On the bright side, think of the elbow room: By 2060, if one or more demographic trends are not reversed, the population of Latvia will have plummeted to less than 1.7 million, according to a new European Union forecast.
The forecast, released Aug. 26 by the EU’s Luxembourg-based Eurostat service, puts Latvia second only to Bulgaria for the greatest percent loss in population over the next five decades. By 2060, Latvia could see almost a 26 percent decline to 1.682 million inhabitants, compared to Bulgaria, which stands to lose about 28 percent of its population.
If the prediction holds true, Latvia would become the fifth smallest country in the EU. It currently is the sixth smallest, based on a population of about 2.27 million at the start of this year.
The Eurostat forecast blames Latvia’s predicament on a combination of a low birth rate, a death rate that will continue to outpace births, and continued emigration. The last time Latvia’s population fell so low was in the wake of World War I. Almost 1.6 million inhabitants were counted in Latvia in the 1920 census.
The 1989 census recorded more than 2.66 million inhabitants in Latvia—the highest number ever.
In all, Latvia and 13 other EU member states are expected to lose population over the next five decades. Thirteen other countries, as well as non-EU members Norway and Switzerland, will see gains. Germany, with 82 million inhabitants, is the most populous EU member now, but by 2060 it is expected to lose more than 11 million persons. The United Kingdom, meanwhile, will grow from 61 million to become the largest nation with more than 76 million inhabitants in 2060, the Eurostat survey predicts.
Besides the overall numbers, another concern for Latvia’s policymakers could well be the aging population. Persons age 65 and older now make up just more than 17 percent of the population, but by 2060 that is expected to double to about 34 percent, the study reported. However, this will not be a uniquely Latvian issue as similar trends are expected across the EU.
The other Baltic countries are expected to see population declines as well. Estonia will slide from about 1.34 million at the beginning of this year to 1.13 million by 2060, according to Eurostat. Lithuania will drop from 3.36 million to about 2.55 million.
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