Updated at 4.55pm: adds PN's reaction

The population of Malta increased by 15,700 in 2017, over 15 times the rate in the EU when adjusted for the size of the population.

This brought the population up to 475,700, according to the EU's statistic arm Eurostat.

During 2017, the population increased in 19 EU member states and decreased in nine. The largest relative increase was observed in Malta (+32.9 per 1,000 residents), well ahead of Luxembourg (+19) and Sweden (+12.4).

In contrast, the largest decrease was recorded in Lithuania (-13.8 per thousand, followed by Croatia (-11.8), and Latvia (-8.1). In total, the population of the EU increased by 1.1 million people during the year 2017.

On January 1, 2018, the population of the EU was estimated at 512.6 million, compared with 511.5 million on 1 January 2017.

The 1.1. million growth came from migration, Eurostat said on Tuesday as there were more deaths than births (5.3 million deaths and 5.1 million births) and without migration, the population would actually have shrunk.

Read: 43,000 foreign workers in Malta, and more are expected

Malta's population boom comes amid a growing economy which has necessitated more foreign workers. 

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat had said that if Malta is sustain its economic growth it needs an influx of foreigners.

Highest birth rate in Ireland, lowest in Italy

During 2017, 5.1 million babies were born in the EU, almost 90,000 less than the previous year. In the meantime, 5.3 million deaths were registered in the EU in 2017, 134,200 fewer than the previous year.

The highest crude birth rates in 2017 were recorded in Ireland (12.9 per 1,000 residents), Sweden (11.5) and the United Kingdom and France (both 11.4), while the lowest were registered in Southern member states: Italy (7.6 per thousand), Greece (8.2) and Portugal and Spain (both 8.4). At EU level, the crude birth rate was 9.9 per 1,000 residents.

In the meantime, 5.3 million deaths were registered in the EU in 2017, 134,200 fewer than the previous year. Ireland (6.3 per 1,000 residents) and Cyprus (7.0 as well as Luxembourg (7.1) had in 2017 the lowest crude death rate. At the opposite end of the scale, Bulgaria (15.5), Latvia (14.8),  and Lithuania (14.2) recorded the highest. The crude death rate was 10.3 per 1,000 residents in the EU.

Consequently, Ireland (with a natural change of its population of +6.6%) remained in 2017 the member state where births most outnumbered deaths.

PN's reaction

In a statement in the afternoon, the Nationalist Party said the figures continued to show the need for transparency by the government when it came to its economic migration policy.

It said that a reasoned dialogue on migration that was based on numbers and facts was needed for the country to avoid an emotional issue which would not lead anywhere.

NSO figures published in February had clearly showed that between 2014 and 2016, the government had embarked on an immigration policy of around 10,000 net immigrants a year. Eurostat figures for 2017 showed that this had gone up to 15,000 net immigrants last year.

The PN said that while it was true that immigration expanded the economy because it increased the population, 15,000 migrants meant a 3.3% increase in the population. If all these migrants worked, this meant a 7% increase in the number of gainfully occupied.

The most recent GDP figures, the government said, showed that, in real terms, this had gone up by 4.4% in the past 12 months. But if one wanted a real picture of the average head to head growth, one had to take off the number of economically active population.

If this was done, it would reflect what many people were feeling, that growth head to head was much lower than what the government claimed because it was coming from population growth and not from a head to head increase.
Eurostat figures published in April, the PN said, showed that wages increases in Malta last year had barely covered the cost of living. And in the previous year, the increase was even lower.

Population growth had also put pressure on a number of sectors, especially in a small country such as Malta which was already suffering from the highest population density in Europe.

The people were feeling the pressure on the environment, infrastructure, roads, traffic, public transport and rents, among others. Rents had gone up so much that they had even become a threat to new sectors such as gaming as the industry was not finding places at reasonable rates for its foreign workers. This was apart from the major social threat for the Maltese who needed to rent their home.

The PN said it believed the migration issue was not one of if but of which kind and how many.

Immigration in the national interest would see in Malta foreigners who were capable of teaching and training the Maltese in new industries.

A country open to Europe and the world would surely attract a number of foreigners, especially since the Maltese knew a number of languages.

But unplanned migration aimed just at blowing up economic figures would mean, once the bubbles burst, hardship for both the Maltese and foreigners in Malta.

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