According to the latest forecast by Statistics Netherlands (CBS), the population of the three islands of the Caribbean Netherlands is expected to grow further from 25 thousand currently to 30 thousand by 2030. The number of older inhabitants will increase in particular.
The population forecast projects the most likely scenario for the future development of the Caribbean Dutch population. In this forecast, CBS uses a simulation model which uses research assumptions regarding birth rates, migration and life expectancy as the basis for projections. However, migration developments are especially difficult to forecast. If the number of migrants settling in the Caribbean Netherlands until 2030 is one-quarter lower than projected, the population will only go up to 28 thousand. If the number is one-quarter higher, the population will continue to increase to 33 thousand.
Population increase strongest on Bonaire
Since the islands of Bonaire, Saba and St Eustatius became special municipalities of the Netherlands on 10 October 2010, their population has risen from 21 thousand to 25 thousand. This increase is almost entirely attributable to the largest island, Bonaire. The population of St Eustatius declined from 3.6 to 3.1 thousand while that of Saba saw a slight increase, from 1.8 to 1.9 thousand inhabitants.
According to the forecast, the population will rise on all three islands in the coming years. Bonaire’s population is projected at nearly 25 thousand by 2030 while the number of inhabitants on St Eustatius and Saba is expected to reach 3.4 thousand and nearly 2.3 thousand respectively. At the start of 2011, 74 percent of the Caribbean Dutch population were living on Bonaire. This is expected to rise to 81 percent by the year 2030.
Population growth mainly due to migration
External migration contributes more to the population growth on the Caribbean Netherlands than natural growth (births minus deaths) does. Since 2011, the number of immigrants settling on the islands stood at over 1.9 thousand annually, including more than 5 hundred from the European Netherlands. Each year, nearly 1.6 thousand emigrants left the islands. There were over 2 hundred live births annually, while the number of deaths stood at more than one hundred. According to the forecast, slightly more children will be born annually until 2030, but also more people will pass away. Slightly fewer immigrants are expected to arrive while fewer emigrants will be leaving. Net migration and net natural population growth are expected to be approximately the same as in the period since 2011.
Population on the islands is ageing
The Caribbean Netherlands has few elderly compared to the European Netherlands. Just under 13 percent of the inhabitants are 65 years or older in 2019, versus 19 percent in the European Netherlands. Since 2011, the number of elderly people has risen and this trend is expected to continue. The forecast projects that 20 percent of the inhabitants will be over the age of 65 in 2030. The proportion of minors living in the Caribbean Netherlands is approximately equal to that in the European Netherlands. Their number is anticipated to be more or less the same in 2030 as it is now.
More European Dutch settling on the islands
Since the start of 2011, the number of residents of the Caribbean Netherlands who were born in the European Netherlands has increased from 1.9 thousand to 3.3 thousand. According to the forecast, this number is expected to go up to 4.6 thousand by 2030. Immigrants from the European Netherlands have a clear preference for Bonaire: 9 in 10 settle on this island. Among immigrants from outside the European and Caribbean Netherlands, this is 6 out of 10.