Netherlands has the largest municipalities after Denmark
On 1 January 2013 there are again fewer municipalities than the year before according to figures released by Statistics Netherlands. Because ten municipalities merged into three new ones, the total number of municipalities reaches 408. The average number of inhabitants per municipality rose from 40 to nearly 41 thousand.
In 1988 Dutch municipalities averaged slightly over 20 thousand inhabitants. Three-quarters of the municipalities had fewer than 20 thousand inhabitants. A fifth even had fewer than 5 thousand inhabitants.
The ten municipalities that have now merged each had fewer than 20 thousand inhabitants in 2012. The newly formed municipalities Schagen and Goeree-Overflakkee now have nearly 50 thousand inhabitants each. The newly formed Molenwaard, a merger of Graafstroom, Liesveld and Nieuw-Lekkerland, has just over 20 thousand inhabitants.
As of 2013 only a third of all Dutch municipalities have fewer than 20 thousand inhabitants. Nearly half have between 20 and 50 thousand inhabitants. In the new government plans, the preferred lower threshold for municipalities is 100 thousand inhabitants. There are 27 municipalities that meet this in 2013.
Compared to most other European countries, the Netherlands has relatively many inhabitants per municipality. Of the selected European countries only Denmark has a higher average number of inhabitants per municipality than the Netherlands. Since the major municipal redivision of 2007, Denmark has 98 municipalities averaging over 56 thousand inhabitants. Over half of the Danish municipalities have between 20 and 50 thousand inhabitants. Another third is larger still, with between 50 and 100 thousand inhabitants. Only 8 municipalities have fewer than 20 thousand inhabitants. The Netherlands has 142. In terms of surface area the Danish municipalities are four times as large as the Dutch ones.
Swedish municipalities compare best with the Dutch municipalities in terms of inhabitants. In 2010 the 290 Swedish municipalities were home to over 30 thousand people on average. Slightly over half of the municipalities had fewer than 20 thousand inhabitants. Swedish municipalities are much larger in terms of surface area than the Dutch ones though. They average nearly 1 500 square kilometres compared to the 100 square kilometres of the Dutch municipalities.