First census results show the sharp drop in Bulgaria’s population is continuing – with low birth rate, high death rate and migration as key factors behind the country’s demographic decline.

Bulgaria’s Population Shrinks by 11.5 per cent in Decade

A child runs on a snowy sidewalk in Sofia, Bulgaria, on December 7, 2021. Photo; EPA-EFE/VASSIL DONEV

Bulgaria’s population has fallen by over 844,000 people, or 11.5 per cent, in the last decade, the National Statistical Institute in Sofia said during a presentation of the results so far from the 2021 census, the first since 2011.

The nation currently comprises just over 6.5 million people compared to 7.3 million in the previous headcount.

The National Statistical Institute pointed to the low birth rate, high mortality rate and migration as key factors in Bulgaria’s demographic decline. 

“This is the most drastic decrease registered so far,” Magdalena Kostova, a member of the institute, told the media. “The ageing of the population is another lasting trend.”

Today, 23.9 per cent of the population is over 65 and only 14 per cent are below the age of 17. Women represent 52.1 per cent of the population and men 47.9 per cent. Some 74 per cent of the people live in towns.

For the first time, the count has not fully covered all citizens, however, as some were in quarantine or hospitalised because of COVID-19; the website of the institute was also a subject of hacking while some citizens simply did not participate in the process. 

Another reconfirmed tendency is the depopulation of the north of the country; 26.3 per cent of the population in towns like Vidin in the northwest and Dobrich in the northeast have disappeared.

A BIRN feature from early 2020 looked in-depth into Vidin’s decline and the fading economic prospects in the region. 

In contrast to the human data, properties are growing in number. There has been a 7.6 per cent increase in housing over the decade.

Bulgaria’s first census took place in 1880, two years after the country regained independence from the Ottoman Empire, and it numbered 2,007,919 citizens. The population peaked in 1985, when it reached 8,948,649 people. After a decade of migration and economic tribulations, Bulgaria’s population fell below 8 million in 2001. The full data on the 2021 census will be finalised in March.

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