These Countries are Shrinking at a Scary Pace

Concept of world population, main world problems

These Countries are Shrinking at a Scary Pace

Even as the world population approaches its next major milestone of 9 billion people in the next decade, countries’ populations can vary. While some have seen explosive population growth, others have seen their populations shrink. According to data from Worldometers, some countries’ populations are shrinking much faster than others. 

Using data from the United Nations Population Division, Worldometer estimates that between July 2023 and July 2024, the countries on this list have shrunk the most. While Ukraine is no surprise on this list given its population fleeing the ongoing war with Russia, there are a few other surprises.

15. Portugal

European city Porto with Luis I Bridge over Douro river in Portugal, aerial view
Portugal’s population has been on a steady decline for decades.
©Leonid Sorokin/Shutterstock.com
  • Population: 10,247,605
  • Yearly change: -0.23%
  • Net change: -23,260

Portugal’s population has steadily declined for decades, with no signs of a reverse. With 22% of the country’s population 65 and over, younger adults are not having children fast enough to replace this decline. Additionally, Portugal suffers from one of the lowest birth rates in Europe.

14. Lithuania

Aerial view of Vilnius Old Town, one of the largest surviving medieval old towns in Northern Europe. Summer landscape of UNESCO-inscribed Old Town of Vilnius, Lithuania
There is a large concern over emigration in Lithuania, affecting the population size.
  • Population: 2,718,352
  • Yearly change: -1.15%
  • Net change: -31,703

Emigration is a major concern in Lithuania, especially given the crisis in the region with Ukraine and Russia. There have been signs indicating Lithuania’s trend of population decline is reversing. However, there is still a concern over “brain drain,” where residents leave the country for better job opportunities elsewhere. 

13. South Korea

South Korea has the world’s lowest fertility rate for women.
©Ozone foto/Shutterstock.com
  • Population: 51,784,059
  • Yearly change: -0.06%
  • Net change: -31,751

With the world’s lowest fertility rate, at around 0.78 births per woman, South Korea’s population isn’t growing fast enough to offset the older population’s deaths. In addition, South Korea’s idea of traditional family values has changed to individual mindsets, which means careers over children. 

12. Belarus

Starotroitskaya square and Trinity estate from above. Streets of Minsk from above. Autumn Minsk. Belarus in autumn, October. Aerial photography, photos of the city of Minsk, Belarus, Trinity estate
Belarus has some questionable government policies that affect growth.
©Artem Dunkel/Shutterstock.com
  • Population: 9,498,238
  • Yearly change: -0.39%
  • Net change: -36,716

In Belarus, government policies are being questioned because they have affected overall population growth. Internal restrictions on resident movement make it difficult to find better-paying jobs, discouraging some of the Belarusian population from having children. 

11. Spain

View over the city of Barcelona at twilight
Spain’s rural areas continue to have low population growth, affecting the rest of the country.
  • Population: 47,519,628
  • Yearly change: -0.08%
  • Net change: –39,002

Spain has long had one of the lowest birth rates in Europe, so its appearance on this list is hardly surprising. The issue is more pronounced in rural regions of Spain, which suffers from more difficult economic conditions and has residents moving elsewhere to find better opportunities. 

10. Greece

Greece. Strictest gun laws
The Greek population has been largely impacted by financial uncertainty.
  • Population: 10,341,277
  • Yearly change: -0.42%
  • Net change: -43,694

In an environment of uncertainty after Greece’s financial crisis, younger Greek residents have held off on raising families. Financial uncertainty, a poor job market, and the cost of raising children have resulted in a declining population as younger Greeks emigrate elsewhere in Europe. 

9. Serbia

Serbia-0271 - Pedestrian Street
There is a concerning trend in population growth that Serbia hopes to reverse.
©"Serbia-0271 - Pedestrian Street" by archer10 (Dennis) is licensed under BY-SA 2.0. - Original / License
  • Population: 7,149,077
  • Yearly change: -1.00
  • Net change: -72,288

Recent projections by the Serbian government indicate that its population is trending lower, leading to around 50,000 people leaving annually. As a result, the country has noted that its overall population could decline as much as 24% by 2050 if the rate of young adults leaving continues. 

8. Germany

View of Berlin skyline from Siegessaule, Berlin, Germany, Europe
Germany also has a fertility crisis that needs to be quickly addressed.
©Robert Harding Video/Shutterstock.com
  • Population: 83,294,633
  • Yearly change: -0.09%
  • Net change: -75,210

Germany is currently experiencing a fertility rate crisis affecting its population growth. At only 1.5 children per woman, Germany is below the rate of 2.1 needed for its population to grow without relying on immigration. 

7. Bulgaria

Aerial view by drone, alexander nevsky russian orthodox cathedral, sofia, bulgaria, europe
Bulgaria has had issues with low birth rates and emigration.
©Robert Harding Video/Shutterstock.com
  • Population: 6,687,717
  • Yearly change: -1.39%
  • Net change: -94,236

Bulgaria has seen a strong population drop over the last two decades due to a low birth rate and people leaving to find a better standard of living. Bulgaria’s 2021 census indicated that 11.5% of the population declined from a decade ago, the steepest decline in Bulgaria’s history. 

6. Lebanon

Young adults are leaving Lebanon in droves to find better job opportunities.
  • Population: 5,353,930
  • Yearly change: -2.47%
  • Net change: -135,809

Unfortunately, declining birth rates in Lebanon result from the country’s lengthy economic crisis. This, along with a struggling healthcare system, indicates that at least half of Lebanese residents over 15 plan to leave the country at some point. 

5. Italy

Rome, Italy view towards the Colosseum with archeological areas at sunset.
Italy has had population growth issues, with many of its older population dying off.
©Sean Pavone/Shutterstock.com
  • Population: 58,870,762
  • Yearly change: -0.28%
  • Net change: -166,712

Like many countries, Italy’s inclusion on this list is based on lower birth rates. Italy also suffers from having at least 23% of its population 65 and over, which means the death rate is currently higher than the birth rate. 

4. China

China’s one-child policy had a major impact on population growth.
  • Population: 1,425,671,352
  • Yearly change: -0.02%
  • Net change: -215,895

While the Chinese population remains high, its birth rate has declined for many years due to its one-child policy. In addition to its older population, this has led to a shrinking population in China, albeit a relative decline in its overall population size.  

3. Russia

The population of Russia has been impacted by the war with Ukraine.
  • Population: 144,444,359
  • Yearly change: -0.19%
  • Net change: -268,955

As is the case with Ukraine, there has been an exodus of people fleeing Russia as a result of the Ukraine war. In addition, the instability of the Russian economy has also forced younger Russians with more education to leave the country. 

2. Japan

The population of Japan has shrunk as its residents grow older.
  • Population: 123,294,513
  • Yearly change: -0.53%
  • Net change: -657,179

Driven by low birth rates and an aging population, Japan’s population has shrunk considerably over the last 12 months. Almost 30% of Japan’s population is 65 and over, which results in higher death rates.

1. Ukraine

The population of Ukraine has been dramatically affected by Russia’s invasion.
©Alexey Fedorenko/Shutterstock.com
  • Population: 36,744,634
  • Yearly change: -7.45%
  • Net change: -2,957,105

The ongoing conflict with Russia is no doubt the reason for Ukraine’s shrinking population. Millions of Ukrainians fled to neighboring countries like Poland, Germany, and Romania and continue to migrate elsewhere as the war continues. 

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