These Fourteen European Countries are Disappearing

[See end notes for sources, inclusions and exclusions]

These countries are currently losing population (sorted by population growth rate):


[Note: Fertility Rate is the ratio of ‘total children born’ to ‘all women’ in a given population. In order for a given population to remain constant (not counting net migration) the ratio needs to be 2.0 to 2.1.]

What can we intuit from correlating these figures with what we see happening in the world today?

Intuition No. 1: Germany needs to increase the number of its permanent immigrants in order to maintain or grow its population, despite that it already has a relatively high net migration rate: 1.5 net new migrants per 1000 population. But, politically, there is currently a movement away from increased immigration which has created a problem for the current leadership of the country. Note that Germany records the highest median age and the largest percent of the population over 64, in the list above.

Intuition No. 2: Greece’s high net migration rate (2.3 per 1000) is barely adequate to keep its population stable. But the ability of Greece to accommodate large numbers of new residents and citizens is problematical, given its current economic distress. What is not known at this point, is the long term effects of the tens of thousands of refugees who have recently arrived in Greece. Despite recent waves of immigration, the age measures for Greece are only slightly under Germany’s.

screenhunter_453-oct-16-09-36Intuition No. 3: The three, small Baltic Sea countries of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania are seriously losing population (0.5% to over 1% annually, currently). Further, their fertility rates are low (1.5-1.6), and immigration from elsewhere is not occurring. What can be the future of these countries if they continue to fade away? [Note: they all share a border with Russia.] Despite different cultures and ethnicities in these three countries, their age measures are almost identical. In that they were dominated and occupied by the Soviet Union, I wonder if there is a uniting thread resultant from this. There are no separate measures available for the entity named ‘Kaliningrad’, a Russian exclave between Poland and Lithuania on the Baltic Sea, around one-third the size of the neighboring Baltic States. According to the 2010 Census, its population was 431,902

Intuition No. 4: The neighbor countries of Bulgaria and Romania, like the Three Baltic states, are losing population and are not gaining immigrants. Their current populations are much larger than the Baltics, so it will take longer for them to “disappear.” In that they border the Black Sea, Russians flock to these countries during the tourist season and have bought many properties along the coast. Russians are a palpable presence in these two countries, which unofficially affects national politics. Their net migration rates are only slightly negative, but their fertility rates are very low, below 1.5.


Intuition No. 5: Five of the six former provinces of the united Yugoslavia, which have reverted to their former independent states, are losing population: Croatia, Montenegro, Serbia, Slovenia, and Bosnia & Herzegovina. The other, Macedonia (not in the above chart), is slowly growing due, apparently, to positive net migration, despite its fertility rate being 1.6. The bottom line: the former Yugoslavia is slowly fading away, as are Bulgaria and Romania, above. [Note: The present day state of Kosovo was, until recently, a province of Serbia. We have no data for Kosovo, other than population: 1,883,0189]. The population of these five seems to be slightly younger than others on this list, but they are not reproducing. Their fertility rates are at or near the bottom of the list.

Intuition No. 6: The remaining two states in the above chart are Hungary and Poland. Both are currently aligned politically to resist immigration from non-European countries. But, unless they reverse this position, they will fade along with the others mentioned here. Hungary’s fertility rate is 1.44 and Poland’s is a very low 1.34.

On the other hand: These 13 countries in Europe are currently growing at an annual rate between 0.5% and 2.0% (sorted by population growth rate):


Why are these countries not fading away like the others?

The quick answer is: immigration. The Net migration rates for all are relatively high, ranging from 2.5 in the United Kingdom to 16.3 in Luxembourg. The highest fertility rates are in Sweden and Ireland; the are lowest in Austria, Cyprus and Spain. In the latter three, if their current fertility rates and immigration rates continue, the native born ethnic Austrians, Cypriots, and Spaniards will be in the minority within a lifetime. Is this a problem? I guess it depends on the person viewing the situation. Such things have happened many times in the past, peacefully and otherwise.

Not Reproducing

Only two European countries in the forty studied have a positive fertility rate:


I intuit that France is the picture of the future for most European countries. France has had waves of immigration of people from North Africa in the past and, more recently, from the Near East whose birth rates are higher than the indigenous population.

rvxnf4bujdek3kcm2dwdq6jy These people, in my intuition, are responsible for France’s high fertility rate, compared to other European countries. Nonetheless, France’s annual population growth rate of 0.41% is not remarkable or significantly different from other European countries. The non-immigrant residents are reproducing at a much lower rate than the immigrant population. The accompanying chart was for the year 2004, and the ensuing twelve years have seen a significant rise in the immigrants from ‘Asia.’

Iceland seems to be a special case about which I have no useful remarks.

WHY are European countries Not Reproducing?

The answer is given by Col. Robert de Marcellus (Ret.) in an article “Falling Fertility: The World at the Tipping Point,” in the online magazine of the Population Research Institute:

  • The great increase in the number of wives who must work in the paid economy to help support the family due to the loss of the “family wage” concept
  • The increasing cost of raising children
  • High taxation that reduces family disposable income
  • Educational debt
  • Lifestyle changes that increasingly cause luxuries to be considered necessities
  • More years spent by young people in higher education. delaying family formation
  • Older average marriage ages, which greatly reduce wives’ childbearing years
  • Less family support as young couples relocate at a distance from family members

Please read the entire article for a lucid discussion of these and other factors.

My Final Intuitive Statement

The spirit of ‘Europe’ is depressed. Depressed spirits decline to reproduce.

Perhaps there is no more ‘Europe.’ It seems to be an idea, an abstraction, without a basis.

