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Economic and Ecological Factors of Transformations in Demographic Process in Ukraine

wumen_1.jpg (133481 bytes) In recent years a general economic crisis that Ukraine is going through has caused a sharp deterioration of the demographic situation. One can speak of a deep demographic crisis that has hit Ukraine in the nineties of this century. It was gathering momentum in the past three decades and was caused by natural and migratory factors and by worsening of the quality of life of the Ukrainian population.

The birth rates in Ukraine had been steadily declining for over a long period of time and in recent years (a particularly big fall was registered in the period from September of 1990 to March 1996) it has been dropping dramatically. It should be born in mind though that the recent considerable reduction in population in Ukraine is a result not only of the general crisis that has affected all spheres of life in Ukraine but also, to a certain extent, of the changes in the age-long, established age and sex structures. The birth rates have dropped appallingly. In 1996, for example, the general coefficient was only 9.1%0. Most of the families have only one child or postpone having children indefinitely. The number of officially registered abortions is about two times greater than the number of births. The number of abortions among minors is on the increase. A considerable number of children are born outside the wedlock. In 1996 this number constituted 13.6%.

A continuing decline in the birth-rates, a growing number of families without children have contributed to the demographic conditions leading to depopulation. One-child families make up 29.4% of the total number of families. An average family index in Ukraine is 3.2.

The destructive processes and negative phenomena in the current demographic situation in Ukraine give good grounds for believing that we are having a truly unique, extraordinary situation in the history of Ukraine: for the first time in a period of peace one observes the rise and development of phenomena which earlier were observed only within relatively short periods of world and civil wars.

The current demographic situation can be described as a demographic disaster because the depopulation processes are concurrent with the deterioration of the quality of the population.

Both the absolute and relative indices of the death rates are increasing. There has been an unprecedented jump in the level of the death rates (15.2%0 in 1996). This considerable rise in the level of the death rates has been caused by their increase among all the age groups of men and among women who are over 20. The indices of the death rates have been rising in all the classes of the causes of death, including deaths brought about by non-natural causes. In 1995 accidents, poisonings, injuries and suicides took the second place among the causes of death among men and the fourth among women. This increase has been particularly noticeable in the urban areas. The life expectancy of both men and women is falling in urban as well as in rural areas. From 1990 to 1996 the average life expectancy dropped by 4.1 years among men (4.3 years in urban areas and 3.2 years in rural areas) and by 2.1 years among women (2.1 in the urban areas and 1.9 years in the rural areas).

A negative effect on the natural growth of population is produced by rather high death rates among children within the first twelve months of their life (14.3 %0). Particularly troubling is the growth of the children’s death rates in the towns of Ivano-Frankivsk, Lutsk and Chernivtsi correspondingly 21.9%0, 20.5%0, 20.2%0 in 1995. A decline in the birth rates, a fall in the life expectancy, general deterioration of health of the population, a rise in the death rates have changed the things to the worse and started the process of depopulation. Depopulation in the urban areas began way back in 1979 and affected 90% of all the urban areas of Ukraine. In 1992 the trend towards depopulation became evident in the urban areas. Starting from 1991 there has been observed a continuous decrease in the population of Ukraine taken as a whole. The general index of the natural decrease in the population was 6.1%0; 4.9%0 in the urban areas and 8.5%0 in the rural areas. Within six years the population of Ukraine decreased by 1,170 thousand people due to natural causes alone.

Besides, the Chornobyl nuclear power station disaster and the following radioactive contamination of large areas of Ukraine caused changes in the distribution of the population through the territory of Ukraine, influenced the course of the demographic processes, transformed the demographic structure of the population. The most radical changes occurred in the zone of the highest radioactive contamination. A very considerable number of people was moved away from the contaminated areas for settlement elsewhere. Starting from 1987 the death rate among those who worked at Chornobyl at the site of the nuclear power accident, has increased seven times. The movement of people from the rural to urban areas has been continuing. It has caused radical changes in the character of the population distribution within the boundaries of Ukraine. Now one can observe patterns of high concentration within the urban and rural areas. At the same time in many parts of Ukraine one can observe the appearance and further widening of rural areas with low population densities. The areas, which are not cultivated any longer, have also grown in size. A growing outflow of young people from the countryside to the town by 1996 had swelled to 125,000 annually (many of them emigrating from Ukraine altogether), but since then it has begun to abate. The process has even been reversed with more people moving to the rural areas than leaving them but with little economic effect since most of the migrators to the countryside are of the retirement age.

