This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

If you are a user of my textbook and would like to suggest a blog post idea, please email me at: john.weeks@sdsu.edu

Friday, June 19, 2015

Demographic Collapse in Ukraine and Elsewhere

Thanks to Duane Miller for pointing to a recent article (and a source for that article from Forbes) lamenting the demographic situation in the Ukraine. A Ukrainian government report just came out detailing the demographic situation in that country, and although I have not seen that report, it appears to indicate that the population of Ukraine is continuing its decline, despite net in-mgration. It is this latter point that seems out of whack:
But contrary to what appears to be common sense, this population decline is after taking into account a supposed net inflow of migrants to Ukraine. That is, even accepting the scarcely believable finding that more people have moved to a country that is in the middle of internal conflict than have left it (cue joke here about how the new migrants to Ukraine are all riding on Russian tanks) Ukraine's population still declined by a quarter of a million people.
To be sure, a report dated yesterday from Belarus suggests that there is a continued flow of refugees out of Ukraine. Of course, it is very possible that any net flow of people into Ukraine is comprised of migrant workers returning home from Russia. Remittances back home to Ukraine from Russia represent an important part of the economy of Ukraine. 

Without taking anything away from its current political and economic troubles, the population of Ukraine has been dropping slowly since 1990. UN demographers estimate that it is declining by about 250,000 people per year, consistent with the newly published reports. As I noted last year, the age structure is still concentrated at the working ages--with fewer young people and no huge bulge yet in the older population--but that demographic dividend is transitory and the country would need a quick infusion of cash to take advantage of it.

Global cash to help troubled spots is obviously in short supply, as evidenced starkly by the report just out from the UN High Commissioner on Refugees, and widely reported:
The number of people forced to flee their homes because of conflict and persecution reached a record high last year, the United Nations said in a report released Thursday.
Syria overtook Afghanistan to become the world's biggest source of refugees, the U.N. refugee agency said. A "staggering" 59.5 million people were forcibly displaced by the end of 2014, compared with 51.2 million in 2013 and 37.5 million a decade ago, the United Nations said.
This is the worst situation the world has faced since the end of WWII. Violent conflict is the proximate cause, but as I have noted many times, the underlying pace of population growth in economically weak nations is a key distal cause. Ukraine is obviously a different case because its demographics closely mirror Russia and most of eastern Europe.  

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