The Demographic Future of Belgium
Belgium is best known for its waffles and for hosting the capital of the European Union. The capital, Brussels, hosts both the national as well as the European government. It is an odd country due to it consisting of two distinctive parts. The northern region, Flanders, and the southern region, Wallonia.
The two parts make an odd combination as they differ in both language and culture. On top of that there are economic differences resulting in a constant flow of tax-money from Flanders to the south. Ironically, Brussels sits right in the middle of this Frankenstein of a country, holding together the Frankenstein’s bigger brother that is the EU.
Yet, it is not only the Flemish and Walloons inhabiting the country. Many newcomers have joined Belgium and will shape its future. But how many? And where are they from?
The country has a population of 11.4 million. They have a fertility rate of 1.78, with the average mother having her first child at 28. The growth in 2017 was almost 54.000 people in that year. The vast majority of this growth was due to migrants, with only 9.000 of it being due to more births than deaths. That leaves 45.000 more migrants entering the country than leaving.
The Belgians make up 75% of the country. The second largest group being the Italians with 4.1%, Moroccans with 3.7%, French with 2.4%, Turkish with 2% and Dutch with 2%. The remaining 12.8% has other, undefined origins. Similar to the Netherlands, the Moroccans and Turkish entered Belgium decades ago as temporary guest workers. Of course, many remained and brought over their families instead of returning home.
Keep in mind that these numbers are around ethnicity, not nationality. Only 10% of those living in Belgium are foreigners in that sense, since many migrants arrived decades ago and have since acquired Belgian citizenship. This 10% resembles only those without a Belgian passport.
As far as religion goes the country is 50% Roman Catholic, with 2.5% following other Christian denominations. There are 5% Muslims, 0.4% Jews, and 0.3% Buddhists. Additionally 9.2% of the nation identifies as atheistic and 32.6% has no religious affiliation whatsoever. We can see that the percentage of Muslims roughly corresponds to the percentage of Moroccans and Turks, although it could be that the percentage of Muslims is somewhat underrepresented as some have no religious affiliation registered with the government.
Islam in Belgium now
We can split the Belgians fertility rate between that of Muslims (2.6) and non-Muslims (1.7), as based on the data from Pew Research. The common argument here is that despite the Muslim fertility rate being higher, that this will slowly adjust to the Belgian rate. It is true of course that the Muslims don’t have a fertility rate of 5+ like some African countries. They have a rate of ‘only’ 2.6. Nonetheless the argument ignores two factors. Firstly, although the migrant/Muslim fertility rate may drop slightly, we have no evidence that it will drop to the same lows as the native Belgians fertility rate. Secondly, since there is a constant influx of migrants from high-fertility countries, the migrant fertility rate is kept higher as these new migrants need time to adjust.
This means that we should not expect the Muslim and non-Muslim fertility rates to converge, there is no reason to believe that will happen. Since they do not converge, this means that the Muslim population is likely to grow both due to migration, but also due to an above replacement-rate fertility. Moreover, we can expect the native Belgian population to shrink.
Islam in Belgium Rising
According to Pew, Belgium had 7.6% Muslims as of 2016. With zero migration this is expected to become 11.1% by 2050. With medium migration this is expected to rise to 15.1% by 2050. Under high migration the percentage of Muslims in Belgium in 2050 is expected to be 18.2%. Almost one out of every five Belgians will be Muslim.
When we are talking about Muslims in Belgium, we are of course speaking about people with a migrant background. Islam is not native to Belgium and the amount of converts is negligible on the total Muslim population. This means that by 2050 we can expect, going by the medium migration scenario, 15% of Belgians to be Muslim and thus those with a migrant background. However, we will have to add to that all the non-Muslim immigrants.
What are the Effects?
