Is the Czech Republic Dying?

As death rates exceed birth rates across the EU, the future of some countries is called into question

It’s been a continuing trend in many first-world countries across the globe: death rates exceed birth rates, calling the future of naturalized populations into question. It’s being called “natural decrease”, and it’s a relatively new phenomenon.

Simple mathematics: if more people are dying than being born, a population will inevitably decrease. This doesn’t mean that a country faces extinction – a stable middle ground could eventually be found – but repercussions are likely to be felt until then, especially the economic effect of having a growing elderly population and a declining workforce.

A new report in Population and Development Review found that death rates exceeded birth rates in 58% of the counties across Europe, including most of the counties in the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Romania, and other countries.

In comparison, only 28% of the counties in the United States reported the same.

In the Czech Republic, most of the counties that have seen a decrease are in Moravia and Southwest Bohemia. In most areas of Prague and Central Bohemia, birth rates have exceeded death rates.

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Another measure of population stability might be fertility rate – the average number of children a woman in her child-bearing years is expected to produce. For a country’s population demographics to remain stable, that number should be about 2, meaning the average family unit reproduces the same number of children to “replace” themselves.

According to the 2015 CIA World Factbook, the Czech Republic reports a fertility rate of 1.44 – 206th out 224 countries. Neighboring countries including Germany, Poland, and Slovakia all report similar figures.

Despite radical changes across Europe over the past century, the country’s population has remained relatively stable, hitting a peak of 10.7 million in 1930 and dipping to 8.9 million in 1950. It’s hovered between those two numbers ever since.

But in 2008, EUROPA released population projections across the EU. While the Union as a whole was projected to slightly increase in population, the Czech Republic was forecasted to go from 10,533,000 in 2008 to 10,288,000 in 2035 and 9,514,000 by 2060, a net decrease of nearly 10%. 

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Similarly, a 2007 forecast by the Population Reference Bureau projected a 8% decrease in Czech population by 2050.

In many countries, the declining natural population numbers have been offset by migration; in Germany, natural decrease has been effectively halted by immigration in recent years.

But that hasn’t necessarily been the case in the Czech Republic: despite the recent influx of migrants to Europe, few see the country as a popular destination.

According to 2001 census data, nearly 95% of the country’s population identified themselves as Czech or Moravian. (During the 2011 census, nearly a quarter of the population refused to answer the nationality question as a form of protest).

And according to Czech president Miloš Zeman, immigrants – at least of the Muslim variety – are unwanted in his country. But with the country facing a decrease in natural population and a dwindling fertility rate, one wonders where its future citizens will come from.

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