In the coming decades, the population of Earth will inevitable grow and by 2050 reach over 9.7 billion. These were the conclusions of The Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations Secretariat in early 2018. Africa will be the most populated region on the planet, and Europe, on the other hand, will be in big trouble. RuBaltic.Ru looked into why the experts are predicting a population crisis for the most well-off continent.
Ahead of the Whole Planet
The countries “dying out” the most, according to the UN, are at the outskirts of European civilization. Some of them may lose more than 15% of their population by 2050. Bulgaria is poised to have the biggest demographic crisis: today there is a bit over 7 million people living in the country, 32 years later, there will be less 5.5 million. It is noteworthy the country losing the most people is Bulgaria – a once prominent industrial power, which was in a state of crisis ever since it gained “independence.” Since the early 1990s, the country has already lost around 2 million citizens and looks like this trend will continue.
Misery loves company, so Bulgaria is joined by its neighbors: Poland, Croatia, Romania, Serbia and Moldova. It is unsurprising that the experts note negative demographic trends in Ukraine, which will “shrink” to 36 million by 2050.
In the top 10 depopulating countries, Ukraine is the most densely populated and in actual numbers, they will be faced with the most steep drop in population.
But in terms of percentage, the Ukrainians are surpassed not just by the Bulgarians: the Latvian population will drop 22% in 32 years (around 500 thousand people). Lithuania will also lose 17% of its population.
Latvia and Lithuania being in this depressing list is no surprise for anyone. The net has already been calling them the Baltic Extinction States, hinting at the rapid depopulation, which the Republics’ governments doesn’t want or can’t deal with. The Baltics are also joined by the tiny US Virgin Islands, but that is an exception.
Nine out of ten countries “dying out” the most are the remnants of the Socialist camp, which could not find happiness in the EU.
The coveted democracy has already led to demographic losses comparable to losses in the World Wars (or even surpassing them). The two main causes of the crisis are – wide scale emigration processes and low birthrate.
The “dying out” process is also stimulated by the low quality of medical care. Latvia is a noteworthy example, who has high mortality rates among mothers during childbirth, children and heart patients. This partly because Latvia is doing just barely better than Bulgaria in the UN rating.
A Common Problem
It should be notes that population issues during the coming decades will not just affect the former Soviet Union republics, but also the Warsaw Pact counties. Among all of the planet’s regions, only Europe will have less people by 2050 than it does now. The all-European trend will hit all key EU countries, excluding France, who are predicted to have a 5 million increase. But the Germans will lose 3 million. Italy’s population will drop by more than 4 million (from 59 to 55). The Spaniards will drop two million as well.
But the United Kingdom won’t be doing so bad: Britain will gain 5 million people in 32 years and will continue to add on an additional million during the following five decades. This growth is primarily due to the Brits fertility – commonly speaking, there are more births than deaths in the country. This tendency is also seen in France. It seems obvious, but then why aren’t the birthrates as high in well-off Germany and Italy? Italy’s economy is showing low growth rates, but is still the third biggest in the Eurozone.
It seems that “welfare” is relative. The people of Germany, which is doing very well in terms of birth rates in Europe, consider children to be an expensive endeavor: in 2016, the lack of children was explained by financial difficulties by 63% of all Germans polled, which is 5% higher than 5 years ago.
The birthrate is also not helped by Europe’s political “turbulence” – trade wars with the US, threatening to disrupt their wellbeing and the threat of terrorism.
The UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs note that “Fertility in all European countries is now below the level required for replacement of the population in the long run (around 2.1 births per woman, on average) and, in most cases, has been below the replacement level for several decades. Fertility for Europe as a whole is projected to increase from 1.6 births per woman in 2010-2015 to nearly 1.8 in 2045-2050. Such an increase, however, will not prevent a likely contraction in the size of the total population.”
The causes of the population crisis in Europe may be much more complex than initially perceived.
In the context of the native European population “dying out”, journalists and experts are frequently speaking of the decay of the system of traditional values, including the institution of family.
Sociologists note that family and children are no longer an unconditional priority in modern Western society. The developed Western countries have started transforming the institution of marriage since the mid-1960s, but Sexual Revolution hit the former Soviet countries in the late 1980s-early 1990s. It provided access to alternative lifestyles, which did not presume marriage, nor children.
The Immigrants Won’t Help
The Middle Eastern immigrants are proposing to “help out” with the European population problem. According to UN predictions, the migration will have significant effects on the European population in the coming years and decades. Theoretically, it can even supplant the rapid losses in the countries and regions, where the birthrates are not high enough for population renewal.
But the expected scale of the immigration processes is not that great: with the natural European population decrease of 57 million during the 2015-2050 period, only 32 million immigrants will flood the continent.
Thus, Europe would still lose 25 million residents.
Refugees from the Middle East are by far not the only donors of the European Union. Some countries (Great Britain for example) get the “new blood” from the former colonies. The actual “migration of the people” can be seen in the continent itself: the economically prosperous countries are receiving an influx of the Baltics, Romanians, Ukrainians, etc.
This does not affect the density of population the European region as a whole, but the East European countries are at a loss. And when solving the population problem, the Middle Eastern immigrants are not helping: the most “dying” countries of the world and in no hurry to accept refugees.
A Way Out?
“If there is no solution to the problem, then it must be silenced” – that is principle of the Ukrainian government, while avoiding talking about the demographic crisis in their country and pretending that “t’is just a flesh wound.” This is probably why Ukraine did not do a population census: it was planned for 2016, but the Verkhovna Rada delayed it by four years.
The truth of how many residents still remain in Ukraine is bound to be a big scandal.
It is much harder to hide a demographic problem in small countries such as Latvia and Lithuania. The Baltic governments are still harshly criticized for their unwillingness to stop the depopulation and outflow of the population. Suggestions for a solution usually speak of changing the state’s approach to supporting children and motherhood. But would a fragmented policy be effective?
Decreasing population count is not a concrete issue with a concrete solution. With the Baltics, it is best to view it as a result of the region’s poor economic state.
One can’t escape the downward trend by stimulating birthrates, nor generous social aid, if the parents don’t see a future for their children in Latvia and Lithuania.
The Population will start restoring itself along with structural changes in the economy.
Half-measures will at best slow the process down, which was demonstrated by Estonia: the demographic situation in the Republic is not that bad, but UN also predicts a slow decline (the 1.3 million Estonians will be just 890 thousand by the year 2100).
Well, as they say, you still have to make it to 2050. Latvia, Lithuania and other declining populations have time to change and surprise the researches. As long as they don’t surprise the UN with depopulation trends that are even more severe than UN expects…
Translated by Pavel Shamshiev