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Romania has been compared lately with Syria from an emigration point of view, except that Syria has been in a state of war for years. In 1990, the country had a population of 23.21 million people. In 2018, it was 19.52 million. The active labour force fell from 10.84 million in 1990 to 8.37 million in 2018, according to Emerging Europe portal. 

Currently some 200,000 people leave the country each year. It is now estimated that some five million Romanians are working and living abroad. The most concerning part of this situation is that young Romanians left in droves, which had material consequence on the Romanian state budget, social contribution budget (those who leave no longer contribute to pensions) and, on a more general note, on each and every aspect of Romanian economic and social life.

Moreover, the fabric of Romanian society has changed. The percentage of old people has increased. During the last three decades, the number of ethnic Romanians has decreased to 83.46 per cent in 2011 (the last census) from around 90 per cent in 1992.

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The Hungarian segment also decreased to 6.10 per cent while the population of German origin decreased from 4.44 per cent in 1930 to just 0.18 per cent in 2011, according to figures published by the Romanian National Institute for Statistics (INS). Also, the natural increase rate was at -3.6% for Romania in 2017 as compared with the EU average of -0.4% (provisional/estimated data).

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As in the case of the Western Balkan countries, Moldova and other countries, Romanians living abroad are sending back home substantial amount of remittances, but this is not enough to compensate for the economic losses registered due to emigration. Moreover, the trend of this inflow of remittances is downward.

In all transitional countries, Romania included, living standards are not yet at the level of developed countries. The funds available to EU member countries which are also in transition are not properly and entirely used to alleviate the concerns and the immediate and basic needs of the population.

Moldova became an independent state on August 27, 1991, in the aftermath of the Soviet Union’s dissolution. The following year, in August 1992, Moldova became a full member of the IMF and the World Bank Group.

During the early years of its independence, Moldova was involved in a war with the so called Transnistrian Republic and the population started to suffer the consequences of the war. In those years, the Moldovan exodus started despite a lot of difficulties, as the Moldovans did not enjoy a free-visa access to Europe until June 2014.


Many Moldovans (some estimates put the number at one million) applied for Romanian citizenship which, especially after January 2007 when Romania became an EU member, helped them to emigrate to Romania, Europe and anywhere else. Apart from the Transnistrian war, the exodus was mainly triggered by the low level of GDP/capita, high unemployment, banking frauds and corruption at the highest of its political sector. Meanwhile, Moldova accumulated a foreign debt of more than 100 per cent of its GDP which is likely to accelerate the emigration process.

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However, Moldova was not the only new-born state with such a convoluted dynamic of its population. Ukraine’s population has also decreased during the last three decades of transition. The Baltic countries have also seen their populations reduced for many reasons, amongst which emigration was a key factor.

Poland started its transition with a population of 37.8 million in 1989 and was basically at a very similar level in 2018. Millions of people have left the country, however. According to the Office of National Statistics, in the United Kingdom alone, there were 889,000 Polish people registered as immigrants (overseas-born) as of June 2018, despite the persistent uncertainties related to Brexit. Bulgaria, Hungary and many other transition countries have suffered similar developments.

Alexandru M. Tanase, Former EBRD banker, IMF advisor