Several extra observations have been included in the population forecast update, namely the figures from January 2019 to May 2020 inclusive. These extra observations mainly have an impact on the starting values of immigration and emigration in 2020.
The coronavirus pandemic has played a role in migration figures as of March 2020. On Bonaire, the pandemic appears to have restricted both immigration and emigration, although the effect on emigration has been larger. On St Eustatius and Saba, the pandemic appears to only affect emigration. In the new forecast, immigration into St Eustatius and Saba is lower in 2020 than previously forecast; however, this is related to a decline that set in already several months before the pandemic.
It is assumed that the pandemic’s restrictive effect on the migration of persons born in the former Netherlands Antilles and Aruba as well as the European Netherlands will have halved by 2022 and will have disappeared by 2025. For people born elsewhere, it is assumed that the effect will have halved by 2023 and will have disappeared by 2026. The duration of the pandemic is highly uncertain. In an optimistic scenario, by 2021 a vaccine or effective treatment will be widely available, but the virus may also linger for a longer time. Just as in the forecast from 2019, the basic assumption is that net migration stands at zero as of 2050, which means equal numbers of immigrants and emigrants.
Until May 2020 inclusive, the pandemic did not result in elevated mortality in the Caribbean Netherlands. It is assumed that mortality is somewhat elevated starting from the latter half of 2020 and until 2024. The fact that mortality is mainly elevated among the elderly population, and the Caribbean Netherlands’ population is relatively young, means that the impact is relatively small, with a few excess deaths each year. A roughly similar impact is achieved by adjusting the age pattern in mortality rates, now based on the 2019 Key Forecast for the European Netherlands instead of the 2018 version.
Naturally, the pandemic’s effect on birth rates is not visible yet. This is why no assumptions have been made in this forecast.
Between 1 January 2011 and 1 January 2020, the population of the Caribbean Netherlands rose from 21 thousand to 26 thousand. This represents over 2 percent population growth per year. Until 2024 inclusive, the forecast also projects an annual population growth rate of around 2 percent, followed by gradual decline. The growth is projected to last until 2046. By that time, the Caribbean Netherlands will have nearly 35 thousand inhabitants.
Since 2011, Bonaire has seen the strongest population growth of the three islands. The forecast projects the strongest growth to take place in Bonaire as well, from 21 thousand in 2020 to 28.5 thousand around 2045. St Eustatius is projected to grow from 3.1 thousand to 3.9 thousand inhabitants. Saba is projected to grow from 1.9 thousand to 2.4 thousand inhabitants.
The revised assumptions result in over 4 percent (1,400) more inhabitants by 2050 compared to the previous forecast for the Caribbean Netherlands. The growth rate is 5 percent for Bonaire (1,250 persons) and St Eustatius (200 persons), while Saba’s population will remain more or less stable until 2050 according to both forecasts.
Just as in the previous forecast, the largest contribution to population growth will be migration, so according to the new forecast as well, the number of residents born outside the Caribbean Netherlands will increase in particular. In recent years, the share of residents born in the European Netherlands has gone up: from 9 percent in 2011 to 13 percent in 2020. According to the forecast, this share will continue to rise to 16 percent in 2041. The previous forecast resulted in similar percentage shares.