Population crisis as young head west

Low birth rates and emigration are blighting the Balkans’ prospects, writes Tim Judah

The World Today Published 1 December 2020 Updated 4 December 2020 4 minute READ

Tim Judah

Balkans Correspondent, The Economist

In the first half of this year, Germany’s population fell by 40,000. The news that it is now home to only 83. 1 million people was widely reported. But, as the reason for the drop was a slowdown in immigration thanks to COVID-19, Germans can heave a sigh of relief. If, like all Europeans, they won’t have enough children to replace themselves, as soon as the crisis is over normal service can be resumed. And that means making up for an otherwise lowish fertility rate and ageing population by importing people.

In 2015, Germany took in some one million refugees from Syria, Afghanistan and other mostly Muslim countries, but this was exceptional. One third of the 11.2 million foreigners registered in Germany in 2019 came from the Balkans and the rest of former communist Europe, as do a similarly huge slice of those naturalized in recent years.

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