Central and Eastern Europe is a cause for concern. Among the sixty countries that are expected to see their populations decrease significantly (1% or more) by 2050 are Russia, Germany, South Korea and Cuba. But it is the former Soviet bloc that will lose the most, according to the latest UN screenings.
The decline is expected to exceed 20% over the next thirty years in Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, Serbia and Ukraine. For the latter, this is nothing new, even if the war launched on February 24 by Russia has considerably aggravated the pre-existing situation. By the end of May, the ongoing conflict had displaced 13 million people, including 6.8 million refugees who had gone abroad.
Ukraine approached 52 million inhabitants in the early 1990s, had only 43 million in 2021 and could drop below 33 million in 2050. Like its neighbors, it suffers from two chronic diseases: a low rate of birth rate and high emigration. “Almost all Eastern European countries have low fertility levels, around 1.5 births per woman or less, for twenty or thirty years.”, says one at the UN headquarters in New York. Far, therefore, from the replacement threshold (2.1 births per woman) that can guarantee generational turnover.
“Very low fertility”
Furthermore, since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the difference between entries (immigration) and exits (emigration) has continued to increase, due to a juvenile haemorrhage. Bulgaria, which went from 9 million inhabitants in the 1990s to 6.8 million in 2022, could only have 5.2 million in 2050. Serbia had 8 million inhabitants in the collapse of the Iron Curtain. It currently has 7.2 million and could drop to 5.8 million in thirty years. Over the same period, the population of Lithuania could plummet from 3.8 million to 2.2 million, that of Latvia from 2.7 million to 1.4 million.
“Young people leave and, among those who remain, fertility is very low. The question is whether this phenomenon will last or not., analyzes Gilles Pison, scientific advisor to the National Institute for Demographic Studies (INED). However, he warns. “Things can change quickly, as we have seen in Poland. With its entry into the European Union in 2004, this country experienced significant emigration, while fertility at the time was very low, with 1.22 children per woman. remembers Mr. Pison. Today this is no longer the case. Poland is becoming an attractive country again, especially for Russians and Ukrainians, while the fertility rate has increased “ to 1.46 children per woman in 2022 and could reach 1.56 in 2050.
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