Ukraine is continuing to lose citizens at an alarming rate and, this time around, it is the young that are leaving. Experts cite labor migration, pessimistic views towards the future, and political unrest as the primary reason for the mass exodus.
A recent poll indicated that 71% of Ukrainians are unmoved and unenthusiastic when it comes to the country’s leaders and political direction. 88% disapprove of parliament, 77% disapprove of the judiciary branch, and less than a third of residents under the age of 35 intend to vote in the upcoming elections. But why are they leaving? Public dissatisfaction with Ukrainian politics certainly isn’t new, but something else is.
In July of 2017, the country announced visa-free travel to the European Union spurring the temporary departure of nearly 17.6 million Ukrainian citizens. Although their trips are generally short, many take advantage of the time to search for employment outside of the country. In fact, one report issued by the Center for Economic Strategy claims that one in six working-age citizens migrate to Europe in search of temporary OR permanent job opportunities.
Poland, Ukraine’s geographical neighbor, gratefully receives the majority of these migrants in an effort to combat its own depopulation crisis. Ukrainians make up 81.7% of Polish visa applications this year, and the country welcomed 507,000 Ukrainian citizens between 2015 and 2017. Other popular destinations include Russia or Belarus, Italy, and the Czech Republic.
If trends continue, the UN estimates that the Ukrainian population will decrease by 18% by 2050. In a similar statement, Ukraine’s Institute of Demography at the Academy of Sciences estimates a remaining population of 32 million people by that time. The World Health Organization posits that estimate should be lowered by an additional 2 million.
Not helping the grave depopulation situation is the country’s perilously low birth rate. For every one citizen born, there are 1.5 deaths. The Kiev National Economic University cites an increase in epidemic diseases and low-quality health care, along with a sweeping use of alcohol and drugs, as factors contributing to the mortality rate.
While depopulation is not unique to Ukraine (it is actually quite common among Eastern Bloc countries), it is propagated by an intense economic struggle, proclaimed corruption, and the potential for full-on war at any given moment.