Population by nationality

  • Nearly 1 in 10 has foreign nationality

    At the beginning of 2020, more than 6,010,000 people of Belgian nationality and almost 619,000 people of foreign nationality were living in the Flemish Region, bringing the share of foreigners to 9.3% of the total population. In 2000, this stood at 4.9% of the population.

    Almost 2 out of 3  foreigners have a nationality of one of the countries of the European Union (except Belgium).

  • Dutch-nationality group is largest foreign nationality group

    The largest group of foreigners in the Flemish Region have a Dutch nationality. At the beginning of 2020, they represented 144,000 persons, which corresponds to 23% of the total number of foreigners. They are followed by Romanians, Poles, Moroccans, Bulgarians, Italians, Spaniards and French. Turks and Portuguese complete the top 10.

  • Relative increase between 2000 and 2020 largest for new EU member states

    In general, the number of persons of foreign nationality in Flanders doubled between 2000 and 2020. In relative terms, this increase was the largest for the group with a nationality of one of the EU13 countries (the new member states of the European Union which have joined since 2004). The increase was also higher than average for persons with a nationality from ‘other countries’ (outside Europe, Turkey and the Maghreb) and for persons with a nationality of the European countries outside the EU. The number of persons with a nationality of the Western and Northern EU15 countries, of Turkey and of the Maghreb countries dropped between 2000 and 2020.

  • Foreigners are on average younger than Belgians

    The average age of persons with a foreign nationality is lower than that of Belgians. This can be derived from the age distribution of both groups. The share of the age groups up to 9 years and from 20 to 49 years is higher among foreigners than among people with the Belgian nationality. The opposite is true for groups aged 50 and older.

  • Most foreigners live on the outskirts of Brussels, the bigger cities and the border region

    The proportion of people with a foreign nationality is highest on the outskirts of Brussels, in the largest cities of the Flemish Region (Antwerp and Ghent), in the border region with the Netherlands in the provinces of Antwerp and Limburg, and in Central Limburg. The central cities of the Flemish Region also score relatively high.

    The nationality of foreigners varies from region to region. Along the border with the Netherlands, the foreigners are mainly Dutch citizens, while the outskirts of Brussels are characterised by an influx of EU citizens mainly. Persons with a non-EU nationality live mainly in Antwerp, Ghent and the central cities.

  • Share of foreigners in Flanders slightly above EU average

    In 2019, the proportion of people with a foreign nationality was higher in the Brussels-Capital Region (35%) and slightly higher in the Walloon Region (10%) than in the Flemish Region (9%). The share for Belgium as a whole was 12% of the population.

    Throughout the European Union, just under 8% of the population had a foreign nationality in 2019. The number of foreigners is the highest in Luxembourg: almost half of the population has a foreign nationality. Numbers for 2020 are not yet available for the EU countries.


Statistics Flanders: State of the population 
Statbel: Population by nationality 
Eurostat: Database 


Central cities: As part of its urban policy, the Government of Flanders designated 13 'central cities'. These are Aalst, Antwerp, Bruges, Genk, Ghent, Hasselt, Kortrijk, Leuven, Mechelen, Ostend, Roeselare, Sint-Niklaas and Turnhout. 

EU13 countries: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Romania, Malta and Cyprus, from 2013 also Croatia. 

Maghreb countries: Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and Mauritania. 

Western and Northern EU15 countries: The Netherlands, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Ireland, United Kingdom, Austria, Denmark, Sweden and Finland. 


Publication date

22 December 2020

Next update

July 2021

More numbers

Previous revisions