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Ukraine Births Tumble
In the first six months of 2023, Ukrainian births plummeted to historic lows. 2023 marks the first year that fertility trends show the impact of the war with Russia.
In 2021, Ukraine had a total fertility rate of 1.16. At the time, it was one of the lowest TFRs in Europe, in line with such tiny barren European outliers as Malta (1.18) and San Marino (1.13). Thanks to low fertility and even more to waves of emigration, Ukraine’s population has been shrinking steadily since the breakup of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s.
Now, in the heat of war, Ukraine’s fertility has fallen to unprecedented depths.
According to government data collected by Opendatabot, there were only 96,755 Ukrainian births in the first six months of 2023. That’s a -28% decline from the same period in 2021. (Comparable data for 2022 are sparse and unreliable due to the initial chaos of war.) And it marks the largest birth decline in Ukraine’s entire time of independence (since 1991).
If we assume that this decline in births continues throughout the year and is proportionate to the decrease in the TFR, Ukraine’s TFR could dip to roughly 0.84 in 2023. Not only would that be the lowest fertility rate in Europe, but one of the lowest in the world. (South Korea currently has the lowest TFR at 0.78. See “South Korea’s TFR Falls to 0.78.”)
Why is this birth decline so large? 2023 marks the first year births are impacted by the war. Russia invaded in March 2022. Moving forward nine to ten months, the average length of gestation, brings you to January/February 2023. According to an analysis by the Population Reference Bureau, civil conflict can cause births to decline by up to one-third. Young couples are often separated due to service. Families often prefer not to have children in the midst of violence. And, in some instances, pregnant Ukrainians have chosen to migrate elsewhere before giving birth.
Of course, the end of war usually triggers a birth spike. In the US, the baby boom after WWII gave Boomers their name. Similar booms occurred in Russia and its Soviet “dependencies” after both WWI and WWII. When peace comes to Ukraine, a boom will happen there too—but it won’t likely be enough to reverse Ukraine’s long-term demographic implosion.
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