Europe is a subcontinent that comprises the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia. It's usually divided from Asia by the watershed divides of the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, the Caucasus and Ural Mountains and waterways that connect the Black and Aegean Seas together. The continent's estimated 2016 population is over 738 million.
Europe is the second-smallest continent by surface area and covers 10.18 million square kilometers (3.93 million square miles), or 2% of the Earth's surface and 6.8% of the world's land area. There are approximately 50 countries in Europe. The largest by size is Russia with 40% of the continent, and Vatican City is the smallest.
Europe is the third most populous continent behind Asia and Africa. Its population in 2016 is estimated at 738 million, which accounts for 11% of the world's population. The continent is currently growing at a rate of 0.3%. Europe has been in a decline for some time and its population is aging rapidly in most countries.
Most Populous Countries
By far the most populous country in Europe is Russia, which is actually located in both Europe and Asia. Russia's population of 143 million is almost equal to the combined populations of the 2nd and 3rd most populous countries on the continent.
Russia is a very interesting situation, as its population is very hard to determine with Russian and CIA estimates varying by 3 million. The country is also very representative of all of Europe with a rapidly declining population growth and an aging population.
The top 10 most populous countries in Europe are:
- Russia (143.45 million)*
- Germany (81.4 million)*
- France (66.4 million)
- United Kingdom (65.08 million)
- Italy (60.93 million)*
- Spain (46.42 million)*
- Ukraine (42.85 million)*
- Poland (38.49 million)*
- Romania (19.82 million)*
- Kazakhstan (17.54 million)
The asterisks indicate countries with a declining population.
Least Populous Countries
The least populous country in Europe is Vatican City with just over 800 residents. It's also the smallest internationally recognized independent state in the world, both in area and population. Vatican City is a landlocked city-state with a territory consisting of a walled enclave within Rome, Italy. Vatican City is ruled by the Pope and it's the sovereign territory of the Holy See.
The 10 least populous countries (not territories) in Europe are:
- Vatican City (800)
- San Marino (33,000)
- Monaco (37,000)
- Liechtenstein (37,000)
- Andorra (78,000)
- Iceland (331,000)
- Malta (425,000)
- Luxembourg (570,000)
- Montenegro (620,000)
- Cyprus (876,000)
Comparison to Other Continents
Europe is the second-smallest continent by surface area but the third most populous after Asia and Africa. The population density of Europe as a whole is 143 people per square mile (compared to Asia's 203/square mile), which makes it the second most densely populated continent.
Europe is leading the world in countries with declining population growth and an aging population, but this problem is one that affects most developed countries at some point.
Europe Population Growth
It's projected that Europe will lose 30 million people of working age by 2050, while the number of people in their 80s and 90s will rise dramatically. This New York Times article is an interesting read for learning more about Europe's declining population and fertility rates. Most European countries are dealing with the effects of an aging population, including fertility rates below replacement level as fewer women have children in favor of a career. The population of the European Union (EU) is now expected to peak in 2040 with the sharpest population declines in Romania and Germany (-19%), Bulgaria (-27%), Latvia (-26%) and Lithuania (-20%).
Europe's largest country, Russia, is expected to drop from today's 143 million to just 107 million by 2050.