Migrants and depopulation: What will Ukraine look like after the war?

Ella Libanova, a leading academician at the National Academy of Sciences and director of the Demography and Social Studies Institute, expressed optimism about Ukraine's development at the NV’s private charity event "People of the Decade. A Big Evening with NV" on May 16.

"During these 10 years, we have formed the Ukrainian nation. It didn't exist before 2014. There were some people who believed that Ukraine would be reborn, that there would be Ukrainians in Ukraine. But there was no political Ukrainian nation. It started to form very quickly after 2014. Yes, there were sprouts before that, but it was only then that it began to take shape. Unfortunately, we managed to form a political Ukrainian nation more during the war. But the most important thing is that we were united. Yes, we united to repel the enemy, we united 'against' the enemy. We have not yet managed to unite 'for'," Libanova stated.

Libanova believes that Ukraine is on the verge of realizing its role on the global stage. "We have gradually begun to grow up, and I very much hope that in the next 10 years we will become a mature nation with our own understanding of our position and our role in this world."

Addressing demographic challenges, Libanova highlighted the uncertain fate of Ukraine's territorial size and the impracticality of urging expatriates to return amid ongoing conflict. "Our country was the largest in Europe in terms of territory. Nobody knows today whether it will remain so. As for the people, I honestly don't see much point in bringing them back now. The war is still going on, and people have left, mostly with children. Personally, I am not going to say ‘come back’. Where, to Kharkiv? You can go to Kyiv, but where else? So this is a question of the future, rather, how to bring them back. We won't be able to bring them all back, so there's no need to even talk about it. God willing, we will bring back half of them. I will be happy if we return half or 60%, and I wouldn't dream of anything more."

Libanova also touched on the need for Ukraine to attract migrants to counter depopulation, a trend exacerbated by the war. "Whether we like it or not, we will have to attract migrants. Because in Ukraine, before the war, the population density was about 45 people per kilometer. In Europe there are countries with more than 100. But in Europe there is Norway, which has 14. We are not Norway, we will not be able to ensure the revival of the economy, the development of the economy, if there are not enough workers. Qualified, motivated, etc. If we think about it, we realize that depopulation is inevitable. And it would have been even without the war. The war has greatly intensified these processes. So we will have to import people from other countries. And there's no need to say that if we offer a high standard of living here, they will come. People will come anyway, that's human nature, and thank talk for that. Where will they come from? Usually they go from poorer countries to richer countries, at least in large numbers," she concluded.

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