The recent UN population projections include forecasts about the fastest-shrinking countries in the world in the decades to come. These forecasts indicate that the population exodus from Eastern Europe, something we’ve discussed before, is set to continue and that the region will be much emptier by the middle of the century.
Indeed, according to Axios, the ten countries which will see their populations shrink the most (in percentage terms) in the years 2017-2050 are all from Eastern Europe. Japan, although widely discussed for its demographic issues, will only be the 11th fastest shrinking country in the world in the years to 2050; by then its population will have declined by 15 percent. The top 20 countries will be heavily dominated by Europe; only three will be from elsewhere in the world: Japan, South Korea and Lebanon.
By 2050 it is predicted that Bulgaria’s population will have shrunk by nearly a quarter (23 per cent or 1.7 million people). Bulgaria is already the fastest shrinking country in the world and that trend is set to continue. The rest of the top 10 run in that corridor between Germany and Russia: Latvia (22 percent decrease); Moldova (19 percent); Ukraine (18 percent); Croatia (17 percent); Lithuania (17 percent); Romania (17 percent); Serbia (15 percent) and Hungary (15 percent).
The reasons for this population decline are simple: low birth rates (low fertility rates of between 1.3 and 1.6 children per woman) coupled with high migration (especially of young people) to wealthier countries. Unlike wealthier nations in western Europe, these Eastern European nations are not a magnet for high levels of immigration to make up for their population shortfalls. Having said that, many of them are politically ill at ease with large scale migration anyway.
The next few decades will see Africa's population rapidly grow and the European population decline, especially in the East of the continent. Whether that will mean a surge in migration across the Mediterranean remains to be seen.
Marcus Roberts is co-editor of Demography is Destiny, MercatorNet's blog on population issues.