Population decline, also known as depopulation, is a reduction in a human population caused by events such as long-term demographic trends. Population decline can be caused by one or a combination of these trends, including aging, emigration, fertility rates below the population replacement rate, and high death rates due to violence, disease, or other catastrophes.
Population decline has both positive and negative impacts on a nation. A shrinking population can mean more resources can be allocated to the population and per capita wealth could increase. Additionally, a declining population alleviates the problems associated with overpopulation in areas affected by it, such as increased pollution, traffic, real estate and rent prices, and environmental degradation. Population decline, however, can also lead to an aging population if fewer babies are being born, subsequently leading to a shrinking workforce, especially highly-educated, high-skilled workers.
Due to varying demographic challenges around the world, many countries are facing shrinking populations. The United Nations publishes demographic projections regularly, allowing Business Insider to study the fertility, mortality, and international migration projections to determine the 20 countries projected to have the largest percentage population declines over the next three decades (2020-2050).
Bulgaria’s population is expected to decline by 22.5% from 6.9 million in 2020 to 5.4 million in 2050. Mass outbound migration is the largest contributor towards Bulgaria’s population decline.
The Lithuanian population is projected to shrink by 22.1% over the next three decades. The population is expected to shrink from 2.7 million to 2.1 million people. Like Bulgaria, Lithuania’s largest population loss is due to mass migration.
Latvia is expecting a 21.6% population loss between 2020 and 2050. Latvia has lost about one-fifth of its population since joining the European Union in May 2004. Latvia’s population loss is caused by economic migration and low birth rates.
Ukraine’s population is projected to drop from 43.7 million in 2020 to 35.2 million in 2050, a 19.5% loss. High emigration rates coupled with high death rates and low birth rates are to blame for Ukraine’s population loss. The country’s birth rate is 9.2 births per 1,000 people and its death rate is 15.2 deaths per 1,000 people.
The Serbian population is expected to decline from 8.7 million to 7.1 million over the next 30 years. This is a decline of about 18.9%. Many of Serbia’s highly educated and skilled workers have left the country to find better job opportunities since there are very few in Serbia. The high migration rates are coupled with low fertility rates.
6. Bosnia and Herzegovina
The population is projected to decline by 18.2%, shrinking from 3.3 million in 2020 to 2.7 million in 2050. Bosnia and Herzegovina’s fertility rate is well below the population replacement rate of 2.1 births per woman at 1.26 births per woman.
Croatia’s population is expected to shrink by 18.0%. The population is projected to drop from 4.1 million to 3.4 million over the next 30 years. The population reached its peak in 1991 at 4.78 million but has been declining since because of low birth rates and an aging population.
Moldova’s population will decline by 16.7% from 2020 to 2050. The population is expected to fall by 600,000 from 4 million to 3.4 million. Poverty and corruption in Moldova have pushed the highly-skilled, young workers away from the country and the aging population has been plagued by poor living standards and high mortality rates.
Japan’s population is projected to lose 20.7 million people between 2020 and 2050. The population is expected to shrink from 126.5 million to 105.8 million, a 16.3% decline. Japan’s population has been falling since 2011 due to very low fertility rates (1.42 births per woman) and an aging population.
The Albanian population is expected to decrease by 15.8% over the next 30 years, falling from 2.9 million people to 2.4 million people. It is estimated that over 38% of the Albanian population lives abroad.
Romania’s population is projected to decline by 15.5% from 2020 to 2050. The population will reduce from 19.2 million to 16.3 million over the next three decades. Between 2007 and 2015, about 3.5 million Romanians have gone abroad to escape poverty and widespread corruption.
The population of Greece is expected to shrink from 10.4 million to 9.0 million, 1 13.4% over the next 30 years. Greece’s population began declining in 2011 when the first negative birth rate was recorded. Greece’s population could decline up to 50% over the next 50 years if nothing is done to combat it.
Estonia’s population of 1.3 million is projected to decline by 12.7% to 1.2 million by 2050. Compared to other Baltic states, Estonia’s population decline has been relatively slow and stable. Immigration has delayed a quicker population decline in recent years.
Hungary’s population is projected to drop from 9.7 million in 2020 to 8.5 million in 2050. This is a population decline of about 12.3%. Hungary’s population has fallen by about over 40,000 per year and shows no signs of slowing down. Policies Hungary to help slow the population decline are focused on boosting birthrates.
Poland’s population is predicted to drop by 12.0%. Over the next 30 years, the population will drop from 37.8 million to 33.3 million people. Low birth rates and continued emigration are the two main reasons for Poland’s population decline.
The population is expected to decline by 11.8%, shrinking from 4.0 million to 3.5 million from 2020 to 2050. The decline in Georgia’s population is caused by the emigration in search of better jobs in other countries.
The Portuguese population is projected to decline from 10.2 million to 9.1 million over the next three decades, a 10.9% decline. Portugal has made attempts to lure back those who emigrated, whether or not they are highly paid or highly skilled.
18. North Macedonia
North Macedonia’s population is expected to drop by 10.9%, shrinking from 2.1 million to 1.9 million from 2020 to 2050. North Macedonia’s population has fallen by 24.6% since its independence in 1991.
Cuba’s population of 11.3 million is expected to shrink to 10.2 million by 2050, a 10.3% decline. The young people leaving the country and low birth rates are resulting in an increasingly aging population. Cuba’s population is expected to be the ninth-oldest in the world by 2050.
Italy’s population is projected to shrinking by 10.1% from 2020 to 2050. The current population of 60.5 million people will reduce to 54.4 million over the next 30 years. Births are at an all-time low since the unification of Italy and young people are leaving Italy to other European countries for job opportunities.