War could see Ukraine’s population fall by a third

Wednesday 16 March 2022

Ukraine’s population could decline by a third over the next two decades as a result of the Russian invasion, researchers at the University of St Andrews suggest.

War casualties and the large numbers fleeing the country in search of safety would contribute to the population fall.

The population of Ukraine is also likely to become proportionately older over time with continued large-scale emigration the longer the war persists. Coupled with continued low fertility, which has been in decline since the 1990s, this could have a dramatic impact on the long-term future demographics of Ukraine, according to the research team.

Professor Hill Kulu, of the School of Geography and Sustainable Development at the University of St Andrews, said: “Russia’s invasion will not only lead to immense human and economic costs in Ukraine in the present, but also carries long-term demographic repercussions.

“Our analysis shows that Ukraine’s population has been declining and ageing and these processes are projected to continue in the next two decades.

“With long-term political and economic instability, refugees are not only unlikely to return, but young adults and families still in Ukraine may also decide to leave the country eventually.”

The researchers conducted a series of population projections to assess the impact of the invasion calculated on the basis of potential deaths, refugees and their likelihood of staying abroad for a long period.

The impact of previous armed conflicts on the population was reviewed as well as an analysis of Ukraine’s current demography.

Ukraine gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991 and since then its population has been constantly declining.

In 1991 there were almost 52 million people in Ukraine, but by 2021 the total population had fallen to 41.6 million.

Overall, the size of the Ukrainian population has declined by 20 per cent since 1991, which includes a sharp decline from 45.4 million to 42.9 million between 2014 and 2015 related to the annexation of Crimea by Russia.

The paper ‘The War and the Future of Ukraine’s Population’ by Hill Kulu, Sarah Christison, Chia Liu and Júlia Mikolai is available online.

Issued by the University of St Andrews Communications Office.

Category Research

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