The migratory movement of population going on among the republics of the former Soviet Union used to be more or less stable as far as the number of migrators and their destinations were concerned. But in recent years the patterns have considerably changed. In the Soviet times it was Russia where the majority of migrating Ukrainians used to go to. Thousands upon thousands of Ukrainian young people went to Kazakhstan to take part in the virgin-lands cultivation programme, to the Siberia and the Baltic republics. At the same time in the last thirty years of the Soviet regime about 25% of the Ukrainian population growth could be attributed to the immigration into Ukraine from other Union republics. In 1989 the Tartars, Bulgarians, Greeks and Germans who had been deported under the Stalinist regime from the Crimea to distant parts of the Soviet Union, began to return to the Crimea. 243 thousand Crimean Tartars had returned to settle down at their native lands by 1997, as well as 12 thousand of other ethnic groups.

Among these resettled population groups the natural growth has been decreasing (14.8%0 in 1989; 5.2%0 in 1994) as a result of the falling birth rates (from 20.2%0 down to 10.7%0) with the death rates being almost stable. The resettled Tartars have been hit hard by the economic crisis as well as the rest of the country. 220 thousand Tartars and about 100 thousand ethnic Armenians, Bulgarians, Greeks and Germans are expected to move to the Crimea in the observable future.Before 1991 the influx of migrants into Ukraine exceeded the outflow but since 1994 the emigration from Ukraine has been higher than immigration. Scientists and representatives of certain ethnic groups prevail among those who emigrate from Ukraine. Jews, Germans, Greeks and Armenians make up the bulk of the emigrating ethnics.

As a result of the natural decrease and emigration the population of Ukraine dropped from 52.2 million people in 1993 to 50.9 million people in 1997 and continues to fall.


This summer a new breast-screening programme for early cancer detection was launched in Chernihiv Oblast Cancer Hospital. The U.S. Government is providing support to this program through the United States Agency for International Development. Breast Cancer Assistance Project,implemented by the Programme for Appropriate Technologies in Health, an international non-profit organization committed to improving women’s health. Early detection of breast cancer using an active screening programme, along with proper diagnosis and treatment,is a proven way of reducing the illness and deaths associated with breast cancer.Speakers at the opening ceremony were Ludmyla Kuchma, wife of Ukraine’s President Leonid Kuchma, Dr. Marilyn Pifer, wife of U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Steven Pifer, V. Zotov, Chief Physician of the Chernihiv Oblast Cancer Hospital,and representativesof the Ministry of Health,the Chernihiv Oblast administration, and USAID.

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Inoguration of The Breast Cancer Early   Detection Centre in Chernihiv

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             Oncological Centre, Chernihiv

This tendency towards the continuous decrease in population seems to have established itself as a permanent feature. Considerable number of migrators leaves Ukraine to settle down elsewhere or to seek employment beyond its borders. Annually, about 50 thousand people from the rural areas of Ukraine leave the country for good; most of these emigrants are able-bodied people in the prime of their life. The numbers of migrants who leave Ukraine temporarily in search of work are much greater and estimated to be in the millions. Unfortunately, there are no official statistical data available and the migration firgures can be established only tentatively through migration experts’ assessments.

A grave concern is caused by the fact that the decrease in population is accompanied in Ukraine by the deterioration of the quality of life in general, health in particular. The priority has shifted from health improvement to mere preservation of health at a basic bottom level. General deterioration of health results in a considerable decrease of the average life expectancy. Negative changes in health are observed in all the age brackets, including those who are in the prime of their lives. Accidents, which result in death and crippling of the workers, occur with an increasing frequency; the spread of active tuberculosis is acquiring epidemic proportions. Outbreaks of other dangerous contagious diseases, unheard of in the times of peace, have been registered in several parts of the country. Social ills, among them alcoholism and drug addiction, are on the increase. All these factors put together cause a drop in the capacity for work, in labour potential and in social motivation to perform better.

Market-oriented reforms in the social, economic and ecological relations in Ukraine require new concepts in dealing with individuals and communities. New social, demographic and economic policies must be worked out. A central place in plans of economic development must be given to providing a better quality of life for the population, which is, in its turn, a decisive prerequisite of a steady economic growth. People must have not only the right to a decent standard of living but an ability to achieve it, to live in harmony with society and with nature. The current situation in the ecological, social, economic and demographic spheres put forward new requirements that must be met by experts professionally trained to work for the improvement of the people’s health and for establishing proper conditions for preserving and multiplying the Ukrainian nation.

Hanna H. Starostenko, Prof. of Ukrainian Financial and Economic Institute

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