David Rozing

A 3rd of the population is of foreign heritage

Around a third of the people in Belgium are of foreign heritage or hold a non-Belgian nationality.  Statbel, the Belgian statistics agency, has mapped out the origins of the people of Belgium in detail for the first time.

The figures show how diverse Belgium’s population is and that this trend is only set to increase in coming years. 67.9% of people living in Belgium held Belgian nationality and had a Belgian background.  To qualify for this category you need two Belgian parents at the time you are entered in the population register. Dual nationals are counted as Belgians.

Around a third of the population falls outside this category: 12.4% of the population were foreign nationals, while 19.7% were Belgians of foreign heritage. The latter category denotes people who have at least one parent who didn’t possess Belgian nationality when he or she (i.e. the parent) was first registered.

Diversity is growing.  As recently as 2011 74.3% of the population were Belgians of Belgian heritage. 10.2% held a foreign nationality, while 15.5% were Belgians with a foreign background. 

There are major regional variations: the number of people of foreign heritage is smaller in Flanders than in Wallonia and is much smaller than in Brussels. A quarter of the population of Brussels is now Belgian of Belgian heritage.

Moroccan is the most popular foreign heritage followed by Italian, French, Dutch and Turkish, though Romanian has made a strong showing since 2019.  In Flanders the top foreign heritages are Dutch, Moroccan and Turkish, while in Wallonia they are Italian, French and Moroccan.  In Brussels it’s Moroccan, French and Italian.

Belgium’s future is clearly also more diverse: Belgian Belgians are often older and Belgians of foreign heritage are younger, but I guess after a few generations we all become Belgian Belgians.

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