The United Nations warns Southeast Europe faces a dramatic population drop.

A recent United Nations (UN) study revealed that of the world’s fastest-shrinking populations, 90% of them are located in East and Southeast Europe as poor job prospects and inadequate social services are causing young people to seek opportunities abroad, threatening economic growth in the region.

“Fewer children and high outmigration means that populations of the countries of Southeast Europe are getting smaller and older, and unlike in Western Europe, immigration is not being pursued to fill the gap (…) However, a promising way forward for addressing these trends … is to identify strategies leading to strengthening of human capital and thus turning current challenges into opportunities” said Allana Armitage, Director of the U.N. Population Fund for Eastern Europe and Central Asia to Reuters.

Latvia is emblematic of this trend. According to Global Risk Insights and Politico EU, since accession to the European Union in May 2004, it has lost one-fifth of its population. Latvia’s population has steadily decreased from a peak of 2.66 million at the end of Soviet rule, to 2.38m in 2000. Now it has dipped below 2 million. This is a scene replicated in neighbouring Lithuania, which has one of the world’s fastest declining working-age populations. One million Bulgarians have also departed their homeland since the fall of the Soviet Union, predominantly to other EU member states; and the UN projects this could continue for many years to come.

Armitage also said that under current conditions it may be difficult to reverse emigration and low birth rates.


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