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April 2019 - By 2025, Brussels’ population will increase, but less than expected

Brussels Institute for Statistics and Analysis (BISA) - In the Spotlight - Changes in the population of the Brussels Capital Region between 2005 and 2025 (observed and projected)

Since the late 1990s, the population of the Brussels Region has been growing every year. Growth was particularly strong between 2007 and 2012, to the extent that there was talk of a demographic boom.

By 2025, the latest demographic projections of the Federal Planning Bureau (BfP) and Statbel predict moderate population growth in the Brussels-Capital Region. This growth is lower than that projected in the previous three years (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Changes in the population of the Brussels Capital Region between 2005 and 2025 (observed and projected)
vertical axis: population size (in million inhabitants)


Source: Statbel, Federal Planning Bureau

Modified assumptions

In the second half of 2015, many asylum-seekers from countries facing a humanitarian and political crisis in the Middle East arrived in the Region. Applicants who have been granted a residence permit are included in the population of the Brussels-Capital Region.

The 2016 BfP and Statbel population projections took into account this large influx, predicting higher annual growth for the years 2016 and 2017. The BISA 2015-2025 municipal population projections are based on these population projections.

In fact, from the beginning of 2016, the number of asylum applications has fallen sharply and returned to its pre-mid-2015 level. Thus, from a demographic point of view, what was frequently referred to as the “asylum crisis. As a result, from 2017, population projections were revised downwards. In addition, the latest projections made by BfP and Statbel in 2019 predict a further decline in net international[1] migration, which nevertheless remains positive. This further reduces the magnitude of the population growth previously projected.

Impact on the total population

As a result, the population projections for 2016 and 2019 show very different growth rates. For example, the 2016 projections predicted a population of 1.277 million inhabitants in 2025, while the 2019 projections forecast only 1.233 million inhabitants. This means that the Region is expected to have 40,000 fewer inhabitants in 2025 than previously expected. There is therefore a clear downward revision compared to the projections that made it possible to establish the municipal population projections.

Figure 2. Evolution of absolute population growth in the Brussels Capital Region, between 2005 and 2025

Bron: Statbel, Federaal Planbureau

Impact on the school population

This downward revision varies according to age. It is particularly significant for young children (3-5 years old). This means that there will only be 48,000 children of pre-school age in 2025 (2019 projections), compared to nearly 55,000 previously projected (2016 projections, used to establish the BISA school population projections), a difference of 12%. The number of primary school-age children (6-11 years) is also expected to be lower by 2025 (90,700 compared to 95,700, a 5% downturn). Finally, the number of children of secondary school age (12-17 years) in 2025 looks set to be slightly lower than previously expected (89,100 compared to 90,500).

Impact on the number of private households

This downward revision of the projected population results in a downward revision of the number of additional private households, of around 17,500 units. Therefore, in 2025, the Region will have just over 562,000 private households (compared to the nearly 580,000 expected in the 2016 projection for the same year 2025).

What is a demographic projection?

A demographic projection determines long-term population and household growth. It is based on a scenario of future trends in international migration, internal migration, fertility, mortality and different types of living arrangements. This scenario is based on current scientific knowledge and trends observed in given socio-economic and demographic contexts. Their estimated value must be put into perspective.

Why do we need demographic projections?

It is a decision-making tool in many areas and helps to structure debates on the future of our society in its various dimensions, such as the economy, mobility, housing, energy, urban planning, health, ageing, the environment, etc. However, it does not claim to provide the exact number of inhabitants or households expected in a given time horizon.


Detailed statistics for the latest BfP and Statbel population projections (2018-2070) can be found on the BISA website.


[1] Difference between the number of people who come to the Region from a foreign country and the number of people who have left the Region to settle abroad.