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The demographic evolution in the Brussels Region

The population size

After a period of decline, the Brussels-Capital Region has experienced population growth since 1996; in 2012 the number of inhabitants amounted to 1,138,854. This number exceeds the historic maximum of 1968 (1,079,181 inhabitants). Hence, the population density has also reached a record (70.6 inhabitants/hectare). The distribution across the territory varies : there is a concentration in the municipalities of the first ring (Saint-Josse-ten-Noode has the highest population density: 237.6 inhabitants/hectare) and a lower density in the peripheral municipalities (Watermael-Boitsfort has the lowest population density: 18.8 inhabitants/hectare). 

Evolution of the population of the Brussels-Capital Region (1980-2012)
Sources : Directorate-General of Statistics and Economic Information (DGSEI) - National Register (1980-2012),
BISA – Waiting Register (1996-2011)

 Evolution of the population of the Brussels-Capital Region (1980-2012)

During the day, the population on the regional territory increases significantly:

  • because BCR is a labour and employment pool: according to the Workforce Survey (DGSEI), there are almost 365,000 people commuting from Flanders or Wallonia to work in the Region; this number increased only marginally (+3% between 2002 and 2012). By comparison, the number of commuters who live in the Brussels Region but work in Flanders or in Wallonia, is five times smaller (nearly 67,000 in 2012) although it increased significantly (+28% between 2002 and 2012).
  • because BCR has many educational facilities: every academic year the Region attracts many pupils and students from Wallonia, from Flanders and also from abroad. The latter represented 16% of all pupils attending school in Brussels (infant, primary and secondary education) in 2009 (BISA, 2010) and approximately 40% of the entire school population that attended secondary or higher education in 2001 (ERM, 2002).

Life expectancy

The life expectancy of the Brussels' population at birth continuously rises, with women gaining 1.8 years and men 2.3, over a 10-year period (2000-2010) (Source : BISA based on the figures from DGSEI).

Household size and composition

The evolution of the number of households reflects the evolution of the Brussels' population. 536,621 private households were counted for the Region in 2012 (this figure excludes collective households who only represent 0.1% of the total number of households), which means an increase of nearly 14% between 2000 and 2012. Households in the Region comprise on average 2 persons (collective households not included). Half of these are single-person households (1 out of 4 Brussels' inhabitants). 

Number of private households according to size and number of collective households in the Brussels-Capital Region (1990-2012)
Sources : BISA according to the figures from the Directorate-General of Statistics and Economic Information (DGSEI)

 Number of private households according to size and number of collective households in the Brussels-Capital Region (1990-2012)


  • IBSA, juin 2010, "Impact de l’essor démographique sur la population scolaire en Région de Bruxelles-Capitale", Les cahiers de l'IBSA, n°2, 44 pages
  • ERM, septembre 2002. "Estimation de l’apport de substances polluantes sur le territoire de la Région de Bruxelles-Capitale – Résumé", 25 pages.
  • ERM, mars 2002. "Schatting van aanbreng van watervervuilende stoffen op het grondgebied van het Brussels Hoofdstedelijk Gewest - Vuilvrachtbalans", 80 pages.
Datum van de update: 29/05/2020