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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Population: demographic situation, languages and religions

Belgium - French Community

1.Political, social and economic background and trends

1.3Population: demographic situation, languages and religions

Last update: 27 November 2023


With 11 431 406 inhabitants in a territory of 30 528 sq. km (32 545 sq. km including Belgian territorial waters in the North Sea), the average population density of Belgium on January 1, 2019 was 375 inhabitants per sq. km: 215 inhabitants per sq. km in the Walloon Region, 485 inhabitants per sq. km in the Flemish Region, and 7 440 inhabitants per sq. km in the Brussels-Capital Region (with an area of only 161 sq. km).

The population is characterised by significant ageing (the average age of the Belgian population in 2019 was 41.7 years). In 2019, life expectancy at birth for the population resident in Belgium was 79.2 years for men and 83.7 years for women. Life expectancy is higher in the Flemish Region than in both the Walloon Region (by more than two years), and the Brussels-Capital Region (by one year). The age pyramid reflects this ageing and demonstrates the impact of the two World Wars on the birth rate. According to Eurostat, the gross birth and mortality rates in 2018 were 10.3 and 9.7 per thousand respectively.

95% of the population lives in urban areas. The main urban conglomeration is Brussels (over 1 200 000 inhabitants for all of Brussels’ municipalities). The municipalities with the largest populations are Antwerp (524 359 inhabitants), Ghent (261 475 inhabitants), Charleroi (201 939 inhabitants), Liège (196 685 inhabitants) and Brussels (179 797 inhabitants) on January 1, 2019.

The balance of immigration over emigration is positive, but has little influence on current population trends in Belgium. On January 1, 2019, the French (167 508), Dutch (157 474), Italian (155 866 habitants), Romanian (96 034) and Moroccan (80 295) nationalities were the most numerous, with variations depending on the regions. On January 1, 2019, there were 1 391 425 foreigners living in Belgium, i.e. 12.2% of the total population.


Belgium’s official languages are Dutch, French and German.

The concept of minority language is not used in Belgium. Nevertheless, regional dialects (Walloon, Gaumais, Picardy, etc.) and immigrant languages (Italian, Arabic, Spanish, Turkish and Portuguese, in particular) are spoken by some sections of the population.

Belgium signed the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities on 31 July 2001. In September 2002, in response to this ratification, the parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe stated in its Resolution 1301 (2002) that the following groups could be considered national minorities in Belgium: at the State level, the entire German-speaking Community; at the Regional level, the French-speakers living in the Dutch-speaking Region and the German-speaking Region, and the Dutch- and German-speakers living in the French-speaking Region. This Convention has not yet been recognised by the Flemish Region. The teaching language is that of the linguistic region. Thus, the teaching language is French in the French-speaking region and, depending on the choice of the parents, French or Dutch in the bilingual Brussels-Capital Region.

Under certain conditions, certain scheduled courses and educational activities may be given in sign language or a modern language other than French (immersion education in l’enseignement fondamental or secondary education). In higher education, courses may in part be given in a language other than French. Some aspects of foreign language teaching are also governed by language legislation.


The Constitution (coordinated version of February, 17, 1994) guarantees the separation of Church and State. Freedom of religion and of public worship and freedom of speech are also guaranteed.

A significant proportion of the population describes itself as Catholic, but the majority is not practicing.

All students in compulsory education are entitled to moral or religious education, the costs of which are borne by the Community (Article 24 of the Constitution). Thus, every child may benefit from instruction in non-denominational ethics or in one of the five recognised religions (Catholicism, Islam, Judaism, Orthodoxy or Protestantism).