On 31 January 2023, the Flemish press headlined " According to forecasts by the Planning Bureau, the Belgian population will exceptionally have increased by 104,000 in 2022."
Examination of the figures and data at the Federal Planning Bureau show that there was indeed an exceptional increase in the population in 2022 but it is not due to more births and fewer deaths but to the influx of 63,000 Ukrainians who have been granted residence permits until sometime in 2024; which, according to current projections, amounts to a migration influx of 104,000 residents in Belgium. This is a significant increase compared to the past 30 years.
Both the press and the Planning Bureau give a greatly distorted picture of the real situation. Ukrainians are not Belgians. Moreover, until further notice Ukraine is not even a European country. Migrants from other countries are not Belgians either. They only have temporary residence permits.
The actual figures are of an entirely different nature and certainly not hopeful. The number of births is dropping every year. With a steady increase in the number of deaths, Belgium is in a negative spiral that can only be filled up by large migration flows.
The Federal Planning Bureau further states that some 6,500 Ukrainian refugees are still expected in 2023 and if some of the beneficiaries of temporary protection return to Ukraine in 2024, population growth will slow down in that year.
This view takes a turn for the worse. There can only be a population growth of the Belgian population for all those who have the Belgian nationality.
Very surprising is the fact that the Federal Planning Bureau has worked out various scenarios for Ukrainians residing in Belgium under a special status but no research or evaluation on the worrying situation of Belgians themselves.
The first hypothesis is based on the current legislation on temporary protection, which provides for a one-year residence permit, renewable until 2024. Under this hypothesis, the vast majority of Ukrainian refugees will leave Belgium in 2024.
In contrast, the second hypothesis assumes that the refugees settle in Belgium on a more permanent basis and bring their family members who have remained in Ukraine to Belgium (spouses, sons, etc.), thus increasing immigration in 2024
The reference scenario (Baseline) has been prepared under the assumption that half of the refugees decide to return to Ukraine in 2024, and the other half choose to stay in Belgium and bring spouses and/or sons over.
The migration balance is the difference between total international immigration (inflow into the territory) and total international emigration (outflow). The exceptionally high migration balance of 100 348 persons in 2022 (due to the influx of Ukrainian refugees) ends at a relatively low level of 20 251 persons in 2024, according to the Planning Bureau. Emigration in 2024 of some of the refugees who arrived in 2022 and 2023 would explain the weaker growth.
Still according to the Planning Bureau, migration flows would stabilise at a fairly high level in the long term at around 25,000 arrivals a year and the natural balance would slow population growth in Belgium.
Basically, the Federal Planning Bureau says between nose and lips that no more population growth is to be expected along the side of natural or nationalised Belgians and population growth in the future will mainly be due to immigration from people outside the European Union.
Equally particularly worrying is the graph of the number of children per Belgian woman, which not only shows a negative trend for the past but will remain very low until 2030 and rather low until 2070. The 2009 level will apparently never be reached again. How and on the basis of what parameters the Federal Planning Bureau can make such long-term predictions remains an open question ( unless it has information not known by the general public ).