Population: size and growth


Statbel, processed by Statistics Flanders

Eurostat – Population and social conditions


Central cities: As part of its urban policy, the Flemish government designated 13 'central cities'. These are Aalst, Antwerp, Bruges, Genk, Ghent, Hasselt, Kortrijk, Leuven, Mechelen, Ostend, Roeselare, Sint-Niklaas and Turnhout.

Legally resident population: The data source Statbel reports on the 'legally resident population', which is based on the National Register of Natural Persons. By default, it shows the situation on 1st of January of the calendar year and is based on the entries in the population register (Belgians and foreigners who are authorised to reside in Belgium) and the foreign nationals register (foreigners who are allowed or authorised to stay in Belgium for more than 3 months for a fixed or indefinite period of time). Certain categories of foreigners (e.g. diplomatic and consular staff) are exempt from registration in the population registers. In some cases they may be registered at their own request. They are only included in the population figures in this case.

Foreigner: 'all persons who do not provide proof of Belgian nationality' (Law of 15 December 1980 on access to the territory, residence, establishment and expulsion of foreigners, Article 1). This includes persons with a foreign nationality (not combined with Belgian nationality) and stateless persons. Depending on their residence status (permanent/long-term versus limited duration), they are registered in the ordinary population register or in the foreign nationals register of the National Register of Natural Persons.

The National Register also includes the waiting register for asylum seekers in which asylum seekers are registered by the Immigration Department (DVZ), as well as a waiting register for EU citizens pending a housing inspection (after which they are registered in the foreign nationals register and counted in the population figures). Since 1995, persons registered in the waiting register for asylum seekers are no longer included in the population figures of Statbel. Asylum seekers are only included in the population statistics of Statbel once they are transferred from the waiting register for asylum seekers to the regular population register after recognition as a refugee, after granting a subsidiary protection status or after obtaining a residence permit for another reason.

Usually resident population: The Eurostat data source reports on the 'usually resident population', i.e. the population usually residing in the declared territory (country/region/municipality). The 'usual residence' in particular refers to the place where a person normally lives, regardless of temporary absences for reasons of recreation, leave, visits to friends or acquaintances, working conditions, medical care or religious pilgrimages. Only the following residents are considered usual residents: 1) persons who have been living in the place of residence for more than 12 months before the reference period (1st of January of the indicated year), and 2) persons who have arrived within the last 12 months before the reference period with the intention of staying there for more than one year (see Regulation (EC) No. 862/2007 of the European Parliament and the Council on community statistics on migration and international protection).

The European provision stresses that asylum seekers are also included, at least if they can prove a long-term stay or registration in the receiving country (>12 months) or at least have the intention to stay for a long period. In practice, the EU Member States use various methods to comply – more or less - with the European provisions on the 'usually resident population' and 'international migrations'.

From 2011 onwards, Belgium as a member state reports to Eurostat on the 'usually resident population' according to the European definition. The Belgian usually resident population has slightly more members than the 'legally resident population' (about 30,000 extra for Belgium and 10,000 extra for the Flanders Region).

Population density: average number of inhabitants per area unit (by default per km²). The Belgian statistics from Statbel take into account the total area of the indicated geographical unit (precise delineation being changed from 2018 onwards according to new calculation methods) . However, Eurostat recommends that only the land mass should be taken into account: “For calculation of population density, the land area concept (excluding inland water bodies like lakes or rivers) should be used wherever available. In several countries the total area, including area of lakes and rivers, is used because it is the only concept for which data are available.” (see Eurostat website).

Remarks on quality

European statistics lack the quality of a closed logical system that is characteristic of Belgian population statistics. The latter, however, show a blind spot for the non-legal resident population (asylum seekers, so-called “people without papers”, transit migrants, etc.).

The intentional component in the definition of the 'usually resident population' in  European Regulation (EC) no. 862/2007 means that sometimes only approximations can be provided for many Member States, see the Eurostat website: ‘Member States may estimate the total usually resident population referred to in paragraph 1 from the legally resident or registered population using scientifically-based, well-documented, and publicly available statistical estimation methods.’


National Register: website

Statbel: Population

Eurostat: Eurostat: Population and social conditions


Ask your question

To the statistics