index.1.jpg (3032 bytes) Galina Selari, expert, Center for Strategic Studies and Reforms

COMMENT: Inertia of Chisinau’s Demography*

On the initiative of the Municipal Council and the Mayor’s Office, Urbanproiect Institute – as a directing agency – started working out the Chisinau Development Plan (Planul urbanistic general) till 2020. This is being done, above all, for those who are to live in this city. Since it is the population – its number, structure and dynamics, economic activity, need of dwelling, education and culture – that mainly determines ability of the city and quality of its environment. 

Starting from these circumstances it becomes clear that the initial stage of developmental work on Chisinau’s perspectives already requires demographic forecast. Elaboration of such a forecast for Chisinau now, after the census of 2004 (for the first time after 1986-1989, when the last General Plan was approved) is based on the renewed statistical basis which strengthens reliability of the prevision of demographic trends for the nearest years. 

The forecast has been elaborated by experts of Urbanproiect, Center for Strategic Studies and Reforms (CISR), Institute of Economy of the AS RM consulted by the National Bureau of Statistics. It consists of three variant schemes: “high”, “medium” and “low” differing in parameters and factors that determine the populationdynamics:

·        High variant of the capital’s demography is based on the optimistic vision of socio-economic development of Moldova, approaching the European life support standards, growth of economic activity, improving standards and quality of living of the population and, consequently, decreasing migration of the able population abroad and acitivization of its mobility within the country (regions – the capital). This variant also correlates growing fertility and life interval rates;

·        Medium variant of the forecast is also oriented at improvement of the quality of economic growth that Moldova needs so much based on implementation of the Strategy of Economic Growth and Poverty Reduction (EG PRSP), but slower rate of socio-economic changes than under the high variant. The authors of the forecast believe this to be the most likely variant of demographic development;

·        Low variant of Chisinau demography is possible if current negative trends of mortality and migration last out. This variant does not exclude growing birth rate, though it is unlikely. 

Fertility scenarios. Fertility forecast scenarios relate to socio-economic perspectives of the city development to a lesser degree, than the mortality and migration scenarios do. Ensuring sustainable economic development does not mean returning to the high birth rate of the 80’s at all (which reached its peak in 1986 – 21 newborn per 1000 inhabitants). It seems that fertility dynamics is irreversible and will most probably stabilize at the level close to the European model. Starting from this, none of scenarios foresees growth of the fertility up to the level, which would at least ensure simple renewal of generations. 

Mortality scenarios are also preconditioned in many respects by economic perspectives of the country (welfare, availability and quality of healthcare). There are good reasons to believe that, after a series of fluctuations during the 90’s, Chisinau mortality indicators have been gradually tending towards negativity. This is mainly due to the high able age mortality rate, men especially. Truth to tell though, all three scenarios presume that infant mortality will decrease. As for the adult population, only the high variant presumes that increasing of the life interval will initiate a new positive trend within the nearest decade, while the rate of the mortality decrease during 2000-2015 will be the same as in the developed countries during 1965-1985. 

Migration scenarios. Migration is the third component that defines main parameters of the population dynamics of Chisinau for the nearest future. The main flows of migration are:

·         Migration related mainly to the immigration of Moldovan citizens abroad, the beginning of formation of stable diasporas there, connected with Moldova (Chisinau) through the migration exchange (“stable diaspora scenario”). Such diasporas have been already consolidating in Russia and Ukraine, and forming in Italy, Greece, Spain, Canada and USA;

·         Ethnic migration, dynamics of which can be mainly determined, as during the 90’s, by the decrease of the number of citizens of ethnicity other than the title one;

·         Immigration to Moldova both from the CIS countries and from the rest of the world is small yet, and will not have significant impact upon the population of the country and Chisinau in the nearest years. 

Forecast calculations based on these hypotheses show that population of Chisinau by 2020 will get smaller than in 1990 under all forecast variants, including minus 12.6% under the medium one. Since population loss now and within the forecast time interval is mainly determined by stable changes in mass demographic behavior that have lead to the sharp birth-rate falling, it is hard to stop. No renewal of the population due to its natural increase is foreseen, therefore one can surmise that reduction of Chisinau population can become lingering. 

According to all variants of the forecast, the process of ageing of the Chisinau population will last out. Mean age of inhabitants will grow from 34 in 2000 to 41-42 by 2020. The share of able-age persons (in 2000 – 72%) at first will slightly increase (up to 75% in 2005) and later decrease again: to 68% under the low variant and to 67% under the high variant. Due to ageing of the population, as well as transformation of its age structure resulting from the peculiarities of the age pyramid, changes of demographic burden over able-bodied citizens will tend towards stable increase.  

Beginning with 2005, the population of Chisinau of able age will decrease. Irrespective of the scenario, so-called pensioners load (number of pensioners per 100 able-bodied persons) will considerably grow from 13 in 2000 to 28-29 in 2020. Let us note though that growth of the pensioners load will be somewhat compensated by the decrease of the number of children and, therefore, the total demographic load will reach a relatively moderate value: 38 persons per 100 able-bodied persons in 2000. Later, a slight decrease of this indicator will follow – down to 34 persons per 100 able-bodied persons in 2005, as well as an increase – up to 47 persons (under the low variant) and 51 persons per 100 able-bodied persons (under the high variant) by 2020.

The inertial demography of Chisinau gives no grounds to expect any population growth in Chisinau in the nearest future, which will be mainly conditioned by the situation in Moldova as a whole, for which, as for the majority of European countries, natality is forecasted to be negative during the first half of the 21st century. Experts of the Department of Population under the UN Secretariat came to the same conclusion. According to the report “World’s Demographic Perspectives: Review of 2004”, population of the Republic of Moldova, including Transnistria (as compared to 1990) will drop by 7.1% by 2020, while, the de-urbanization trend will be apparently overcome, and urban population will grow a bit – by 5.4%. The country’s population, being formed only due to natural increase processes, will be reducing. Besides, labor migration abroad is very likely to continue in the nearest 5 - 7 years (see Annex 2). As for Chisinau, this trend is alleviated by an inflow of migrants from other regions of the country because of the higher employment, incomes and better conditions for education in the capital. 

But, at that, none of variants surmises possible increase of Chisinau’s population. Now, one woman living in the city correlates to 0.93 births, while simple renewal of population requires 2.15. The fertility decrease, reduction of the number and share of children in the population of the city leads to its demographic ageing. According to the most probable forecast variant, it will be 2010 already when the number of adult population will exceed the number of children and teenagers. The population of the able age will also decrease, which means reduction of the economically active population, and, as a result, probability of labor force deficit, increase of demographic load over the able-bodied population and, among other things, increase of the load over healthcare, social services, etc.  

Overcoming of the demographic inertia of Chisinau is one of the most difficult to solve, but imminent problems of socio-economic policy. At the same time, it is worth mentioning that stabilization of Chisinau population at the rate smaller than it was in the end of the 80’s (app. 570-600 thou inhabitants and 800 thou inhabitants as regards the municipality) can also have positive consequences in form of a more well-balanced and effective – as regards socio-economic criteria – development of the capital and the Moldovan urban settlement system as a whole.


* The full report is available in Romanian and Russian languages.

Annex 1 


Annex 2