We can point to European Culture, starting from its putative origins in Ancient Greece and Rome, then The Renaissance, then The Enlightenment, and so on—Art, Music, Literature, Philosophy, Science… and the relationship of the Church to any of these.

It seems all a museum now.

The European ‘Union’ is reeling, nationalism on the rise, tribalism more evident.

Popular arts are declining, public figures ever more ridiculous.


Perhaps the above is necessary for a rebirth of something more beautiful?

“Without mud, there can be no lotus,” Thich Nhat Hanh, renown Buddhist teacher.

The data are taken from the current listings, by country, in the CIA World Factbook.

I analyzed all countries in Europe (40), not just those in the European Union (28)

I excluded Russia and Turkey, even though some parts of these nation-states are in what is recognized as Europe, geographically.

I excluded five other “European” countries because they are dominated politically and/or economically either by Russia or Turkey: Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine.

Liberty & Freedom


I have been reading the Englishman John Stuart Mills’s essay On Liberty, first published in 1859. Here is a taste:

Johm Stuart Mill, 1806-1873

The struggle between Liberty and Authority is the most conspicuous feature in…history, particularly in that of Greece, Rome, and England. But in old times this contest was between subjects, or some classes of subjects, and the Government. By Liberty, was meant protection against the tyranny of the political rulers. The rulers were conceived…as in a necessarily antagonistic position to the people whom they ruled…The aim, therefore, of patriots was to set limits to the power which the ruler should be suffered to exercise over the community; and this limitation is what they meant by liberty.

A current definition of both freedom and liberty shows that freedom accrues to the individual while liberty, as Mill points out, accrues to the community or general population of a polity:

‘Freedom’ (is) an exemption from control by some other person, or from arbitrary restriction of specific defined rights like Worship, or Speech. ‘Liberty’ (is) the sum of the rights possessed in common by the people of a community/state/nation as they apply to its government, and/or the expectation that a nation’s people have of exemption from control by a foreign power. [Source]

Mill goes on to say: Some, whenever they see any good to be done, or evil to be remedied, would willingly instigate the government to undertake the business; while others prefer to bear almost any amount of social evil, rather than add one to the the departments of human interests amenable to government control.

This is exactly the observation I made to my late father in our sometimes heated political discussions. I drew a rough graph to illustrate my argument, then added a picture of a normal curve below it suggesting he mentally superimpose it on the graph:

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As with any ideal “normal” or “bell” curve, 68% of the things measured, in this case attitudes toward my assertedly dichotomous “safety/freedom” spectrum, will fall within the first standard deviation. Within this zone around 1/3 of the people will slightly or somewhat prefer safety to freedom and another 1/3 of the people will slightly or somewhat prefer freedom to safety. These are the people who can still talk with each other, in a reasonable tone, about their differences in viewpoint on how much control the government should be allowed over our personal freedom to act and speak, in order to protect us from others.

Following along this line of argument, an additional 28% of the population will fall into the second standard deviation. The people whose attitudes in this realm tend toward one value or the other (safety vs freedom), will have stronger preferences and will make strong, usually emotionally-laden, defense of their respective positions. In this realm 14% of the population will argue heatedly (as dad did) for safety over freedom (although he didn’t see the dichotomy I see), and 14% will argue heatedly for freedom over safety, as I did.

The remaining 4% of the population at the third standard deviation from the middle or mean, 2% at either end of the spectrum, are the outliers within whose ranks one may find the people who will resort to dangerous methods to assert their preference.

My basic point with dad was that these preferences, especially as one one deviates more from the middle of the normal curve, will not be reconciled among people who have opposing viewpoints. These values are too emotionally held to be altered by mere rational argument, on the one hand, or made more convincing by emotional appeal, on the other. It is ironic to me that dad often used to quote to me the following stanzas from William S. Gilbert‘s (of Gilbert & Sullivan) comic opera Iolanthe:

I often think it’s comical/How nature does contrive
That every boy and every gal/That’s born into the world alive
Is either a little Liberal/Or else a little Conservative

Taking an excursion into another realm to provide some blood for this wordy argument, I offer these:

Eleftheria i thanatos (Greek: “freedom or death”) is the motto of the Hellenic Republic. It arose during the Greek War of Independence in the 1820s, where it was a war cry for the Greeks who rebelled against Ottoman rule. It was adopted after the Greek War of Independence. It is still in use today, and is symbolically evoked by the use of 9 stripes (for the nine syllables of the motto) in the Greek flag. The motto symbolized and still symbolizes the resolve of the people of Greece against Tyranny and oppression. [Source]

Among many other mysteries presented to the reader in The Magus, by John Fowles, is the problem of whether a man has the right even to enter into a contract that entails sacrificing some lives to spare others (even when the murder of three might save 80), which long and terrible scene ends with a Greek cry of “Eleftheria!” [Source]

The last words in today’s blog are from John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty:

…(T)he sole end for which mankind are (sic) warranted, individually or collectively, in interfering with the liberty of action of any other of their number, is self-protection. That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant. He cannot rightfully be compelled to do or forbear because it will be better for him to do so, because it will make him happier, because, in the opinion of others, to do so would be wise, or even right. These are good reasons for remonstrating with him, or reasoning with him, or persuading him, or entreating him, but not for compelling him, or visiting him with any evil in case he do otherwise. To justify that, the conduct from which it is desired to deter him must be calculated to produce evil to someone else. The only part of the conduct of any one, for which he is amenable to society, is that which concerns others. In the part which merely concerns himself, his independence is, of right, absolute. Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign.

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