Bulgaria has lost 582,000 people over the last ten years, a nationwide census has revealed. The EU newcomer, who has now 7,351,633 inhabitants, has lost 1.5 million of its population since 1985, a record in depopulation not just for the EU, but by global standards too.
Bulgaria, which had a population of almost nine million in 1985, now has almost the same number of inhabitants as in 1945 after World war II, the Bulgarian media writes.
The census also found that the Bulgarian population is ageing fast, that the number of young people is declining and that villages are becoming depopulated as big cities grow.
People of more than 65 years of age in 2001 constituted 16.8% of the population, while this year their rate has grown to 18.9%. At the same time, the number of children has declined, which is a clear sign that ever fewer employed people will have to provide for a growing number of elderly people, writes Dnevnik, EURACTIV's partner in Bulgaria.
According to the National Statistics Institute, which conducted the census, the main reason for the demographic decline is not immigration, but the fact that birth rates are trailing behind mortality rates.
The statistical institute appears to rely on official immigration figures, which put the number of those leaving the country at 193,000 during the last ten years. These migrants have officially changed their permanent address. However, the vast majority of Bulgarians living and working abroad keep a permanent address in Bulgaria as well.
The biggest city in Bulgaria is the capital Sofia, with 1,270,284 people – 78,000 more than a decade ago. The next biggest cities are Plovdiv and Varna, with almost the same population: 331,000 and 330,000 respectively. Next come Burgas with 197,000 and Ruse with 146,000 inhabitants. Not a single inhabitant has been found in a total of 186 villages, which are completely depopulated.
73% of the Bulgarians live in cities. The number of households is 2,826,740, which puts the size of the average household at 2.6 people. The number of houses is 3.9 million, which means that an average of 1.9 people live in each house.
The statistical institute notes the success of the census campaign on the Internet. Bulgarian citizens could choose between participating in the census online or receiving a visit from a census employee. 3,100,000 people chose the Internet option.
According to EU statistics, Bulgaria has the worst rate of natural decreases in population, at -0.79% a year. Among countries with negative demographic trends, it is followed by Estonia (-0.63%), Latvia (-0.61%), Lithuania (-0.27%), Hungary (-0.25%), Romania (-0.14%), Slovenia (-0.11%), the Czech Republic (-0.09%), Germany (-0.05%), Poland and Italy (-0.04%).
Other EU countries have positive population growth rates.
Among other countries in the world, Zimbabwe has a depopulation rate comparable to Bulgaria. The African state has suffered from decades of mismanagement and has one of the highest HIV-related mortality rates in the world.
Bulgaria became on 1 February the first EU country to launch a nationwide census in 2011. It will be followed by the EU's other 26 members in the course of the year.
The country is one of the seven EU member states to have introduced an electronic census as an option.
During the year, similar censuses will be conducted across the EU, covering some 500 million people.
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