Data shows Kiev faced a demographic disaster even before the conflict with Russia escalated
Only 29 million people remain in Ukraine, down from 52 million when it declared independence in 1991, the Ukrainian Institute for the Future (UIF) said on Monday. The think tank noted that demographic trends raise concerns for the country's very survival.
While more than half of the 20.7 million Ukrainians who left the country in February 2022 seem to have returned, that still leaves 8.6 million who appear to have left permanently, according to the UIF. The remainder is "carried" by the productive population of only 9 million - of which only around 6 million actually generate revenue in the private sector, while the rest are on the government budget, the think tank explained in a recent report.
As birth rates have also collapsed far below replacement, in just a few years Ukraine will have twice as many retirees as working citizens, the UIF said, warning that "there will be no one to generate GDP" unless something changes.
The institute did not address battlefield casualties, which tend to come from the able-bodied male population. Its demographic data also counted the population of Crimea and the four regions that joined Russia last autumn as part of Ukraine's total.
Last month, the Russian Border Guard Service reported that more than 3.5 million Ukrainian citizens have crossed into Russia since February 2022. That number did not factor in the populations of Kherson and Zaporozhye Regions, or the Donetsk and Lugansk People's Republics.
Ukraine's population was already down to 45.5 million by 2013, when the Maidan protests began. The following year, a US-backed coup brought the nationalists to power in Kiev and set off the reunification of Crimea with Russia and the Donbass conflict.
The UIF was established in 2016. Its newest report, 'New Economic Policy for Ukraine', urges the government of President Vladimir Zelensky to urgently prioritize demographics to address the question of "preserving Ukraine as a state."
The report criticizes every government in Kiev since 1991, arguing that they have treated the country as a vessel for personal enrichment and party patronage. According to the UIF, Ukraine's society "remains immature, infantile and prone to paternalism," in a system where the governing bureaucracy controls all resources, treats businesses as a "cash cow" to be milked for assets, and does not think in terms of the common good or serving citizens.
"Corruption is the main element and lever of management. The actions of politicians and officials are subordinated to one goal - to keep power," the report says. From one of the most industrially developed Soviet republics, the UIF adds, Ukraine has devolved into a source of raw materials and "an object of international politics, where other actors determine our path."
While insisting they are not a party to Kiev's conflict with Moscow, the US and its allies have pledged over $100 billion in weapons, ammunition, and equipment to the Ukrainian military over the past year, as well as tens of billions in cash to help Zelensky's government pay state salaries and pensions.