President of the Republic of Belarus Aleksandr Lukashenko launched a campaign for population growth in the country. Lukashenko wants the number of Belarus citizens to jump from 9.5 million people to 15 million, Lenta.ru reported. Other countries of the former USSR also have pressing demographic issues, from depopulation in Ukraine to alleged forced sterilization in Uzbekistan due to rapid growth in births.
Lukashenko urges the current generation of Belarus women and men to deal with the problem of depopulation. The leader claims that this is absolutely necessary to ensure the economic security of the country and its power. He adds that in recent years Belarus has seen a positive trend as far as the increase of population is concerned. The leader even believes that the country could feed 20 million people and should strive to reach that number.
As of now, the total population of Belarus is 9.5 million. However, there is no evident population growth: The loss for the first half of 2017 constituted 9.2 thousand people. A dramatic increase in the number of large families is needed to fulfill President’s dream, but experts believe that it will lead to impoverishment and thus may not be worth it.
The threat of extinction vs. overpopulation
What seems to be just a wishful thinking on the part of the Belarusian leader, is a reality to some countries of the former Soviet Union. According to statistics, an increase in population in the post-Soviet space is apparent only in Central Asia, namely, in its predominantly Muslim states.
Uzbekistan is the leader in this aspect: half a million people increase is recorded here annually. BBC Russia even reported on a program for forced sterilization of women that is conducted by Uzbekistan authorities, but the government strongly denies such accusations. Currently the number of Uzbek citizens is estimated as 31.85 million. In 1991 when the USSR collapsed, it was on the level of 20.95 million.
In the meantime, all other post-Soviet countries, especially the Baltic states (Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, all three are members of the European Union), are not that blessed with newborns, but rather are on the brink of extinction.
For example, Latvia experiences an unprecedented decrease in population. In the last 5 years the country lost 92 thousand people, which constitutes about 5% of the population.
Ilmars Mezs, the head of IOM office in Riga, predicts that the country “has no more than 100 years left”. In May, the Republic joined the list of 10 countries around the globe with the fastest rate of population decline. As of now, Latvia has 1.9 million people, while at the time of the collapse of the Soviet Union it had 2.6 million. That’s a dramatic change in numbers.
Rapid loss of citizens in Ukraine
Similar processes, although on a larger scale, are happening in Ukraine, where statistics show 170 deaths to 100 births. In 25 years of independence, the number of inhabitants in Ukraine declined by 9 million people – it is an absolute world record for depopulation.
- 51 million people lived in Ukraine in 1991, but as of March 1, 2017 the country has 42.371 million, which is 389 thousand people less than in January 2016.
It is not just the fact that mortality rates exceed birth rates. On top of that, millions of Ukrainians have left for Europe and Russia in search of better pay checks. More than a million of Ukrainians left to work in Poland in the past 2 years. It can be compared to the waves of refugee migration from Syria to Germany. According to estimates, 6 to 8 millions of Ukrainians work abroad.
Only two cities with more than 1 million inhabitants are left in the country: Kyiv and Kharkiv. The rate of population decline is close to 400 thousand people a year. Imagine that a typical central city of a region is wiped off the map annually. The scale of the problem makes it hard to tackle.
Cutbacks in social programs also contribute to depopulation. Low wages that only recently started to grow in hryvnia-dollar exchange terms, propel economic migration. Current average wages in Ukraine grew to US$270/month. A year ago this number was under US$200 (and for some regions still is).
Ukraine is projected to have no more than 30 million people by the year 2030.