Will emigration undermine Ukraine?

Author : Mykhailo Pozhyvanov

Source : 112 Ukraine

By 2050, Ukraine’s population might reach 32 million, compared to those 52 million who lived in the country in the early 1990s
14:55, 6 February 2018

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Ukraine’s Institute of Demography at the Academy of Sciences warns that by 2050, Ukraine’s population might reach 32 million (compared to 52 who lived in the country in the early 1990s). None of the European countries is dying at this rate. And given that Ukraine is rapidly aging, the situation after 2050 might be even sadder. Because by that time the number of people over 60 will increase by one and a half times.

However, there is no need to wait for the 2050 year to emphasize the extremely unsatisfactory demographic situation. Ukraine is in the top 30 countries with a high percentage of older people - from 60 years and older. According to the Ministry of Social Policy, in 2015, there were 21% of people that belong to such a category, and by 2025 the share of the elderly will grow to 25%. And this is without taking into account the extremely important factor – emigration. Demographers measure only the birth rate and mortality and also correlate the age categories. Emigration is rather a political factor; therefore, it can be ignored.

Related: Being guest worker: How dangerous is labor migration for Ukraine?

And it is really ignored. This is why Ukraine does not conduct a census of its population. The last time the "livestock" of Ukrainians was recounted in 2001, it was found that 48.5 million people live in the country. By the way, Ukraine is close to breaking a kind of anti-record on extremely rare and irregular censuses (speaking about the CIS, only in Uzbekistan things are worse).

The authorities are so reluctant to reveal the truth about how many people are left in Ukraine that they even ignore the UN regulations. Population census had to be conducted in 2010, but it was postponed to 2012. Then from 2012 to 2013, from 2013 to 2016, and from 2016 to 2020. All the presidents of Ukraine, beginning with Kuchma, believe that this complicated topic should not be touched at all. The census has been "rescheduled" for the period after the presidential and parliamentary elections, which will take place next year in Ukraine.

Related: National Bank warns of labor immigration increase in coming years

In addition to the natural population decrease due to the prevalence of mortality over birth rate, Ukraine’s demographic plague is the massive outflow of citizens abroad. How many of our compatriots have already left for a seasonal gathering of strawberries and obtained permanent residence permissions? There are no exact statistics: from 5 to 8 million Ukrainian labor migrants went abroad. Previously, the algorithm of the labor migrant was "go abroad – earn money – return home," now it is like "go abroad – settle in a country – stay."

Interest to emigration was greatly stimulated by an article in ZN.UA. It has analyzed the sociological study of "relocation vibe." Of course, the results of this study can be approached in different ways. One can rejoice that only 6.3% of Ukrainians said they are leaving the country and are taking concrete steps (10.8% are ready to move abroad,  and 20% are not ready but would emigrate under favorable circumstances).

Related: More than million of Ukrainians emigrated to Poland

Yes, you can be comforted by the fact that not that many people are leaving. But this is without taking into account those who have already left, and without taking into account the fact that 37.1% (6.3 + 10.8 + 20) relates to the Motherland without the least piety. This Motherland has become extremely uncomfortable for every third Ukrainian habitat. The flow of migrants from Ukraine exceeded similar indicators from other European countries.

Despite the emerging crisis in relations, Poland willingly accepts the Ukrainians. President Duda condescendingly looks at migrants from Ukraine, as a more acceptable alternative to refugees from Africa and the Middle East. Our compatriots are working to raise Polish GDP. According to Eurostat (statistical organization of the European Commission), Ukrainians received the largest number of residence permits in the EU (589 thousand or 17.6% of all permits) in 2016. The bulk of them (87%) was provided by Poland, while the overwhelming number of applicants (82,7%) were Ukrainians traveling for the purpose of employment.

These are long-known facts, and the reaction of the Ukrainian authorities would be interesting here. But it is quite disappointing. This year, National Bank of Ukraine (NBU) has paid attention to the topic of the guest workers in its traditional "Inflation Report". As the NBU notes, the mass labor migration of Ukrainians carries the risks of reducing the level of the potential GDP, which narrows the country's economic growth opportunities in the future. Another problem of migration is the strengthening of problems associated with aging of the population since people of working age are leaving.

Related: Immigration from Ukraine to Israel increased by 20% in 2017

"The wage growth might also put pressure on inflation, as Ukrainian employers will have to bring wages closer to the European level in response to moderate productivity growth," the NBU said in a statement. The last statement is especially "impressive." The regulator is frightened by the need to fight for the labor force with the help of increasing payments.

In other words, the average Ukrainian is allowed to live on a Ukrainian salary and to pay the European prices. And do not even think about indexing income or about a general increase in the standard of living.

Although Ukraine's Vice-prime Minister Gennady Zubko says that emigration has become the second largest disaster for Ukraine after the Russian aggression, I do not see a single step towards removing or at least minimizing this problem.

Related: Ukraine, Slovakia cooperate, stop illegal immigration channel from Vietnam

Zubko's recipe includes reduction of taxes on the incomes of enterprises with the obligatory change in their administration (investment deposits should not be taxed – that is how it works today in Europe), the abolition of the property tax, and the drastic reduction of the land tax. Plus, the government should support for small and medium-sized businesses, stop meaningless PR actions like raising minimum wages (which do not give anything except more impoverishment and increasing inflationary pressures), eliminating the corruption component, curbing the appetite of the power with their Seychelles and Maldives, which only undermine faith in the country and its future.

In other words, the authorities still have much space to move. Ruling shadows and memories, instead of real thinking and working people, is a dubious pleasure. However, everyone chooses his own way, from ruling the country to escaping from such a rule.

Related: Alternative to emigration: How to turn students with European education back to Ukraine

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