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News | 04 May 2022

New Atlas of Demography story on Europe’s outermost regions

A new thematic story of the Atlas of Demography looks at the demographics and unemployment levels of the EU’s outermost regions. 

The EU counts nine outermost regions: French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Mayotte, Reunion Island and Saint-Martin (France), Azores and Madeira (Portugal), and the Canary Islands (Spain).

The outermost regions are geographically very distant from the European continent, their locations extending to either side of the Atlantic and as far as South America and the Indian Ocean.  

Although they share some socio-economic and demographic characteristics, they do not form a uniform, identifiable group.  

As well as exhibiting different demographic trends between themselves, the population dynamics in the outermost regions also differ from those of their respective Member States and the EU averages.

At the opposite ends of population trajectories

The populations in most of the Spanish and Portuguese outermost regions are ageing and some of them are expected to have the highest share of older adults by 2050.  

The Atlas of Demography shows that 38% of the population in La Gomera is projected to be 65 years and over in 2050, which is much higher than the expected 30% in the EU.

At the same time, the natural population growth is above the EU average in some of the French outermost regions due to very high fertility rates.

Three of the French overseas territories record the highest fertility rates in the EU (Guyana - 3.8 children, Mayotte - 4.9 children, la Reunion - 2.5 children).  

Consequently, the populations on these islands are very young. In Mayotte, around 60% of the population is below 25 years of age.

High unemployment levels

Although they possess some unique assets - young population in many regions and unique biodiversity – the outermost regions face some permanent constraints to their development due to their remoteness, insularity and vulnerability to climate change.

Although a lot of progress has been made over the past years, the unemployment and youth unemployment levels of all outermost regions remain much higher than those of their respective Member States and the EU average.   

In 2020 and 2021, some of the regions were also hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic and the virtual standstill of the tourism sector.  

The unemployment rates reached 28.1% in Mayotte (2020) and 23.1% in the Canary Islands (2021, against an EU average of 7.1% (2021).

In 2019, when the average youth unemployment rate in the EU was around 12%, it was at 44.8% in Mayotte and at 41.1% in Guadeloupe.

In all outermost regions, the rates of young people not employed, in education or training (NEET) are higher than the EU (13.1% in 2021) and national averages - between 15.3% in Madeira and 31.3% in French Guiana.

Explore the thematic story in the Atlas of Demography for more data on the populations, unemployment and migratory movements in the outermost regions.  

Background

On 3 May 2022, the Commission adopted a renewed Strategy for the outermost regions, aiming to unlock their potential through appropriate investment and reforms.

The outermost regions have a special status under the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (article 349) that provides for specific measures to support them, including the tailored application of EU law and access to EU programmes.