Ukraine has had a difficult few years (to say the least). It is engaged in a conflict with its Eastern neighbor which also happens to be the regional power. Ukraine has seen that neighbor seize the Crimean peninsula from it and effectively detach the Donbass region from Kiev’s control. With all of this going on, it is not surprising that the country has not been able to conduct proper censuses. The last census was at the turn of the millennium. Then, the country had a population of 42.2 million people (excluding the Crimea but not the Donbass region).
However, since then the population has dramatically shrunk. Everyone knew that this was case but no one was quite sure quite how much it had shrink. The size of the population was a matter of speculation and the President, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, promised to hold a census in 2020 as part of his election manifesto. However, instead of a full traditional census, the government decided to cut some corners and hold an electronic census instead last year. The Government counted heads via cellphone coverage and other indicators; as one might imagine, it is not quite clear how accurate the results.
However, assuming that they are relatively accurate, the figures revealed in that census show that the population has dropped by some 5 million people in the last 20 years to 37.29 million people. This figure does not include the Crimea or Donbass regions and their loss can account for a good proportion of this population drop. But another factor pulling the population down is the large number of Ukrainians leaving the country to find work abroad (about 2 million live in neighbouring Poland and perhaps another three million in Russia and another 500,000 in Hungary and Czech Republic). This is not surprising since wages in Ukraine remain the second lowest in Europe: fields are certainly greener elsewhere.
Marcus Roberts is co-editor of Demography is Destiny, MercatorNet’s blog on population issues.