Population growth halved in 2020

© CBS / Nikki van Toorn
In 2020 – the year of coronavirus – the population of the Netherlands grew less rapidly than in previous years. Altogether an estimated 63 thousand inhabitants were added to the population; half as many as in 2019. There were mainly fewer immigrants in 2020, while at the same time more people died. The population of the Netherlands as at 31 December 2020 amounted to slightly under 17.5 million. This is evident from the latest estimates conducted by Statistics Netherlands (CBS).

The figures presented in this news release are based on the latest population forecast. The definitive figures are still subject to revision as a result of recent developments.

Population development
 2020* (x 1,000)2019 (x 1,000)2018 (x 1,000)
Population growth63.1125.4101.1
Live births168.3169.7168.5
Deaths164.1151.9153.4
Immigration210.6269.1243.7
Emigration**151.8161.0157.4
* estimate ** including administrative corrections


The first wave of the coronavirus epidemic in particular had a major effect on population growth, with more deaths than births, while growth due to to foreign migration came to a virtual standstill. Inward foreign migration picked up again following a drop in mortality and a cautious easing of restrictions. In Q4, mortality went up again; during the second epidemic wave, the year-on-year changes in immigration and emigration were considerably smaller than during the first wave.

Growth mainly due to migration

The population grew mainly on account of migration, with the balance of inward and outward migration at 59 thousand. Immigration is expected to have ended at nearly 211 thousand last year, down by more than 58 thousand on the previous year. Emigration declined less markedly, from 161 thousand to 152 thousand.

Natural population growth (births minus deaths) is expected to end at 4 thousand. During both the first and the second wave, deaths exceeded births.
Due to the slower population growth, the number of inhabitants rose to 17.47 million instead of passing the anticipated 17.5 million-mark.

Natural growth and migration
 Population growth (x 1 000)Net migration (x 1 000)Natural growth (x 1 000)
201174.529.844.3
201249.213.935.1
201349.719.130.1
201471.435.136.0
201578.455.123.4
2016102.479.223.5
201799.680.719.6
2018101.186.415.2
2019125.4108.017.8
2020*63.158.84.3
* estimate

Fewer Dutch-born emigrants

Within the group of Dutch-born migrants, emigration declined year-on-year in particular. The number of returning migrants remained virtually unchanged. Dutch-born migrants typically include more emigrants than returning migrants. The balance over the past year was positive, with fewer emigrants than returning migrants. The largest drop in emigration was recorded during the intelligent lockdown during the second quarter, but even after this, emigration remained below 2019 levels. For a short period of time after the introduction of measures against coronavirus in March 2020, a relatively high number of Dutch emigrants returned to the Netherlands. People born in the Netherlands have either a native Dutch background or a second-generation migration background.

Migration by migration background
Immigratie (x 1,000) (x 1,000)_2 (x 1,000)_3
Netherlands, second generation32.435.635.2
EU**96.2111.8100.0
Other82.0121.6108.6
Emigration***
Netherlands, second generation31.640.242.5
EU69.467.361.7
Other50.953.553.2
Net migration
Netherlands, second generation0.8-4.7-7.3
EU26.844.538.3
Other31.268.255.4
* estimate ** incl. UK *** incl. administrative corrections

Immigration from outside the EU fell most rapidly

Among the groups of migrants who were born outside the Netherlands, immigration was down in particular relatively to 2019. The number of immigrants declined upon the implementation of measures against coronavirus in mid-March. The drop was less significant among EU immigrants, and the number increased again more rapidly after lifting of the intelligent lockdown.
Emigration among this group did not change as much; during the lockdown, there were fewer non-EU emigrants but the number of emigrants from other EU countries did not decline. In 2020, the number of EU nationals emigrating from the Netherlands was higher than one year previously. Emigration was up in Q1 in particular, also among non-EU migrants.

In the group of non-EU migrants, the drop in emigration was largest among Asian nationals, followed by nationals from the Americas and Oceania. Within the Asian emigrant group, there was relatively less decline among the group from the Middle East, which includes, for example, Syrian refugees. Following the temporary suspension of asylum procedures on account of measures against coronavirus, increasing numbers of asylum seekers were registered again as of the summer.

Related items