Eastern Europe Experiencing Deep Demographic Crisis

Novinite Insider » OPINIONS | July 5, 2018, Thursday // 11:21
Bulgaria: Eastern Europe Experiencing Deep Demographic Crisis

Author : Dmitriy Dobrov

Depopulation of Eastern Europe is connected not only with the outflow of labor resources: after 1989, the era of wild capitalism began in the former "socialist countries", accompanied by the collapse of social and medical systems, a sharp increase in mortality, especially among men, with a simultaneous fall in the birth rate

The French newspaper Le Monde diplomatique wrote about the unprecedented demographic catastrophe that hit the countries of Eastern Europe after the collapse of the communist system in its June issue. The process began in late 1989, immediately after the fall of the Berlin Wall. There followed a massive exodus of the population from East Germany, Poland, and Hungary to the countries of Western Europe in search of higher earnings, which continues to this day, covering practically all former countries of the socialist camp. As a result of the new "resettlement of peoples", the human losses of Eastern Europe were much greater than those of both world wars. Over the past 30 years, Romania lost 14% of the population, Moldova - 16.9%, Ukraine - 18%, Bosnia - 19.9%, Bulgaria and Lithuania - 20.8%, Latvia - 25.3% of the population. Depopulation also affected the eastern regions of Germany (the former GDR), which in the literal sense of the word were emptied. A kind of exception was made by the Czech Republic, where it was possible to preserve the main "gains of socialism" in the form of social support for the population, a free medical system, assistance to mothers, and so on.

Depopulation of Eastern Europe is connected not only to the outflow of labor resources: after 1989, the era of wild capitalism began in the former "socialist countries", accompanied by the collapse of social and medical systems, a sharp increase in mortality, especially among men, with a simultaneous fall in the birth rate. However, the main blow to demography caused the outcome of the population, especially the youngest, active, qualified group. In the historical homeland remained children, pensioners and persons incapable of actively seeking work abroad. And this despite the fact that for 40 post-war years in the countries of Eastern Europe there was a slow but steady growth of the population.

According to the UN, all ten of the world's most "endangered" countries are in Eastern Europe. They are Bulgaria, Romania, Poland, Hungary, the Baltic republics and the former Yugoslavia, as well as Moldova and Ukraine. According to the forecasts of demographers, by 2050 the population of these countries will decrease by another 15-23%. This means, in particular, that the population of Bulgaria will drop from 7 to 5 million people, Latvia - from 2 to 1.5 million. According to experts of the Wittgenstein International Demographic Center in Vienna, "it is unprecedented for peacetime depopulation." Among the main reasons called the killer combination of three factors - low birth rate, high mortality and mass emigration. But if in the countries of Western Europe the fall in the birth rate is compensated by the new migration waves, the countries of Eastern Europe categorically refuse to accept the "fresh blood" in the person of migrants, and this issue has acquired an extraordinary political poignancy. At the height of the migration crisis of 2015, Slovakia and the Czech Republic took 16 and 12 refugees respectively, Hungary and Poland did not accept anyone.

Meanwhile, Eastern Europe continues to lose its "golden cadres" - the best specialists and young people. In Hungary alone, since joining the EU in 2004, 5,000 doctors have left the country, mostly under the age of 40. There is a shortage of technicians and mechanics who also left for Austria, Germany and other countries of Western Europe. This is perfectly understandable since in Hungary they receive 500 euros a month for heavy manual work, and in Austria for the same work - 1 thousand euros per week. In other countries, the outflow of specialists of medium qualification is felt even more: hundreds of thousands of nurses, carpenters, locksmiths and skilled workers moved from Poland, Romania, Serbia, and Slovakia to the West. In Romania, the outcome of the population is called a "national catastrophe". The population of this country declined for the post-communist period from 23 to 20 million people.

The transfer of labor from the East was not only spontaneous but also systematically predatory. Numerous German and British firms of "headhunters" in large numbers began to entice Western specialists immediately after the accession of Eastern European countries to the EU. As the German Die Welt writes, qualification, youth and money flow from Eastern European countries, while the old people and children remain deeply disappointed in "freedom" and "democracy." Since the early 1990s, a small Bosnia lost 150 thousand people, Serbia - about half a million. However, the most significant outflow was observed in Lithuania: over 300,000 people out of 3 million left the country.

But the most tragic consequences of the "post-communist breakdown" have been experienced by Ukraine - once one of the most developed republics of the USSR. If in the early 1990s there were 52 million people in the republic, now the population does not exceed 42 million. According to the forecasts of the Kyiv Institute of Demography, by 2050 the population of the republic will be 32 million. This means that Ukraine is the fastest dying state in Europe, and possibly, in the world. According to Ukrainian sources, the country was abandoned by 8 million people (experts believe that number is from 2 to 4 million people - ed.), who went to work in the countries of the European Union and neighboring Russia. According to recent polls, 35% of Ukrainians declared their readiness to emigrate. The process accelerated after Ukraine received a visa-free regime with the EU: about 100,000 people leave the country every month.

It was in Ukraine in the most extreme form three factors coincided: a fall in the birth rate, an increase in mortality (the death rate was twice the birth rate) and mass emigration of the population. Demographers compare the corresponding dynamics in France and Ukraine. If before 1989 the growth rates of the population in these two countries were comparable, then in the subsequent period the population of France increased by 9 million people, and Ukraine lost the same number of people.

Experts believe that the demographic crisis in Eastern Europe cannot continue indefinitely. The systems of social support and healthcare cannot physically work in conditions when the majority of the population is pensioners and children, at some point, inevitably there will be a collapse of statehood. But you should not flatter yourself about Western Europe, where the birth rate is also extremely low. While the developed part of the continent temporarily benefited from human resources from Eastern Europe, a much more rapid influx of migrants from the Middle East and Africa will inevitably change the sociocultural image of Western European countries, where religious and ethnic conflicts already arise. If the fertility rate for native French women is 1.6 children per woman, then for adults from the countries of the Middle East and Africa this figure is 3.4 children or more. Today's kindergartens in France are already three-quarters composed of representatives of ethnic minorities, and in the future, great socio-cultural changes await the country. This has already been written in his best-selling "Soumission" by the French writer Michelle Houellebecq.

Is there a way out of this situation? Is it possible to stimulate the birth rate mechanism among Europeans? Demographers are sure that this is impossible neither in Western, nor in Eastern Europe. True, for various reasons. In the west of the continent, the consumption standard is so high that the appearance of a new child will automatically mean a decrease in the standard of living. In Eastern Europe, another mechanism operates: poverty, lack of prospects and the breakdown of family relations make the birth of children undesirable. Meanwhile, the proportion of Europeans in the world's demographic balance is constantly decreasing. If in 1900 Europe accounted for 25% of the world's inhabitants, now it is about 10%.

At the same time, according to UN estimates, the population of Africa to the south of the Sahara will be 2.5 billion by 2050, and by the end of the century - 4.4 billion, that is, more than the entire population of the planet in 1980. This means that Europe will be overwhelmed by new migration waves, despite its resistance.


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