsletter.


As for CityMetric, some of its archives have already been moved over to the new website, and the rest will follow not long after. If you’re looking for a favourite piece from CityMetric’s past, for a time you’ll still be able to find it here, but before long the whole archive will move over to City Monitor.

On behalf of the City Monitor team, I’m thrilled to invite you to come along for the ride at our new digs. You can follow City Monitor on LinkedIn and on Twitter. If you’re interested in learning more about the potential for a commercial partnership with City Monitor, please get in touch with our director of partnerships, Joe Maughan.

I want to thank and congratulate Jonn Elledge on a brilliant run. Everything we do from here on out will be building on the legacy of his work, and the community that he built here at CityMetric. Cheers, Jonn!

To our readers, on behalf of the City Monitor team, thank you from all of us for being such loyal CityMetric fans. We couldn’t have done any of this without you.

Sommer Mathis is editor-in-chief of City Monitor.