By Paul Goble
Ukraine has not conducted a census for two decades, but there is agreement by all observers that its population has declined over that period. Ukrainian officials suggest that their country now has just under 40 million people while some independent experts in Ukraine and Russia maintain that the real number is under 30 million.
The latest estimate in this field comes from Kyiv’s Institute of the Future which says that if one takes into account both excess deaths over births, Russian occupation of portions of Ukraine, and the departure of Ukrainians for work or in the face of Russian aggression, the country’s population is now about 29 million (nakanune.ru/articles/120919/).
That figure is disputed by others and is likely far too low, especially as some Ukrainians are now returning to their country and the Ukrainian army seems set to reclaim much if not all of the territory the Russian military has occupied. But the overall number may be less significant than other demographic problems in Ukraine.
Among the ones pointed to by the Institute, the following are especially worrisome and have been exacerbated by the Russian invasion: Ukraine now faces a decline in the size of its workforce and an increase in the number of pensioners; and its fertility rate has fallen to less than half of the 2.1 children per woman per lifetime needed to maintain the population.
Those trends will place an enormous burden on Ukraine even after the war is over and many of the eight million plus Ukrainians who have moved abroad since its start return.