Monday, May 26, 2014

Ukraine’s Population Challenge | FiveThirtyEight


Ukraine’s population has been shrinking fast — a trend that started long before Russia annexed Crimea in March, and 4 percent of Ukraine’s population with it.

Ukraine’s population declined by 6.3 million people, or 12 percent, between 1990 — the year before it gained independence from the Soviet Union — and 2012, the latest year for which the government has released estimates. And the United Nations projects the trend will continue: In the most likely scenario, Ukraine’s population will dip below 34 million in 2050, or less than two-thirds its population at independence.

Four main factors drive population, and Ukraine is lagging in all of them. Births are well below replacement level. That has persisted long enough to age the population and drive down the proportion of women who are at the ages of peak fertility.1 Ukraine’s life expectancy is lower than in wealthier countries with low fertility, such as Germany and South Korea, so it needs more births than those countries do to compensate for deaths. And more people have moved out of Ukraine than have moved in, though net migration is balancing out.

In Ukraine, “Most women stop at one child mainly for economic reasons,” Oleh Wolowyna, a research fellow at the Center for Slavic, Eurasian and Eastern European Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, wrote in an email.

“Mortality is very high, especially among men, due to unhealthy life styles (mainly smoking and drinking) and a very deficient health-care system,” Wolowyna said. “The large outmigration is due to high unemployment and low wages.”

At one point, Ukraine was losing much of its population to migration: a net loss of more than two people per 1,000 population each year from 1994 to 2001, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s International Program. During that period, more than a quarter of the country’s population loss resulted from people choosing to leave. Since then, though, outmigration has slowed to a trickle.

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