Warsaw, Poland – With the number of births dropping to their lowest level in years and deaths sharply rising as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Polish population experienced a sharp decline last year.
Births dropping, deaths on the rise: Polish population faces significant decline as a result of COVID-19
Citing figures published by local daily Dziennik Gazeta Prawna, the Associated Press reports that Poland registered around 357,000 births last year – the lowest number since 2005 – and more than 486,000 deaths – the highest since the end of World War II. Last year’s population loss of around 130,000 is nearly four times higher than the 2019 drop of 36,000 people.
With nearly half-a-million people having died in 2020, the number of deaths was around 20% above the recent annual average.
Official figures estimate around 30,000 people have died of COVID-19 in Poland last year, although experts believe a number of coronavirus-related deaths do not appear in official statistics, which also fail to take into account indirect deaths linked to the pandemic (such as people foregoing treatment by fear of going to the hospital).
Poland’s demographic decline has been long in the making, with experts highlighting the explosive mix of strict immigration policies, low birth rates and a powerful emigration drive among younger generations to explain this worrying trend.
“A huge demographic crisis”
Although Poland had one of the world’s lowest infection rates during the first wave of the pandemic, the country was hit particularly hard by the second wave in October.
The “baby boom” predicted by some experts as a result of the COVID-19 restrictions and lockdown has failed to materialize. Health concerns about the virus, deep uncertainty regarding the future on top of widespread fear of going to the hospital appeared to have, on the contrary, led to a significant drop in new pregnancies and births.
Economist Rafal Mundry warned on Twitter that Poland was facing “a huge demographic crisis”, leaving authorities scrambling to find new ways to reverse a trend that could see the country’s population lose 5.5 million people by 2050.
Previous UN predictions estimated that the Polish population could shrink by as much as 40% by the end of the century.