Moldova’s Biggest Problem

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Semyon ALBU
Last year Moldova lost almost a hundred thousand more people, and already this year the UN recognized the republic as the world leader in the rate of population decline. Further forecasts say the demographic catastrophe is almost inevitable
Yesterday, one of dramatic moments of history – Stalin’s deportations, the second wave of which touched Moldova, was widely remembered. Not only deputies of the ruling party and members of the government, but also the president personally took part in the mourning meeting on this occasion. The promoters of the event were so enthusiastic that they had even dragged a couple of old carriages to the central square of the capital as a symbol of deportations. Certainly, there is nothing more important and valuable than a human life, and when someone or something, including the state, takes it, it is a true crime. At that time, Moldova lost tens of thousands of people, and this really should not be forgotten, and the memory of the victims should be honored. However, since the authorities are so attentive to such episodes of the past, maybe they should be consistent and pay attention to even a much bigger tragedy of today? It concerns, of course, demography, the biggest and most important problem in our country. Everyone knows about it, it seems to be constantly talked about, but in fact it is always in the shade of the state’s applied efforts. Lately, it feels like none of the officials even want to approach it. Curiously, the inspirational father of the current government, Vlad Filat, who tries to return to big politics, recently addressed an open letter to Maia Sandu on this matter: “I have decided to address this open letter to you in order to point out the catastrophe faced by Moldova and in the hope that you will be receptive so that particular actions would follow to reduce the tension of the situation. I refer to the demographic crisis that we face, to the massive outflow of the population, which has taken on a massive nature over the last years and leads to a massive depopulation of the country.” Is it really as bad as Filat writes? Actually, it is much worse. Here are some speaking figures to understand the situation. By the beginning of the year the permanent population of the country amounted to slightly more than 2.5 million and thus the number of permanent residents decreased by a tremendous hundred thousand in just one year. The number of births in the first quarter of the current year was less than twice as low as the number of deaths. Moreover, taking into account the current dynamics, the year 2023 will be an anti-record year in terms of the number of births. The institution of the family is also in deep crisis - the number of marriages only slightly exceeds the number of divorces. It is not some Kremlin propaganda - it is the data from the National Bureau of Statistics. We are losing population at some insane rate, ahead of all forecasts and charts. For instance, in 2009, as part of the UN study “The Green Book of Moldova’s Population”, experts estimated that in 2050 we will have about 2.6 million people. Just think that we have already fallen below this mark in 2023. It is more than a quarter of a century earlier than predicted. And recently the UN recognized Moldova as the leader in the rate of population decrease all over the world (!). Future projections are not encouraging, to say the least. International experts give bleak figures for the European territory in general, but Moldova is anti-leader here as well. Our country is supposed to have 1,7 million people by 2040 and lose half of the current population by the end of the century. The demographic structure will undergo major changes: the majority will be 50+ people and there will be a critical imbalance in favor of elderly women. It is difficult to imagine how the country will live under such circumstances. Amidst all these figures, talks about the extinction of the nation no longer seem like a pun - for us it is a harsh reality. IDIS “Viitorul” expert Veaceslav Ionita has a good example: according to him, if in 1961 the population of Moldova was 0.1% of the total world population, in 2022 this index fell to 0.05%, and one third of our citizens live abroad. “We, as a nation, are simply disappearing from the globe,” the expert summed up. It is characteristic that the essential acceleration of demographic losses was observed exactly in the last decade, during the years of “successful European integration”, and the process became especially powerful from 2021 when Maia Sandu and PAS came to power. Fine, I am not going to blame the whole thing on the “yellows” – there were objective reasons, but on the whole, I think it is rather symbolic. The reasons why the country becomes more and more deserted every year are well known. The first problem is migration, which is gaining momentum the further we go. People leave our poverty and hopelessness in search of a better life, and often not only become firmly established in their new homeland, but also move their parents and even relatives there. The mass movement of our citizens abroad that was largely responsible for today’s crisis and tomorrow’s catastrophe. But that is just half the trouble. Migration creates disproportions in the population structure, as the generation of 20 to 35 years old, who should account for most of the births, leaves the country the most. As a result, our population is ageing and dying, but there are fewer and fewer children. We can only sadly recall the “occupation times of the bloody Soviet Union”, when in 1986 almost 95 thousand children were born in the MSSR. Now such a number can only be dreamed of: this year, for example, we are likely to drop beyond 25 thousand births. That’s quite a 4-times drop in the birth rate, don’t you think? Is it any wonder that in terms of population we have rolled back to the 50s of the last century, and will continue to “move into the past”? Not only do we have fewer and fewer young people who would produce kids – even those left are in no hurry to give offspring. On average, families now often have no more than one child. Our people now tend to have children at a much later age, and it is clear why. In addition, the instability of marriages also does not motivate most people to hurry to have children. Hence a low reproductive potential of young people. “We have a sharp decline in population. We are seeing the phenomenon of late marriages, and that means that every family will have fewer children. In fact, such families are likely to have one child or, often, no children at all. Divorce is a result of mass migration of young people,” says demography expert Valeriu Sainsus. Again, migration is the issue. But how can it be stopped if the country is not developing at all? We should not forget that the demographic crisis is not only in our country, but also in most of the EU countries, to which we aspire. There, however, the crisis has quite different reasons, including the highest quality and safety of life. The latter factors make it easy to lure labor resources from poorer countries like Moldova. Our people are generally very attractive to Europeans as a labor force – we are white, Christian, hardworking and adaptable, which allows us to successfully integrate into local communities. Given the current trends in Europe (including the growing intolerance towards black and Arab migrants, who have not justified themselves as workers and live on benefits, worsening the crime rate), Moldovans will become a ‘tidbit’ for the EU leading countries like Germany, France, Benelux states, etc. And so the flow of migration will become even bigger. Vlad Filat is right when he describes the multifaceted consequences of such a rapid reduction of Moldova’s population, which actually puts an end to the prospects of our country. In such conditions, economic growth is impossible – there is no workforce for enterprises, investors will not come, tax revenues will decrease, the social sector will be under pressure. So what kind of development can we talk about here? Therefore, right now it is necessary to declare the demographic crisis the number one priority of the state and invest all efforts to reverse the negative trends. It is clear that all processes are interconnected, and the economic state, which coexists in close symbiosis with demography, is still at the core. It is important to take urgent measures right now to create conditions to increase the birth rate in the country, including all possible support for young families, especially by providing them with the most favorable housing (in order to keep them in their homeland). We need to think about how to return our citizens from abroad, rather than rejoice at our powerful diasporas in the West. A structure involving the most prominent experts and specialists should be in place to deal with these issues on a permanent basis. In any case, it would be much more helpful than, for example, the Patriot propaganda center. This is what should first occupy the minds of our rulers, not European integration, endless Ukrainianism or defense buildup. But should we expect such steps from PAS? I doubt it. With the feeling that the current elites are deliberately bankrupting the country, it seems the worse things are, the better for them.