This time last year (September again already!) I provided an update on the country with one of the fastest declining populations in the world: Romania. Its population had declined by 120,000 people (a drop of 0.6%) in 2017. This decline was split roughly 50:50 into natural decrease (more deaths than births) and net migration (more emigrants than immigrants).
Well, to update you yet again, the latest figures have come out for 2018, and the population decline has continued. In fact, it has slightly quickened. In 2018 the Romanian population fell by a further 125,500 people to 19.4 million. This is the lowest Romanian population since 1967. Perhaps more concerning to Romanian policy makers (in that it is probably harder to change) is that this population drop was largely due to natural decrease. There were nearly 76,000 more deaths than births in 2018. At the same time, the number of Romanians migrating to other countries hit nearly a quarter of a million people. If Romania is to halt this population decline in the near future, it is going to have to attract more migrants than the 181,000 who chose to move to the country last year.
Hand in hand with the shrinking population is an ageing of those that are left. In 2018, the number of elderly (65 years and older) increased from 116.3 (on 1 January 2018) to 118.8 (on 1 January 2019) per 100 young people (aged less than 15 years old). While the share of the young has remained at 15.6 per cent of the population, the share of the population aged 65 and over grew by 0.3 per cent to 18.5 per cent of the overall population.
Again, there is little to suggest that anything will change in the near future for Romania. Like the rest of Eastern Europe it is slowly, but steadily depopulating. Although Japan is often seen as the canary in the coalmine for industrialised OECD nations, Romania is further along the demographic implosion route than the land of the rising sun. Although Japan’s population is losing more people each year than Romania’s, only neighbouring Bulgaria can compete with Romania’s decline as a proportion of its population. Indeed, on that measure, Romania is declining at about twice the speed of Japan. It is hard to see the decline reversing anytime soon.
Marcus Roberts is co-editor of Demography is Destiny, MercatorNet's blog on population issues.