Why is Western Europe so densely populated

[Europe 1:] Population density of European countries and regions

For a European overview, the table World population in mid-2001 in geographical terms, drawn up according to UN estimates. Outline referenced.

(You can look through the population density of Russia, Eastern Europe a total of and Europe a total of Don't be confused, because it also contains the large, but poorly populated area asian Part of the Russian Federation was included!)

According to the UN figures, the average population density in Western Europe is 166 inhabitants per square kilometer and fluctuates - apart from Monaco - between 96 inhabitants per km² in Austria and 390 inhabitants per km² in the Netherlands. Of course, there are also considerable regional differences within the countries.

As already mentioned, the information in the table above is based on estimates by the United Nations. In the following, however, (more up-to-date) information from national statistical offices is used, since regions below the national level are also to be compared with one another.

In particular, the high population density of Germany or German regions should be made clear, which - for example with regard to immigration or economic expansion opportunities - receives far too little attention. In these comparisons, however, we can only go into broad outline of a small selection of countries.

The most densely populated countries in Europe are the Netherlands, Belgium, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and Germany. Italy and - surprisingly - Switzerland also have a high overall average population density.

Let's start with the Netherlands and Belgium and the Benelux-Area, if you add the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg (which is economically closely linked to Belgium in particular):

 ResidentsArea (km²)E. per km²
Netherlands15.987 million41.526385
Belgium10.263 million30.528336
Luxembourg (census February 15, 2001)0.440 million2.586170
Benelux (early 2001)26.690 million74.640358

The Netherlands, which describes itself as almost the most densely populated country in the world, is discussed in more detail in Part 3. At this point, the Benelux countries taken together will be compared with part of western Germany.

Map: CIA World Factbook

A (slightly higher) population density than in the Benelux area prevails within Germany in an immediately neighboring area of ​​comparable size, which can be defined on the basis of administrative boundaries as follows:

 ResidentsArea (km²)E. per km²
North Rhine-Westphalia(NRW)18.010 million34.081528
Hesse6.068 million21.114287
Rhineland-Palatinate4.035 million19.847203
Saarland1.069 million2.570416
 together (Late 2000)29.181 million77.612376

After the city states of Berlin, Hamburg and Bremen, North Rhine-Westphalia and Saarland are the most densely populated German states. Then comes Baden-Württemberg, which is not listed in the table (10.524 million inhabitants / 35,751 km² / 294 inhabitants per km²) in front of Hesse. This is followed by Saxony (4.426 million inhabitants / 18.413 km² / 240 inhabitants per km²) before Rhineland-Palatinate. Another> table gives a general overview of all German federal states.

If you remove the comparison area from Germany (82.260 million inh. / 357.022 km² / 230 inh. Per km²), the rest of the republic still has 190 inhabitants per square kilometer, roughly like Italy, which is the most densely populated in the order of the most densely populated States of Europe succeeds Germany.

Here are the numbers for Italy with its main regions:

 ResidentsArea (km²)E. per km²
- Italia Nord-Occidentale(N.-West)
- Italia North-Orientale(N.-East)
14.769 million
10.569 million
- Italia Centrale
10.716 million
- Italia Meridionale
- Italia Insulare(Sicily and Sardinia)
13.786 million
6.466 million
Italy (census October 21, 2001)56,306 million301.333187

There are special population concentrations such as Lombardy (in the northwest): 8.922 million inhabitants / 23.863 km² / 374 inhabitants per km².

Short to Switzerlandwhich - as a predominantly alpine country with a particularly sensitive (but often threatening) nature and nonetheless "haunted" by mass tourism and Alpine transit traffic - has an overall average population density similar to that of the northern German state of Lower Saxony, the exclaves with the cities of Bremen and Bremerhaven ( together State of Bremen) added.

 ResidentsArea (km²)E. per km²
Switzerland (census December 5, 2000)7.288 million41.285177
 - from that Canton Zurich1.248 million1.729722
Lower Saxony7.926 million47.616166
Bremen0.660 million4041.633
 together (Late 2000)8.586 million48.020179

See also detailed current information from the Swiss Federal Statistical Office with overview map: Key data.

now to Great Britain and northern Ireland. With 242 inhabitants per square kilometer, the United Kingdom has a slightly higher population density than Germany, albeit a slightly lower density than West Germany. H. the old Federal Republic (without West Berlin), with whose area it is easy to compare:

 ResidentsArea (km²)E. per km²
United Kingdom (census April 29, 2001)58.789 million242.910242
West Germany (end of 2000)65.027 million248.449262

The British population is, however, strongly concentrated in England, as the next table shows, where it reaches a density similar to that of the Netherlands (see above) over an area more than three times as large.

 ResidentsArea (km²)E. per km²
Northern Ireland1.685 million13.576124
Scotland5.062 million78.13365
Wales2.903 million20.779140
England49.139 million130.422377

This is followed by the population figures for a sub-area within England, which is formed by London and the two neighboring regions and can be compared in terms of area with the Netherlands (see also detailed map: Government Office Regions, there click on map section).

