Increasing numbers of foreign residents | LISER

Increasing numbers of foreign residents

The population of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg doubled between 1905 and 2011. This demographic growth was primarily caused by an influx of foreign nationals. By January 1st, 2015, 46% of the country’s total population consisted of non-Luxembourgers.

Sustained wave of immigration

Between 1905 and 2011, the population of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg rose from 246,455 to 512,353. This sustained rate of demographic growth is directly linked to the increase in the number of foreign residents, who had been attracted to the country since its industrial boom in the late 19th century. The first wave of immigrants came from Italy (1870-1960), and was swiftly followed by a number of other such waves, particularly from Portugal, around the end of the 1960s.

46% foreign residents on January 1st, 2015

In 1905, only 13% of Luxembourg’s population consisted of foreign nationals. By January 1st, 2015, their share had risen to 46%. In certain age groups foreign nationals outnumber Luxembourg nationals. It is a trend which will strengthen in the coming years, as the birth rate amongst the foreign population is considerably higher than that of Luxembourgers.

These Age pyramids represent the evolution of the age structure of the total resident population of Luxembourg between 1905 and 2011. Thus, in 2011, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg had 512 353 inhabitants (according to the population census made by STATEC), that is to say that it was two times higher compared to the census of 1905 with 246 455 inhabitants. This demographic increase over 110  years has depended mainly on the growth in the foreign resident population, which is directly correlated to the industrial changes that the Grand Duchy has experienced after 1870. Indeed, the country recorded many migration waves from this period, and, in particular, an Italian immigration wave from the end of the 19th century until the beginning of the 1960s, followed by a Portuguese immigration wave which began in the 1960s and which has been strongly marked by the new laws with respect to family reunification that appeared during the same period.

Thus, Luxembourg had 13% of foreign residents in 1905. This share remained stable at least until 1960, except for a small increase during the census of 1930 with 19% of foreign residents. After 1960 the share of foreign residents increased at each census: 26% in 1981, 37% in 2001 and 43% in 2011. On 1st January 2015 this share stood at around 46%.

If this proportion of foreign residents continues to rise in Luxembourg, whereas immigrants account for 10% of the total population at most in the majority of other European countries, this is also due to the fact that in Luxembourg the “ius sanguinis” is the prevailing legal norm with regard to naturalisation. It means that the nationality of the children is transmitted by one or two of his/her parents at birth, in contrast to the principle of “ius soli”, which stresses the importance of the place of birth for the nationality of children. However, under certain conditions foreign residents can be eligible for Luxembourgish nationality (for more information, click here).

For some age groups today, foreign residents outnumber Luxembourgish residents. This trend will be even more visible in the future due to the higher birth rate observed among foreign residents compared to Luxemburgish residents.


Residents of Luxembourg


STATEC (census data), Calculations LISER

Reading Guide

In 2011, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg had, amongst its resident population aged 30 to 34, 11 508 women and 10 967 men with a foreign nationality (respectively 1 126 and 2 100 in 1905) and 7 756 women and 7 999 men with Luxembourgish nationality (respectively 7 080 and 7 380 in 1905).

Publications related to the topic of the indicator
CEPS/INSTEAD, 2009, 20 n°57, 2 p.