Ukraine’s Alarming Demographics

Michael Emerson

The task of Ukraine’s reconstruction and recovery is thus far seeing most attention devoted to the economics of repairing physical capital assets. However, the losses of human capital through emigration on top of war casualties are arguably even greater, and without recovery also on this front, the reconstruction of physical assets will be in vain.


New data has become available on the scale and structure of emigration caused by the war, with alarmingly around 30 to 40 % of children and of primeage women having left. Over four million of them have been welcomed by the EU through the activation of the Temporary Protection Directive, providing exceptionally positive conditions compared to standard asylum procedures.  Post-war refugee return will be an obvious priority, but how this should be managed and dove-tailed with the end to temporary protection is highly uncertain.


The default scenario for EU law and policy, following an end to temporary protection, is for the migrant families either to return home or to apply for asylum. However, Member States’ asylum systems are incapable of handling the very large numbers involved, and so this scenario would result in a chaotic regime mixing virtually enforced return and illegal overstays and should be ruled out.


An alternative recommendable scenario would be for the current three-year temporary protection period to be extended for another for three years in to dove-tail with a recast Long-term Residence Directive, coupled with other measures to facilitate voluntary return.