According to preliminary data released by the Czech statistical office, the population of the Czech Republic increased by 15.400 in the first half of the year to reach approximately 10.63 million people at the end of June. Due to a negative natural balance (a higher number of deaths than live births), the Czech population would have shrunk if it weren’t for foreign immigration.
A negative natural balance
During the first six months of the year, approximately 55.700 babies were born, slightly less than during the same period last year. The number of children born in and outside marriage both decreased.
On the other hand, over 58.000 deaths were recorded between January and June, with most of the deceased aged between 85 and 89. The balance of natural change was therefore negative by around 2.300.
Foreign immigration from Eastern European countries
The increase of the population was only due to the arrival of foreigners, with a net migration balance of 17.700: while 11.500 people emigrated from the Czech Republic, nearly 30.000 foreigners immigrated to the country during the first half of the year. Quite expectedly, these are not migrants or asylum-seekers from Africa and the Middle-East we’re talking about – the Czech government, along with its Visegrad neighbours, has repeatedly refused to take in migrants arriving in Europe through the Mediterranean Sea since the start of the refugee crisis.
A vast majority of the foreigners arriving in the Czech Republic come from neighbouring Central and Eastern European countries, in search of better job opportunities, work conditions and higher wages. Ukrainians (net migration balance of 5.600), Slovaks (2.700), as well as Romanians and Bulgarians (1.100 each) made up most of the new arrivals this year.
In 2017, the Czech population increased by approximately 31.000 people, 28.000 of which were due to international migration – Ukrainians and Slovaks accounting for most of the increase – and less than 3.000 to natural change.
The challenges of a rapidly shrinking population
According to U.N. projections, the Czech population is expected to shrink by 5.5% by 2050, with far-reaching consequences on the country’s competitiveness and its labour market. The combined population of the four Central European countries should also decrease by nearly 10 million in thirty years, due to the combination of an ageing population, strict immigration laws and a strong emigration drive.
These preliminary figures should be proof enough of the reality of the demographic decline the Czech Republic is facing. But despite the urgency of the matter, the Czech government remains reluctant – if not adamantly opposed – to accept migrants from outside Europe. Policy-makers in Prague are, however, aware of the need to address current (and future) labour shortages, and are mainly looking for ways to facilitate the arrival and long-term stay of workers from Eastern Europe and the Balkans.
Half a million foreigners in the Czech Republic: who are they?
More than 520.000 foreigners were, at the end of last year, living in the Czech Republic, a record-high in the country’s modern history: they were less than 80.000 in 1993, and almost twice as less as today in 2005 (280.000 registered foreigners).
Most of them come from neighbouring countries in Central and Eastern Europe: Slovaks (65.000), Ukrainians (34.000), Germans (17.000), Russians (15.500), Poles (10.000), Romanians (9.000), Bulgarians (9.000) and Hungarians (nearly 5.000) are among the largest foreign-born communities currently established in the Czech Republic. But the country is also becoming increasingly attractive to Western countries: Americans (6.000), Britons (5.000), French and Italians (more than 3.000 each), to name just a few, have been flocking in large numbers to the Czech Republic these last few years.
The unique case of the Vietnamese community excluded, the share of foreigners from outside Europe and North America living in the Czech Republic remains insignificant. A situation that might not change any time soon given the current position of the Czech government and the opposition of a large majority of the population to non-European migrants.