EU population approaching half a billion due to migration

A net inflow of migrants helped push the population of the European Union close to half a billion people in 2008 according to figures released this week in Brussels.

The data released by the 27-nation bloc's statistical office, Eurostat, indicated a combined population of 499.7 million people on 01 January 2008, an increase of 2.2 million over the previous year. Some 30 percent of this rise can be directly attributed to immigration.

The country registering the greatest population increase was Ireland, which saw the number of people living there rise by 120 000 to 4.52 million. This increase incorporated both the bloc's highest net migration rate and also its highest natural change rate; the difference between births and deaths.

Ireland was one of 20 member states to see a population increase, whilst the population of the remaining 7 countries decreased.

The biggest falls in both natural and net migration rates also occurred in the same country. The combined effects saw Bulgaria's population fall by 400 000 to 7.6 million, the biggest decrease in the EU.

Germany was the only one of the bloc's four largest states to suffer a decline in population as deaths continue to outnumber births in that country.