Already in 2017, 44% of the prisoners in Belgium did not have a Belgian nationality. The biggest foreign groups were Moroccans and Algerians. As we mentioned earlier only 10% of those living in Belgium does not have a passport, yet this 10% of the population constitutes 44% of the prisoners. Not only did they not have passports, 30% of them did not even have the right to remain in Belgium. They were illegal immigrants. Clearly crime would be lower without these foreign elements.
Not only are there simple criminals, there are also radicalized Jihadists living in Belgium. There are approximately 500 ISIS-warriors that fought in Syria living in Belgium, with another 2000 Jihadists that may decide to turn violent in the future.
Even inside the Belgian military are people known to have Jihad-friendly attitudes, yet they are not fired for this. Why not? Because the intelligence agencies struggle to tell the difference between a strict adherence to Islam and extremism. Even on the Zaventem airport, where a terrorist attack has taken place (32 dead, took place in 2016), intelligence agencies discovered dozens of people working at the airport – with security clearances to enter any part of the airport – that were radicalized and supported Jihad.
The Migrant Inflow
Every year around 120.000 to 140.000 migrants enter the country. Six out of ten come from other EU countries, with the other four from outside of the EU. There is also an outflow every year of around 90.000. The net growth due to migrants is expected to be around 40.000 people per year according to the federal bureau. This migrant-induced population growth will push the population size to 13 million by 2060.
Due to the fertility rate of 1.7 the amount of ethnic Belgians will only shrink during this same period. Already there are only 8.5 million native Belgians, by 2050 we can expect this to drop to 7.2 million due to the fertility rate being below the replacement level and the new births being lower than the deaths will be. We can estimate that by 2060, out of the total 13 million, there will be 7 million natives and 6 million foreigners. The Belgians will barely be the majority. Without a doubt this will cause the Belgians to be a minority by the end of the century.
The Big Cities – Antwerp
We know that such predictions sound shocking to many people. People simply refuse to believe our predictions are accurate or trustworthy, so let’s take a look at the current situations in some of Belgium’s cities. Antwerp already has a majority of inhabitants that have a migrant background. And the children? Right now 75% of children under 10 year old in Antwerp are children of migrants. Yes, 75%, 3 out of 4 children have a migrant background.
Moreover, 44% of the children in elementary school in the city do not speak Dutch (the official language in Flanders) at home. The percentage of ethnic Belgians in Antwerp has been dropping with over 1% per year. If that persists then by 2060 there will be less than 10% natives left in Antwerp.
The Big Cities – Brussels
What about the capital? The seat of the European government is 2nd in the world when it comes to the percentage of migrants living in the city. Only Dubai has a higher percentage of migrants. In Brussels 62% of the people are foreign-born or have a migrant background. In a sense, Brussels is showing what the future of Belgium will be. A minority status for the natives… And the future? Already 75% of babies born in Brussels is born to a mother that was not born in Belgium, and almost half of the mothers don’t even have the Belgian nationality.
Usually migrants flock to the big cities first, before slowly spreading across the country. We can look at the big cities of Belgium to see what the future holds for the rest of the country. Many people that live in the predominantly Belgian rural areas believe that the migrants will be contained to the big cities. This is delusional, it is simply the starting point.
The trend is easy to see. The population of Belgium will continue to grow, purely due to migration. Due to the low fertility rate among native Belgians, their absolute numbers will decline. Their percentage of the population will decline even faster. Even with current trends as predicted by the government agencies we can see that later in this century Belgium will have a majority of people with migrant backgrounds.
The Flemish youth is waking up to the rapid change their country is experiencing. A Flemish youth organization called ”Schild & Vrienden” (Shield & Friends) opposes the migrant inflows into their country and the influence of the European Union. Their founder, Dries van Langenhove, has said in a conversation with Viktor Orban ”We must be the strongest generation, or we will be the last”.
This may end up being very true, if their generation does not block this demographic change now, then by the time the next generation reaches maturity it will be too late to stop it. Because by then, the natives will already be a minority. They will simply not have enough votes, not enough democratic power anymore, to change the direction of the country.