Emigration and immigration

Today, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg is a country of immigration. This has not always been the case. Over the years, Luxembourg has been affected by various waves of emigration.

From a country of emigration...

Before the rise of the steel industry in the mid-19th century, Luxembourg was a poor and rural country. Driven by the hope of carving out a better life elsewhere, numerous inhabitants left their homeland.

A first wave of emigration took place in the 12th century to Transylvania. During the first half of the 18th century, another wave of emigration headed for Banat, a region of south-eastern Europe.

In the course of the 19h century and until the First World War, there was a strong trend in the country towards overseas emigration (USA, Brazil, Argentina, etc.). Others went to France to work as craftsmen or, in the case of young girls, as maids and house-keepers. The number of Luxembourgers who left the country between 1841 and 1891 is thought to be more than 72,000 (out of a total population of 212,800 inhabitants in 1891).

Luxembourgers migrated for economic reasons: the population increased, agricultural holdings shrank and harvests were bad. The traditional craft sector witnessed the disappearance of jobs with the emergence of large-scale industry.

Entire families and sometimes entire villages left the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg in the hope of finding a better life. Thus, there were 16,000 Luxembourg emigrants living in Chicago in 1908! Some became famous in their new homeland, such as Hugo Gernsback (1884-1967), the inventor of the term 'science fiction', or Edward Steichen, a painter and famous photographer, who became Director of the Department of Photography in the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA).

... to a country of immigration

In the 20th century, the population of Luxembourg has constantly been growing. In 100 years, it has almost doubled from about 260,000 in 1910 to over 500,000 in 2010. Today, the Grand Duchy has more than 576,000 inhabitants.

This exceptional population growth is largely due to immigration, which has always gone hand in hand with the country’s economic development. Initially, the steel sector attracted many Italians and Portuguese. Then came the French, the Belgians and the British, attracted by the tertiary sector. All this means that the country’s population now comprises more than 46% non-Luxembourg nationals.

It is the Portuguese who are the largest foreign community in the Grand Duchy, amounting to 16.2% of the total population. Next come the French (7.2%), the Italians (3.5%), the Belgians (3.4%) and the Germans (2.2%).

  • Updated 16-12-2016