Top 10 Countries with the Fastest-Shrinking Population

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With fertility rates in dramatic decline across the globe, Earth’s population may start declining in 2040 — with many eastern European countries leading the way. That said, here are the top ten countries with the fastest-shrinking population.

10. Serbia

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Serbia’s population has been declining for quite a few years now. Back in 2011, Reuters reported that Serbia had lost more than 377,000 people — 5 percent of its population — over the past nine years. And, in the 90s, an estimated 700,000 people left Serbia as Yugoslavia collapsed in conflicts in Croatia, Bosnia, and Kosovo. Other issued that have plagued Serbia over the years include an aging population, an unstable job market, and fewer babies being born. Unfortunately, the situation isn’t going to get better. According to BUSINESS INSIDER, its population is projected to drop by 18.9 percent from 8.7 million in 2020 to 7.1 million in 2050.

9. Romania

Source: Wikimedia Commons

The population of Romania is expected to see a 15.5 percent decline, dropping from 19.2 million in 2020 to 16.3 million in 2050. Most of the decline is due to the number of deaths exceeding the number of births. It’s not necessarily that fewer Romanians are having children, but that many Romanians are leaving the country. In fact, at least 3.4 million of them left the country between 2007 and 2015. Unfortunately, not many immigrants are replacing the people who have left. According to Business Review, the General Immigration Inspectorate said that at the end of 2017, only 117,000 foreigners had settled in Romania, 3,900 of whom were people under refugee status or subsidiary protection.

8. Bulgaria

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As the poorest member of the European Union, Bulgaria’s residents are fleeing the country to find better opportunities elsewhere. Bulgaria’s population was around 9 million at the end of the 1980s, but it fell to fewer than 7 million in 2018, and is expected to drop to 5.4 million in 2050.

According to the BBC, an estimated 60,000 Bulgarians leave the country each year. “The prognosis isn’t optimistic, and that is a big problem for us,” Cvetan Davidkov, a professor at the faculty of economics at Sofia University told the BBC. Nevertheless, that grim prognosis hasn’t stopped some Bulgarians from working hard to start programs and initiatives to keep residents from leaving and convince those who have left to return. For example, Anthony Hristov, an art director who worked on films such as “Wall-E” and “Finding Nemo,” returned back to Bulgaria from the U.S. to start Arc Academy, a tertiary school for digital creative professions such as gaming and animated movie design. His goal is to help young Bulgarians get a quality education.

7. Latvia

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Like the other nations listed in this article, Latvia lost much of its population — one-fifth, to be exact — to emigration. The exodus was triggered by Latvia’s accession to the European Union. This caused its residents to search for jobs in more affluent European Union nations like Germany, Ireland, and the UK.

Latvia’s population at the turn of the 21st century was 2.38 million. At the start of 2018, it stood at 1.95 million. “Latvia is already a country with low population density,” prominent journalist and television commentator Otto Ozols told Politico. The population is projected to drop to 1.5 million in 2050. “At this rate, in 50 years or so, Latvia may cease to be a nation,” Ozols added.

6. Bosnia and Herzegovina

Bosnia Herzegovina
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Much of the decline in Bosnia and Herzegovina‘s population is said to have resulted from the Bosnian War that began in 1992 and lasted until 1995. According to The Borgen Project, the war led to 100,000 deaths (civilians and soldiers) and spurred a genocide of at least 25,000 Bosnian Muslims or Bosniaks. Then, flooding in 2014 displaced more than 500,000 Bosnians. What’s more is that the population is projected to decline by 18.2 percent in the coming years, dropping from 3.3 million in 2020 to 2.7 million in 2050.

5. Croatia

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Heavy emigration occurred after the Croatian War of Independence, which killed or displaced many Croatians. In fact, an estimate published by the Central Bureau of Statistics (DZS) earlier this year put its population at 4.089 million, although unofficial estimates show the actual number of inhabitants is much lower because many of the people who left and moved abroad have not registered their new status with the authorities. “These estimates on the number of residents in mid-2018 are quite optimistic. The latest data show that we are actually below four million people. The most accurate data is the number of children in elementary and secondary schools since schools annually provide official data on the number of pupils, so we can see that we have lost about 83,000 primary and secondary students in ten years. Approximately 65,000 children attending primary and secondary school have emigrated in the past ten years. When you add a natural decline of 150,000 people, in ten years we have had a population loss of more than 400,000 people,” demographer Stjepan Šterc said, according to Total Croatia News.

By the way, Croatia’s population is projected to drop from 4.1 million in 2020 to 3.4 million in 2050.

4. Syria

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Syria has seen large declines in its population due to the Syrian Civil War. In the first five years of the war, an estimated 400,000 Syrians were killed. In July 2018, a UN envoy said that the UN had verified 7,000 cases of children either killed or maimed in the seven-year war, but that unverified reports put the number “way beyond 20,000.” As of March 2019, about 5.7 million Syrians have fled the country and more than 6.1 million people are displaced internally.

3. Nauru

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This Micronesian island located in the South Pacific is the third-smallest nation in the world by area and has the third-smallest by population as well. It’s population growth rate in 2018 was -1.34 percent (221.3 percent below the world rate). Lack of quality medical care is one of the reasons for the decline in population, particularly among women. According to The Guardian, the female population in Nauru is declining “due to some taking up resettlement offers and others being sent to Australia for treatment.”

And, here’s something else: there are no children left on Nauru. Due to “Kids Off Nauru,” a campaign born out of a World Vision Australia campaign to help the increasing number of refugees around the world become safe and free, they’ve all been transferred to Australia, the U.S., and other places.

2. Lithuania

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Lithuania’s population has been declining at an alarming rate — it decreased by 40,700 to 2.848 million in 2016, and in 2017 it declined by 37,800 to 2.810 million. It’s projected to drop to 2.1 million in 2050. According to The Economist, Lithuanians started to emigrate as soon as the nation declared its independence from the Soviet Union in 1990. More and more residents started leaving after becoming eligible to work normally in the European Union. What’s more is that the country’s birth rate crashed in the early 90s, resulting in fewer people entering the workforce. “The number of 18-year-olds has dropped by 33% since 2011. In 2030, if United Nations projections are correct, Lithuania will have just 1.6m people of working age—back to where it was in 1950,” The Economist wrote on its website.

1. Venezuela

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When newly-elected president Nicolas Maduro failed to implement policies to counteract hyperinflation, poverty and unemployment, Venezuela’s economy collapsed, resulting in a shortage of basic needs. As you would have guessed, an exodus followed. According to the Miami Herald, a poll conducted this summer by the Caracas-based think tank Consultores 21 found that Venezuela has lost nearly 20 percent of its population. Based on estimates, anywhere from 4.7 million to 6 million of Venezuela’s 31.8 million people are now living abroad, with more to follow. In fact, 44 percent of the people polled said they plan on leaving the country.


The world population sits at about 7 billion right now, but it won’t make it far past that. According to Norwegian academic Jorgen Randers, the world population will peak at eight billion in 2040 and then start to decline.