By 2035 the population of Malta - the EU's least populous country - is expected to have grown to 429,000, a record size and an increase of 19,000 from the present figure, according to a Eurostat report on the likely future size and structure of the EU population.

That signifies a growth rate of 4.5 per cent. But by 2060 the figure will have fallen to 405,000, a 1.4 per cent decline from the 2008 population of 410,000.

The next smallest country in terms of population, Luxembourg, currently has a population of 482,000, but for reasons unexplained in Eurostat's news release, it is expected to swell by another 250,000 by 2060.

Another small population is that of Cyprus, but here too there is expected to be growth, from the present 795,000 to 1.3 million in around five decades time.

The current 1.33 million population of Estonia, another small country, is expected to have declined slightly by then.

The member states with the largest populations in 2060 will be the United Kingdom (77 million), France (72 million), Germany (71 million), Italy (59 million) and Spain (52 million), according to the report.

In totality, the population of the EU27 is projected to increase from the current 495 million to 521 million in 2035, and thereafter gradually decline to 506 million by 2060.

The annual number of births is projected to fall and the number of deaths to continue rising.

From 2015 onwards deaths will outnumber births, and hence population growth due to natural increase will cease.

From this point onwards, positive net migration will be the only population growth factor.

However, from 2035 this element will no longer counterbalance the negative natural change, and the population is projected to begin to fall.

The EU27 population is also projected to continue to grow older, with the share of the population aged 65 and over rising from 17.1 per cent in 2008 to 30 per cent in 2060, and those aged 80 and over rising from 4.4 per cent to 12.1 per cent over the same period.

For Malta it is projected that 32.4 per cent of its people will be 65 or older by 2060 and 11.8 per cent will be 80 or older.

In Europe as a whole, there will be only two persons of working age for every person aged 65 or more by 2060, compared with four persons to one today.

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