Growth mainly due to migration
Foreign migration accounts for more than four-fifths of this population growth. Although not all data over 2017 have been processed, CBS projects that approximately 82 thousand more people settled in the Netherlands than left the country. This number is similar to 2016, with immigration slightly higher (233 thousand) but emigration slightly lower (151 thousand) than in the previous year. The composition of migration flows did change, however.
Fewer Syrian, more European immigrants
Compared to 2016, fewer asylum migrants and more labour and student migrants settled in the Netherlands. During the first eleven months of 2017, 16 thousand Syrians registered as residents, nearly 10 thousand fewer than in the same period in 2016. Net migration from Ethiopia (1.2 thousand) and from Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq (altogether 2.1 thousand) was down by half compared to 2016.
On the other hand, there were more migrants from European countries, Brazil and India in 2017. On balance, more than 10 thousand migrants arrived from Romania, Bulgaria and the former Soviet Union (e.g. Estonia and Latvia) combined (3 thousand more than one year previously). Net migration from Poland remained more or less at the same level (around 9 thousand).
Low birth rate, high mortality rate
A much smaller portion of the population increase - almost one-fifth - can be attributed to natural growth (births minus deaths), which has been low for several years. Initial estimates suggest a further decrease: births are expected to have exceeded deaths by 19 thousand eventually in 2017. This was as many as 24 thousand in the previous year. In Q1 2017, there was even a short period of contraction: deaths exceeded births by 2 thousand.
The low natural growth rate is not only related to a rise in mortality, but is also due to the relatively low number of births. For 2017, even fewer births are being projected than were recorded during the previous dip in the mid-1980s. In 1983, there were slightly over 170 thousand births; at the moment, it seems this number was not reached in 2017.
Further motherhood postponement
Nowadays, young women in particular are having fewer children compared to a few years ago, as they have started to further delay motherhood again. Over a period of four years, the average age of women bearing their first child has gone up from 29.4 to 29.8 years. This age was stable for a while in the preceding years. Furthermore, the current generation of women of childbearing age is relatively small; there were more in the 1980s, for example, but that generation delayed motherhood even further, leading to an almost equally low number of births as compared to the current generation.
Population expected to grow further
CBS expects the population of the Netherlands to grow further in the coming years, both in terms of natural growth and migration. In five years from now, i.e. in January 2023, the Netherlands will have 17.5 million inhabitants according to the CBS forecast. However, this is subject to a margin of uncertainty: there is a possibility that the Dutch population will be slightly lower or higher at that time.