Recent demographic data underscores a deepening crisis in Ukraine, as gender imbalances and declining birth rates threaten the nation’s future. With 110 men for every 100 women, Ukraine grapples not only with a population drain due to migration but also with challenges in sustaining its birth rate.
The latest figures from the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) highlight a staggering 6.3 million Ukrainian refugees, primarily women and children. Yet, of these, a mere 1.1 million have returned despite the cessation of active conflict. Men between the ages of 18 and 60 are considered fit for armed combat and are thus restricted from leaving the country. Only men with more than three children are exempted.
Ella Libanova of the Ptoukha Institute for Demography and Social Studies (IDSS) has sounded alarms about Ukraine’s potential decline, projecting a population dip to 30 million by 2033—a 42% drop since 1991.
Such grim forecasts stem from the multifaceted fallout of the war between Ukraine and Russia, with average life expectancies plummeting and societal structures strained.
Of the population of Ukrainians that have fled the country, a survey by UNHCR found that only 18% dream of returning. “My dream would be for 50% to return, and if it was 60%, I would be the happiest person in Ukraine,” Ella Libanova said.
Beyond conflict repercussions, Ukraine faces structural challenges. Reports from the Vienna Institute for International Economic Studies (WIIW) highlight a cascade of issues—from decreased birth rates and life expectancy to labour market upheaval. Most alarming is Ukraine’s fertility rate, which stands at a mere 0.7 children per woman, lagging significantly behind the EU average of 1.5. This is one child born to three couple.
Anna Temochko, a Ukrainian professional based in Barcelona, embodies the complexities of this crisis. While enjoying the advantages of life abroad, she wrestles with feelings of obligation towards her homeland’s reconstruction efforts.
Ukraine’s demographic challenges, encapsulated by a skewed gender ratio and plummeting fertility rates, present a dire scenario. Libanova warned that after the war, if the Ukrainian economy does not recover quickly, the exodus will be greater: “Ukrainian families that are now divided, with men in Ukraine and women and children abroad, may choose to reunify abroad, not inside the country. This means Ukraine may lose an additional 1–1.5 million young, educated men.” Without targeted interventions addressing root causes, Ukraine risks a future defined by persistent population decline and protracted post-war recovery.