Europe Undergoing Severe Demographic Crisis

September 4, 2008 Updated: September 4, 2008

Europe is experiencing its most severe demographic crisis ever, according to experts in the field. The labor markets in Eastern Europe went through a harsh downfall, all of them having the same problem—a lack of young, well-educated people. Those who have successfully completed their education prefer to leave for Western Europe for the higher wages. Even several years ago, the economists warned about another catastrophe—the age of the people who stay is quite high, and most of them are disqualified from the labor market due to objective reasons. However, without labor forces, the new members of the European Union will not be able to sustain the high economic development achieved during the last several years.

The aging of the population is observed in Western Europe. After the baby boom of the ’70s, the last 20–30 years were unsatisfactory in terms of demographic indicators and birth rates. According to experts, the young democratic nations will have the most difficulty coping with this issue, since they are relatively less economically developed, especially those who rejected their communist regimes after the fall of the Berlin Wall. The authorities in these countries, among which is Bulgaria, are not well prepared since their market economy is still in its initial stage.

According to the National Statistical Institute of Bulgaria, as a result of the demographic and immigration processes, the Bulgarian population last year was 7,640,240 people. It has declined 40,000 people compared to the previous year. However, around 600–700,000 are Bulgarian immigrants in other countries. Based on their documentation, they are considered living in Bulgaria, but in reality they live and work abroad. In the country, the number of women exceeds the number of men; women are around 53 percent of the total population.

The dangerous tendency of an aging population continues in Europe. In Bulgaria at present, more than 4 million people are in active work condition, but the retired are more than 2.2 million—it is getting harder for the people who are actually employed to support the pensioners. The market of the social security system and work compensation coverage has just started to evolve, since during the communist era everything was state owned. Nineteen years have passed since Bulgaria overturned its totalitarian government, however, the anticipated democracy and economic development did not lead to the expected success.

The Good News

According to the National Statistical Institute of Bulgaria, during the last 3 years, there has been a positive tendency towards an increase in the number of births. More children are born not only in the cities, but in the villages as well—last year 76,000 babies were born. The problem, however, is that most of these children are extramarital. According to experts, it can be explained with the growing number of couples living together without an official marriage. Even with the increase of birthrate, the mortality rate is still extremely high, so Bulgaria currently has a negative population growth rate. According to statistics, the average life span is 73 years, while for most European countries the figure is 79 years.

The demographic crisis is a very significant issue in the Balkans as well. Recently the vice secretary of the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy of Serbia, Mr. Jelko Vasilevich suggested that his country “import” 250,000 Asian as well as Bulgarian women to stop the demographic instability, according to the Bulgarian news agency BGNES. He proposes Serbia to import women from Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Burma, Bulgaria, Romania, or Moldova to marry the many single men, whose number is significantly higher than the number of unmarried women.

If the situation stays unchanged, during the next 2 years, 120 populated areas in Serbia will be left without inhabitants, alleges Vasilevich. According to him, it is possible to import whole families to become citizens of Serbia, and therefore help the economic development of the country, especially in the agricultural regions, which soon there will be no one to cultivate.

According to experts, the situation in Bulgaria’s western neighbor is catastrophic. In the country there are 250,000 single men, who live in the villages and for whom there are no women. At the same time, in the world there many countries that have more women, therefore, it is good if Serbia can import a certain number of women, according to Vasilevich.

At present more than 250,000 couples in Bulgaria are unable to have children. It is fashionable to use in vitro methods to get pregnant, but it not always successful. One trial to get pregnant through this method costs 1500 euros (US$2,185.70), and sometimes 4 to 5 attempts are needed to be successful. If we have to multiply the cost of the in vitro method by 4 or 5, we will see that few families can afford it, so banks recently started to offer loans under reduced conditions for paying them back.