 ResidentsArea (km²)E. per km²
East5.388 million19.120282
London7.172 million1.5804.539
South east8.001 million19.096419
 together (April 2001)20.561 million39.796517

The population of this area is larger than that of Australia, which - albeit under completely different climatic conditions - has almost two hundred times the area (Australia: 19.338 million inhabitants / 7,741,220 km² / hardly 3 inhabitants per km² / mid-2001 after UN estimates).

The British capital has a larger population than some European countries, almost as many as e.g. B. Switzerland with around 7.3 million (see above). In Europe, London is only surpassed by Moscow (with more than eight million inhabitants) - and Istanbul, whose urban area is partly on the other side of the Bosporus and thus already in the Middle East. Even if cities are not the actual topic here, here is a direct comparison between London and Berlin.

 ResidentsArea (km²)E. per km²
Inner London2.766 million3228.590
 - from that City of London0.007 million3 
Outer London4.406 million1.2583.502
(Greater) London (April 2001)7.172 million1.5804.539
West Berlin2.113 million4864.347
East Berlin1.270 million4063.127
Berlin (end of 2000)3.382 million8923.793

Note: As a result of a reorganization of Berlin, the old division into east and west from 1.1.2001 can no longer be easily understood (see territorial reform in Berlin). See also online databases with population statistics, among others.

The size of the Berlin population, which was even larger before World War II than it is today, is illustrated by a comparison with the republic Ireland. - In terms of area, Ireland can be compared with Bavaria, which is, however, much more populous.

 ResidentsArea (km²)E. per km²
Berlin (end of 2000)3.382 million8923.793
Ireland (April 2001)3.839 million70.27355
Bavaria (end of 2000)12.230 million70.548173

The baby-boom Ireland was characterized by great poverty for a long time and became a real emigration country. The mass emigration even led to a considerable decline in the population and made Ireland a special case among the countries of Europe. In the EU, Ireland experienced an economic upswing and the population has increased and is growing again, both through natural population growth and immigration (to a large extent, Irish people have returned from abroad). - See also Population since 1881. A census planned for 2001 was postponed by one year as part of efforts to prevent the foot-and-mouth disease that broke out in Great Britain from spreading. For the 2002 census, see Census 2002.

We find a particularly strong population concentration in France around the capital: in the Íle de France. Their extremely high population density, however, is very atypical for France, which on average is not half as densely populated as Germany and is slightly below the average for the EU. (See table with the member states of the European Union)

 ResidentsArea (km²)E. per km²
Region of France10.952 million12.011912
 - from that Paris2.125 million105approx. 20,000
rest of France47.566 million531.95489
France (census 8.3.1999)58.518 million543.965108

Note: The figures for France refer to Métropole (France métropolitaine), i. H. France without overseas territories (départements d'outre-mer = DOM). In addition, the category France de province is occasionally found for France métropolitaine without Íle-de-France, referred to in the table above as the rest of France.

A small region well above the national average is located on the border with Belgium, directly opposite south-east England on the Strait of Dover and connected to England by the Euro Tunnel: Nord - Pas-de-Calais (3.997 million inhabitants / 12,414 km² / 322 inhabitants per km²).

As I said, these figures are from the 1999 census. At the beginning of 2001, the population of France was 59.037 million.

The administrative districts of Düsseldorf and Cologne (which together form the Rhenish part of North Rhine-Westphalia) have a similarly large population as the Íle de France in a comparable area.

It must be taken into account that the administrative demarcation cuts the Ruhr area east of Oberhausen and Essen and the eastern, Westphalian part of the area is not included in the comparison, while on the other hand, the more thinly populated peripheral areas of the state are included.

 ResidentsArea (km²)E. per km²
District of Düsseldorf5.254 million5.290993
Cologne district4.282 million7.364581
North Rhine (end of 2000)9.536 million12.654754

The population of the two districts taken together is greater than the population of all of Austria.

Austria has (according to its national nature, but in contrast to Switzerland) a rather moderate population density for Western European conditions, but like France with its capital has a strong urban focus, where almost a fifth of the total population is located on barely half a percent of the national territory:

 ResidentsArea (km²)E. per km²
Vienna1.550 million4153.738
other (8) federal states6.483 million83.45678
Austria (census May 15, 2001)8.033 million83.87196

Spain as one of the larger European countries should not go unmentioned here, although the hot and largely dry country is not an example of a special population density. A densely populated sub-area, however, is the region around the capital:

 ResidentsArea (km²)E. per km²
Comunidad de Madrid5.423 million8.028676
rest of Spain35.424 million497.97271
Spain (census 11/1/2001)40.847 million506.00081

Spain has - after Ukraine and France - the third largest national territory of all countries in Europe (not counting the Russian Federation and Turkey as Eurasian countries).

Finally, a look at a small but extremely populous region that forms an interface between Europe and Asia: the administrative area of ​​the largest Turkish city with its wider surroundings: Istanbul. The area has a similar area to the very densely populated, above-mentioned German administrative district of Düsseldorf, but almost twice the population.

