Monday

2nd Oct 2023

Moldova facing Europe's worst demographic crisis

  • A young Moldovan. According to a survey, one-in-three remaining Moldovans would like to leave the country (Photo: EUobserver)

As Moldova prepares to mark 30 years since gaining independence from the Soviet Union, the eastern European is haunted by its staggering population loss.

Nearly a third of its population has left over the past three decades, making the country one of the worst hit by the demographic decline seen throughout many parts of post-communist Europe.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • Many Moldovans have taken up Romanian citizenship in order to move freely within the European Union (Photo: European Parliament)

Moldova declared independence from the then Soviet Union in August 1991, before being officially recognised by the United Nations in March 1992.

According to an analysis by the Chisinau-based Institute for Development and Social Initiative (IDIS) Viitorul, from 1991 to now, the population of the Republic of Moldova has decreased by almost 1.5 million people.

The number of Moldovan citizens is now at 2.9 million - including citizens on the left bank of the Dniester, representing the breakaway Transnistria region, where there are just over 300,000 Moldovan citizens left.

The findings show that Moldova is nearing its population level of 1950, if the trend continues.

The most recent census, dating back from 2014, puts the country's population at 2.8 million, down from 4.3 million recorded by the 1989 census.

Data from Moldova's statistics bureau highlight the dramatic fall in population in the period following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

According to Veaceslav Ioniță, the IDIS expert on economic policies, in 1991 Moldova's population reached 4,364,000, including the people of Transnistria with 731 thousand citizens counted there. Thus, for 30 years, the number of Moldovan citizens left in the country decreased by 1,5 million: 1, 036 million fewer on the right bank of the Dniester and 425 thousand citizens fewer in the Transnistria region.

The breakaway Transnistria region saw the most shocking population fall, decreasing from 731,000 to 306,000 over the past 30 years.

"I don't think you will find another country in Europe, or another region, where we have such a depopulation as it happens on the left bank of the Dniester," said the economist.

The loss of population is down to several factors - both negative demographic growth, plus Moldovans leaving for work abroad, or even taking up Romanian citizenships in order to move freely within the European Union.

However, by doing so it meant that they now appeared in statistics as Romanians, and so their numbers are almost impossible to track.

Troubled by political upheaval, extreme poverty and corruption, it's no surprise that even with a severely-dwindling population, remaining Moldavians are still looking for a way out. According to a survey, one-in-three Moldovans would still like to leave the country.

Existential threat

The devastating loss in population is not only causing labour shortages and a severe lack of professionals in key fields such as healthcare, but threatens the very existence of the state.

Speaking to EUobserver, Armand Gosu, a specialist in the ex-Soviet region, said that Moldova's population shrinkage needs to be discussed in existential terms.

"The stake is huge. We are talking about the very the survival of a state. Throughout history, states have appeared and disappeared. Moldova's population crises speaks about the validity of its existence as a state."

Gosu said that a success of the governing coalition and an improved economy could slow down the rate of depopulation. "There are no countries without people, hence the huge task ahead and the challenge the new government has to face", he told EUobserver.

For the trend to change, Moldova needs an overhaul of its governance and a drastic break with past oligarch practices - which the current government has said it will undertake.

Moldova's recently elected pro-European president, as well the current parliamentary majority, promised zero tolerance towards corruption, calling for the combined effort of all pro-European forces to meet citizens' expectations.

Author bio

Cristian Gherasim is a freelance journalist contributing to EUobserver, Euronews, EU Reporter, Katoikos, Von Mises Institute, and bne IntelliNews, with a particular focus on European and regional affairs.

New law gives Russian 'privileged status' in Moldova

Following a draft law approved by Moldovan parliament, the Russian language will now get a special status as the "language of interethnic communication", and becomes mandatory for all civil servants.

Opinion

What's going on in Moldova - and what next?

Over the weekend, as private jets evacuated prominent members of the Democratic Party and their allies, Moldovans celebrated the peaceful power transition. Looking beyond the euphoria that surrounded the celebrations, the new government is facing many challenges.

EU's east-west migrant rift abates

EU summit expected to show tempers have cooled between some central European countries and their EU peers, weeks after a divisive debate on relocations.

Interview

Moldova to EU: Help us go after fugitives

Moldova's prime minister, Natalia Gavrilița, gets more excited when she talks about fighting corruption than about EU enlargement.

Feature

Demographic crisis in the Balkans

Nearly 600,000 Macedonians moved abroad in the decades following the country's independence. In neighbouring Albania,1.7 million people, 37 percent of the population, have left the country in the last three decades.

Opinion

Punish Belarus too for aiding Putin's Ukraine war

While Belarus has not sent its own troops to fight Russia's war in Ukraine, the Minsk dictatorship has been heavily involved. As a result, Belarus must be punished for its involvement — what can the world do to sanction Belarus?

Latest News

  1. Why EU Commission dumped Google's favourite consultant
  2. Slovak's 'illiberal' Fico victory boosts Orban, but faces checks
  3. European Political Community and key media vote This WEEK
  4. Is the ECB sabotaging Europe's Green Deal?
  5. The realists vs idealists Brussels battle on Ukraine's EU accession
  6. EU women promised new dawn under anti-violence pact
  7. Three steps EU can take to halt Azerbaijan's mafia-style bullying
  8. Punish Belarus too for aiding Putin's Ukraine war

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region is stepping up its efforts to reduce food waste
  2. International Medical Devices Regulators Forum (IMDRF)Join regulators, industry & healthcare experts at the 24th IMDRF session, September 25-26, Berlin. Register by 20 Sept to join in person or online.
  3. UNOPSUNOPS begins works under EU-funded project to repair schools in Ukraine
  4. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsGeorgia effectively prevents sanctions evasion against Russia – confirm EU, UK, USA
  5. International Medical Devices Regulators Forum (IMDRF)Join regulators & industry experts at the 24th IMDRF session- Berlin September 25-26. Register early for discounted hotel rates
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersGlobal interest in the new Nordic Nutrition Recommendations – here are the speakers for the launch

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of Ministers20 June: Launch of the new Nordic Nutrition Recommendations
  2. International Sustainable Finance CentreJoin CEE Sustainable Finance Summit, 15 – 19 May 2023, high-level event for finance & business
  3. ICLEISeven actionable measures to make food procurement in Europe more sustainable
  4. World BankWorld Bank Report Highlights Role of Human Development for a Successful Green Transition in Europe
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic summit to step up the fight against food loss and waste
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersThink-tank: Strengthen co-operation around tech giants’ influence in the Nordics

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us