Growing old: European Population Pyramids

“A population pyramid, also called an age pyramid or age picture diagram, is a graphical illustration that shows the distribution of various age groups in a population (typically that of a country or region of the world), which forms the shape of a pyramid when the population is growing.” (Wikipedia)

Population Pyramids of Europe

This population pyramid shows the distribution of the 503 million men and women in the European Union (based on the EU27 countries in 2012) by different age cohorts. The shape can be described as a ‘constrictive pyramid’, which is typical of developed societies with low fertility and mortality rates and with relatively older populations. The population aged 15–65 years is 335 million, whereas nearly one fifth of the total population is over 65 years old. There are only 78 million children aged 0–15. The male:female ratio in the EU is 0.95.
When comparing the population pyramid for the whole of the EU with similar diagrams for separate countries in Europe in- and outside the European Union, it can be seen that in many states the pyramids look similar to that of the overall EU. However, the pyramids for Albania and to a lesser extent Turkey have a more ‘pyramid-like’ shape, suggesting either relatively higher outmigration rates in the recent past and/or a lower life expectancy. Fertility in these countries is not much higher than the EU average. On the other hand, Germany, the Netherlands and Andorra seem to have higher than average elderly populations. Other significant extremes show that Andorra has the highest male:female ratio, while Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia have the lowest ratios. The following overview shows, how all European countries compare in their demographic structure:

Population Pyramids of Europe
(click for larger version)

The overall trend of demographic change is that of an ageing continent. The region with the largest percentage (27%) is Liguria in Italy. The elderly of Europe are also found in greater than normal proportions in northern Germany, and also along the Mediterranean coast and in the interior of France, in northern Spain and southwest England. A lot of these regions are typically attractive for retired people and may also be characterised by low fertility rates. The following map shows the regional distribution of the shares of elderly across Europe displayed on a gridded population cartogram where each of the grid cells is resized to the total number of people living there:

Gridded Population Cartogram of Europe showing the distribution of children aged 0 to 14 years
(click for larger version)

While Europe is getting older, there are the increasingly smaller numbers of children that will have to bear the burden of the slowly ageing societies. But there are stark geographical differences in their spatial distribution, as the following map of the proportion of children in an area demonstrates:

Gridded Population Cartogram of Europe showing the distribution of children aged 0 to 14 years
(click for larger version)

This gridded population cartogram of Europe shows that the region with the lowest proportion of children as a share of its total population is Principado de Asturias in northwest Spain, where 10.8% of the population is aged 0–15. Other areas with very small percentages (all below 12%) include the German regions of Schleswig-Holstein, Saarland and Thüringen, and the Italian region of Liguria. The region with the highest proportion (40.9%) of its population aged 0–15 is Mardin in Turkey (which is also the region with the lowest percentage of working-age population). Many of the regions with high child populations are in Turkey. The top 15 regions (including Mardin) are all in Turkey, all with over 25% of their populations being children. The next largest area that is not located in Turkey is the region of Border, Midlands and Western in the Republic of Ireland, where 22.4% of the population is aged 0–15.

If you want to find out more about how useful population pyramids as a visualisation tool can be, the following TED talk provides an interesting insight. “Population statistics“, as the related introduction explains, “are like crystal balls — when examined closely, they can help predict a country’s future (and give important clues about the past). Kim Preshoff explains how using a visual tool called a population pyramid helps policymakers and social scientists make sense of the statistics, using three different countries’ pyramids as examples.

The Social Atlas of Europe
The Social Atlas of Europe
by Dimitris Ballas, Danny Dorling, Benjamin Hennig

Published by Policy Press
[Oder your copy here]

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