Development Trends in the Alps


Population and Demography

Population Development

The Alpine population has grown between 1981 and 2001 by almost 1.2 million, from 11.1 million to 12.3 million. That is an increase of approximately 10.6%. By comparison, population growth in the EU-25 during the same period is only 6.1%. It is noticeable that:

  • Two thirds of the Alpine population live in the urban areas.
  • Population growth is taking place mainly in the cities and urban areas.
  • High population growth also took place in the suburban and peripheral municipalities (15,5 %). This means there are also significant population increases where the economic conditions are not as favourable, indeed because people can commute.
  • Those municipalities that do not have a close interconnection with urban areas experienced only a small growth in population.
Table 3: Population development in the different types of municipalities 1981-2001 (Source: Adapted from CIPRA 2007).
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Population Decrease

More than one quarter of all Alpine municipalities experienced a population decrease over the last 20 years. In the year 2001 approx. 3 million people lived in these municipalities, that was approximately 24% of the Alpine population. As would be expected, this decrease is smallest in the urban areas, particularly high in number in the suburban and peripheral municipalities, as well as in the balanced municipalities. The highest decreases can be observed in those areas where only limited commuter interconnection with urban areas exists. It could reasonably be suggested that the population decrease in peripheral areas would be considerably higher if the ability to commute did not exist.

Table 4: Population decrease in the different types of municipalities 1981-2001 (Source: Adapted from CIPRA 2007).

Map 5: Change in population in the Alps from 1950 to 2000 (Source: EURAC). Click on the image to enlarge it.

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DAX (2007)
Szenarien der Entwicklung der Berggebiete in Europa (Scenarious for the development of mountainous regions in Europe).

Ageing of the Population

Some communities in the Alps have a very high proportion of elder people (Source: J. HEEB).

A population is described as excessively aged when the proportion of people over 60 years of age makes up more than 15% of the total population (BÄHR 2004 in PSAC (PERMANENT SECRETARIAT OF THE ALPINE CONVENTION) 2007).

The Old Age Index provides information about the demographic structure of a region. It is defined as follows: number of people over 64 per 100 people under 15 (GAVRILOV & HEUVELINE 2003 in PSAC 2007).

In the year 2000, there was 17% of the Alpine population that was over 64 years of age. By comparison, the proportion of those over 64 in the EU-25 was 16.3%. EUROSTAT expects that the proportion of those over 64 will double in the EU by 2050. People over 64 years of age will then make up approximately one third of the population.

In the year 2000, in 63% of all municipalities in the Alpine Convention, the proportion of those older than 64 years of age was over the 15% threshold. This means that the population can be described as excessively aged in almost two thirds of all Alpine municipalities. Ageing of the population is particularly high in the cities and in the smallest communities. Of the municipalities that experienced population decrease, 82% are now excessively aged (see PSAC 2007).

The Old Age Index for municipalities in the Alpine Convention was 100.3 in the year 2000. This means that the number of people over 64 is approximately equal to the number under 15. The areas with the highest Old Age Index are in the Italian Alps (Liguria/I: 241), while those with the lowest value are Liechtenstein (63), Vorarlberg/A (64), Rhône-Alps/F (70) und Tyrol/A (73) auf (see Map 6).

The highest Old Age Index can be observed in the 'balanced' (194) and in the 'other' (187) municipalities, whilst the lowest values are in the ‘urban’ (105) municipalities. The total sample here is only 5,590 municipalities due to limited data availability

Table 5: Old Age Index in the different types of municipalities 2001, reduced sample.(Source: Raw data EURAC, analysis CIPRA 2007).

Map 6: Old Age Index in Alpine communities (Source: PSAC 2007). Click on the image to enlarge it.
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