Statistics Poland (GUS) has released its latest demographic estimates for 2023, revealing a concerning 11 percent decrease in births and a natural decrease of 137,000 inhabitants, equivalent to the disappearance of an entire medium-sized city’s population in just one year.
The figures paint a grim picture of the nation’s demographic future.
According to the data, only 272,000 children were born in Poland last year, confirming previous estimates and signaling a significant demographic shift. This marks a historic low in fertility rates, dropping below 1.20 for the first time, positioning Poland among the countries with the lowest fertility rates worldwide.
The decline in births, from over 400,000 in 2017 to a drastic 30 percent drop over six years, is attributed in part to an aging population and a decrease in the number of women of prime childbearing age. Currently, there are only 475,000 Polish women around the age of 30, a critical age for childbirth, down from over 660,000 a decade ago. This number is expected to shrink further to approximately 340,000 in the next 10 years.
Even if the fertility rate among 30-year-old women were to double in the next decade, the birth numbers would remain nearly unchanged, highlighting the significant impact of the dwindling number of potential mothers on Poland’s birth rate.
However, the decline is not solely due to demographic structure but also to decreasing fertility among Polish women, driven by various factors including cultural shifts, fear of childbirth, health concerns for the child, fertility issues, climate change fears, and the challenge of finding a suitable partner amid political polarization and the influence of social media.
Economic factors, such as higher interest rates, soaring housing prices, inflation, and the Ukraine conflict further exacerbate the situation, discouraging family expansion. Demographers predict that by 2027, the number of births could fall below 200,000, indicating that depopulation is an inevitable trend for Poland.
Despite potential increases in immigration, it seems unlikely that Poland’s population will grow, suggesting that the country must brace for the impacts of these demographic changes on the pension system, labor market, and healthcare sector.
The government faces tough and unpopular decisions ahead, with higher taxes and a raised retirement age appearing inevitable. Efforts to increase the productivity of the Polish workforce are essential to mitigate the effects of these demographic shifts.