Plunging Population in Poorest EU State Nears World War II Level

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(Bloomberg) -- Bulgaria’s population is on course to shrink to levels last seen after the devastation of World War II.

Like much of the ex-communist region, the European Union’s poorest member has watched its citizens head west in droves to snag fatter salaries in countries including the U.K. Add to that already low fertility rates and a growing share of elderly people, and Bulgaria is among the most exposed to demographic threats. The population is on track to drop below 7 million.

“The government needs to find a solution to preserve workers’ skills to eliminate the negative consequences for the labor market and to sustain growth,” Ivan Neykov, chairman of the Balkan Institute for Labor and Social Policy in Sofia, said by phone. “In 2000, every 100 workers leaving the labor market were substituted by 130 people entering. Today, it’s 70.”

Bulgaria is taking steps to boost fertility and stop so many young people leaving abroad with the goal of halting the negative demographic trends by about 2030. The government is certainly not downplaying the issue.

“The decline in the active population is a social and economic bomb that will explode unless we take adequate measures,” Deputy Labor Minister Sultanka Petrova told Bloomberg in October.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

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