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Competence Centre on Foresight

We foster a strategic, future-oriented and anticipatory culture in the EU policymaking process.

Page | Last updated: 03 Jul 2020

Urbanisation in Europe

  • Europe's level of urbanisation is expected to increase to approximately 83.7% in 2050.
  • Trends in the total population of EU27 and UK from 1961 to 2018 show a decline in the share of population living in rural areas over the total population, while towns and cities experienced a smooth and constant increase.
  •  Whereas the total population of European Functional Urban Areas (FUAs) is projected to increase on average by 4% by 2050, almost half of them will actually lose population, with 10% of cities losing more than a quarter of their population between 2015 and 2050.
  • The migration of population to cities is one of the factors driving agricultural land abandonment, which is expected to reach 4.2 million ha net over the period 2015-2030, bringing the total abandoned land to 5.6 million ha by 2030, the equivalent of 3% of total agricultural land.
  • Built-up areas are likely to expand by more than 3% between 2015 and 2030, reaching 7% of the EU territory by 2030.
  • In 2015 France had the largest absolute built-up area in the EU – more than 5 million ha, 17% of the EU total, followed by Germany (4.2 million ha, 14%) and Italy (2.9 million ha, 10%). In relative terms (built-up as share of the total territory), the densely populated Malta, Belgium and the Netherlands topped the list with 35%, 22% and 21% respectively.
  • By 2030, built-up areas are expected to expand across most of the EU. Italy will see the largest absolute increase (+144 thousand ha), followed by Germany (+128 thousand ha) and Poland (+121 thousand ha). The highest relative growth, around 6%, is expected in Romania and Belgium. On the other hand, some decrease in built-up land is likely in Bulgaria and Croatia.

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