Newly released figures published by the Austrian government have revealed that the population growth which took place last year was fueled “exclusively” by foreign-born nationals.
The figures, published earlier this week by Statistik Austria, the official name of the federal government’s statistical office, have shown that migration was the “exclusive” force that drove the country’s population growth, which saw its numbers swell by nearly 50,000 last year.
“The population growth is exclusively due to people with non-Austrian citizenship. Without them, Austria would not have grown in 2021, but would have shrunk,” Tobias Thomas, the Director-General of Statistik Austria, said on Tuesday.
Per the data collected by the statistical office, 8.98 million people lived in Austria at the beginning of 2020, which corresponds to an increase of a little over 47,000 people compared to the previous year. Austria’s total population is expected to exceed the nine million mark sometime in this year, the Statistik Austria chief said.
Furthermore, the figures showed that, at the beginning of this year, foreign nationals composed nearly one-fifth (17.7%) of Austria’s total population, up from the 17.1% that was recorded at the start of 2021.
The proportion of foreign-born nationals continues to be the highest in the capital city of Vienna, at 32.2%, followed by the federal state of Vorarlberg (19%), and Salzburg (18.6%). With respect to the total population, the federal states of Carinthia, Lower Austria, and Burgenland recorded the fewest non-Austrian residents, at 11.9%, 10.9%, and 10.1%, respectively.
Proportionally, Austria is home to one of the largest foreign-born populations in Western Europe. According to the latest ‘Integration Report’, in 2020, some 2.1 million people—nearly every fourth person—in Austria had migration backgrounds, a share which has skyrocketed by 35% in the past decade, Kleine Zeitung reported.
The single largest group of foreign-born nationals came from Germany, followed by nationals from Bosnia-Herzegovina, Turkey, Serbia, and Romania. Figures from last year’s report also showed that nearly 30% of children enrolled in local kindergartens had non-German mother tongue—a number which stands as high as 61.9% in Viennese kindergartens.
Regarding Europe’s collective demographic crisis—and the means by which to solve it—the choice between natalism and immigration remains a highly contentious and divisive topic across Europe. Days ago, following a campaign that focused almost exclusively on the need to raise Spanish birthrates, VOX, Spain’s national-conservative party, gained 13 seats in Castilla y León’s regional parliament, effectively making it the kingmaker in the formation of the autonomous community’s incoming government.
In Hungary and Poland, two countries where national-conservative parties currently govern, the ruling parties—Fidesz and Law and Justice (PiS)—have positioned natalism as a central tenant of their political programs, something that has arguably allowed them to retain their overwhelming parliamentary majorities over three and two election cycles, respectively.
Robert Semonsen is a political journalist based in Central Europe. His work has been featured in various English-language news outlets in Europe and the Americas. He has an educational background in biological and medical science. His Twitter handle is @R_Semonsen.