 ResidentsArea (km²)E. per km²
Istanbul administrative area10.019 million5.2201.919
rest of Turkey57.826 million769.59575
Turkey (census 10/22/2000)67.845 million774.81588

In order not to make the explanations too long, we will stick to these examples. Corresponding information on the EU countries not mentioned can be found at the responsible national offices: see statistical offices in the EU.

Eastern European and Scandinavian countries are not discussed here. However, under the remaining topics you will find a brief overview of the Russian Federation and information on the Nordic countries from the Norwegian Central Statistical Office.

Special websites also provide a quick overview of the inhabitants and area of ​​sub-states, provinces and other administrative sub-units.

Cross-border digital maps from the Dutch Ministry of Spatial Planning (Ministerie van Volkshuisvesting, Ruimtelijke Ordening en Milieubeheer - VROM) provide a visual impression of the above statements and tables:

(see also directory kaarten / toelichtingen = maps / explanations)

For a pan-European overview:

Thomas Ott addresses regional disparities within the European Union in: The Europe of the Regions (with cartographic representations, including the population density 1995).

Sources or calculation bases:

  • Table Germany by country

  • State Office for Data Processing and Statistics North Rhine-Westphalia (www.lds.nrw.de)
    > Statistics / Statistics Online> Data for regions in NRW>choose: District of Düsseldorf and Cologne district

  • Federal Statistical Office Germany (www.destatis.de)
    > Population> Statistical Yearbook 2002, Free Extract>choose: population (with areas of the federal states and administrative districts)

  • Statistics Austria (www.statistik.at)
    > 2001 census(Population of the federal states) and further:
    > 2001 census>choose: Download (detailed information with areas and density)

  • Statistics Switzerland, Federal Statistical Office (www.statistik.admin.ch)
    > Key data>choose: Swiss-wide key data as Canton of Zurich (ZH)

  • Statistics Switzerland, Federal Statistical Office (www.statistik.admin.ch)
    > Subject areas> 2000 Census> Key data>also choose: Zurich

  • Centraal Bureau voor de Statistiek (www.cbs.nl)
    > Cijfers> Kerncijfers> (under Mens en maatschappij :) Population>choose: Huishoudens

  • Centraal Bureau voor de Statistiek (www.cbs.nl)
    > Cijfers> StatLine databank>choose: Zoeken op provincie en landsdeel

  • Statistics Belgium (www.statbel.fgov.be)
    > Nederlands> Statistics> Population> Structuur van de bevolking

  • Statistics Belgium (www.statbel.fgov.be)
    > Nederlands> Statistieken> Grondgebied en leefsmilieu> Physical geography - algemeen

  • Statec Luxembourg (http://statec.gouvernement.lu)
    > Sitemap>choose (under Le Luxembourg en chiffres): État de la population as Données geographiques

  • Statec Luxembourg (http://statec.gouvernement.lu)
    > Sitemap> (under Statistiques by domaine :)> General assessment of the population on 02/15/2001> Results>choose: Premiers results
  • National Statistics (www.statistics.gov.uk)
    > Census 2001choose: National, regional and local authohority data

  • National Statistics (www.statistics.gov.uk)
    > (under Related websites :) Information about National Statistics> Geography> Frequently asked questions> Area measurements>choose: HERE

  • Central Statistics Office Ireland (www.cso.ie)
    > Statistics> Demography & Labor Force>choose (under Releases :) Population and Migration Estimates

  • Central Statistics Office Ireland (www.cso.ie)
    > Statistics> Principal Statistics relating to Agriculture> Area by Province

  • Institut national de la statistique et des études économiques (www.insee.fr)
    > (under La France en faits et chiffres :) En bref>choose: Téléchargez the document (with population and areas of the regions)
  • Institut national de la statistique et des études économiques (www.insee.fr)
    > (under La France en faits et chiffres :) Territoire>choose: Téléchargez une page extraite des Tableaux de l'économie française (Population of the regions)

  • Institut national de la statistique et des études économiques (www.insee.fr)
    > (under La France en faits et chiffres :) Population> Bilan dé demographices> Tableaux du bilan demographique

  • ISTAT - Istituto nazionale di statistica (www.istat.it)
    > Italia in cifre>choose: popolazione as territorio

  • ISTAT - Istituto nazionale di statistica (www.istat.it)
    > Censimento 2001> 14 ° Censimento della popolatione ...> Dati on line>choose: Prospetto 1 - Popolazione residente per sesso ... as Popolazione residente per sesso ... - Regione Lombardia

  • ISTAT - Istituto nazionale di statistica (www.istat.it)
    > Annuario statistico(Statistical yearbook 2002)

  • Instituto Nacional de Estadística (www.ine.es)
    > España en Cifras 2002>choose: Población as Territorio y Medio Ambiente

    - with a cartographic representation of the population density in the EU

  • GeoHive (www.geohive.com)
    > Country Data>choose: Turkey

  • Table The countries of the world- according to UN estimates for mid-2001