Belgium Population Distribution
All the factors that we have illustrated of Belgian prosperity account for the density of the population gathered in the area of the small state: density determined, according to the census of December 31, 1920, in 245 residents per sq km. (in 1926, provisional evaluation, 259). This density, which is considerably higher than that of all the other European states (excluding the tiny Munich), is naturally not the same throughout the country, as can be seen from the following picture of the distribution by provinces.
It is evident from the comparison of the figures the higher density of the provinces most favored by nature in comparison with those extended in the more ungrateful areas of Campine (Limburg) and Ardennes (Luxembourg and Namur); and even more evidently, when compared, the densities of the smaller areas of the arrondissements speak, with the districts where the large centers and the densest agricultural and industrial areas are (Brussels 973, Charleroi 765, Liège 685, Antwerp 656, etc.), followed by the most derelict of Campine (Maeseyck 78) and Ardennes (Philippeville 59, Dinant 55, Bastogne 49, Marche 46, Neufchâteau 39). Not much more populated than these are the territories of the polders with a humid and heavy climate (arrondissement of Dixmude 113).
If we want to compare the population thus distributed with the early days of the constitution of the kingdom, we see that (limiting ourselves to the provinces) the province of Antwerp, where the kingdom’s largest emporium is, increased in the ninety years from 1831 to 1920 of 191 per cent, that of Brabant containing the capital of 171, the industrial provinces of Liège and Hainaut respectively of 130 and 99, while for the other provinces the increase remains below the overall average of the kingdom (91), especially low for essentially agricultural ones: Luxembourg 39%, West Flanders 32%. Thus, if we compare the increases for the smaller administrative districts, we see from 1831 to 1920 the Antwerp arrondissement increased by 301%, that of Brussels in 274, that of Charleroi in 341, that of Liège in 200,
Particularly remarkable is the fact that, in general, the densest populated provinces do not owe this density only to the presence of some congested city centers of urban multitudes, but really to the demographic fullness of very extensive rural areas, which only yield for a certain time. number of hours of the day part of their residents for the benefit of the workers’ centers. More than 500,000 individuals are believed to migrate daily to the city while remaining residents of the countryside: Seraing alone (Liège) receives its daily workers from 271 different municipalities, up to 80 km away. This fullness of countryside life does not detract from the fact that Belgium has been a very active city life country for many centuries and has remained. Already in the Middle Ages the development of manufacturing city centers was absolutely exceptional; the sec. XIX gives back to the old centers with the mechanical industries a completely new economic impetus and adds to the ancient glorious cities those born even yesterday. Thus, while in 1856 65% of the population was still located in the municipalities below 5000 residents, today these municipalities welcome only 42% of the total number, a very sensitive indication of the greater overwhelming number of city centers: in particular 22% of the he whole Belgian people are absorbed by the four major agglomerations, Antwerp, Brussels, Liège and Ghent. A very widespread swarm of houses in the countryside and at the same time a scattering of small and large city centers remains a singular characteristic of much of Belgium.
The movements of emigration or immigration do not have much importance in the present demography of Belgium. In the last few decades, those on the whole have always remained lower than these, except in the years that have most felt the repercussions of the war. Emigration is directed above all towards France, where due to the very close appeal of industry and agriculture thirsty for labor, considerable masses of Belgians have gradually accumulated: the French census of 1921 recorded 415,000., most of them in the northern department (many as tenants or even owners in the countryside), not counting all those requested daily by the local call of the workshops and the 50 or 60,000 that make up the summer seasonal migration for field work.
Overseas, the United States recorded only 63,000 Belgians in 1920; the colony itself that Belgium has created in Africa has only 7770. Foreigners in Belgium, on the other hand, do not lodge in large numbers: in 1920 there were 67,000 French, 39,000 Dutch, 8000 Germans (much more numerous in the pre-war period, especially in Antwerp), 6200 English, 3700 Italians, whose number has grown considerably in the following years.
However, Belgium’s relations with foreign countries are highly developed, not only due to the extent of commercial exchanges, but also due to the spread of companies hired in every more distant country, due to the lively activity of capital, and due to the superior economic influence. from time to the political importance of the small state. Belgian capital can be found invested everywhere, especially in railway and tram companies (in Italy, Spain, France, China, South America, etc.), in gas and electric lighting companies, in mining research, in companies of colonial exploitation; and, like the export of capital, so is that of managerial personnel.
In colonial enterprises, the only colony that Belgium possesses naturally has the first place, an increasingly important complement to its political and economic power. The huge territory of the Congo (v.), Procured with personal initiative and obstinate will by King Leopold II, who, after having designed and created the first organization, wanted and obtained that it pass under the dominion of the Belgian state, if it was first welcomed by the Belgians almost as an annoying and unwelcome burden, it is now recognized by them as a magnificent and now indispensable integration of the homeland. In fact, today a large part of the nation’s economic effort is addressed to this colony, certain of the advantages offered by the magnificent waterways now widely open and exploited, by the inexhaustible vegetable riches, by the very rich mines.