According to Ukraine’s State Statistics Agency (Gossstat), Ukraine’s population consisted of 42,216,766 permanent inhabitants and 42,386,403 total inhabitants as of January 1, 2018.
The last census took place in 2001. Which means the most recent fact-based statistics are over 17 years old. That census established that Ukraine’s population consisted of 48,216,766 permanent inhabitants and 48,457,102 total inhabitants.
Ukraine’s Gosstat calculates current population numbers on the basis of that 2001 census. It also accounts for the annual documented population changes, or the difference between total birth and deaths, and the difference between the number of people who became Ukrainian citizens and those who emigrated.
Unlike Google, Gosstat accounts for the loss of population due to the de-facto loss of Crimea. But it doesn’t consider the de-facto population loss in those parts of Donetsk and Lugansk regions which formed the unrecognized DPR/LPR.
Also not taken into account is the majority of population which emigrated from Ukraine since 2001, to Russia and other countries but formally kept their Ukrainian citizenship irrespective of whether it acquired citizenship of another country or only permanent residence and work permit. These complications ensue from basing census calculations on data from their citizens’ permanent residence/registration localities.
Total population number also does not include seasonal and ongoing work migration, or that part of work-age population which spends most of the year working abroad while remaining Ukrainian residents, returning to Ukraine once or more per year for a brief period of time. The majority of this population is gradually and natural seeking to become non-resident emigrants, or people with permanent residence in a foreign country to be followed by citizenship.
Given the above, one can calculate the actual population of Ukraine with fair accuracy or, at least, offer probable indicators. We’d like to note that the term “actual population” means those resident citizens who spend most of the calendar year on territory controlled by Kiev.
Our point of departure is the Gosstat data specifying 43,216,766 permanent residents. According to Gosstat, Donetsk region population comprised 4,297,000 people as of January 1, 2015, including the city of Donetsk (the region’s center) with 936,257 inhabitants. The same source put Lugansk region population at 2,220,000, including Lugansk’s 444,243.
DPR authorities indicate the territory they control was inhabited by 2,294,530 permanent residents as of December 1, 2017. In turn, LPR data indicates its population is 1,475,841 people.
Both Kiev and and LPR/DPR authorities count the population of areas they control, and in the case of Kiev the entire population using pre-war data. Not counted are the losses to forced migration due to the war and economic situation. Some sources indicate that between 20% and 50% of the region’s population left these regions. For example, UNHCR data suggests that the total number of Ukrainian citizens who left abroad seeking asylum or other forms of legal residence reached 777,000 as of April 2015. Most of them are in Russia. According to Russia’s Investigative Committee, there were 2,302,448 Ukrainian refugees in Russia as of February 2, 2017, including 1,039,977 from south-east Ukraine. We are assuming 25% of them were from Kiev-controlled regions.
We are also assuming that Kiev-controlled territory ought to be inhabited by about 37,759,738 people.
The number of people who emigrated from Ukraine and de-factor lost residency status since 2001 is impossible to assess. Various sources assess it at 4,300,00 to 10,000,000 people. For example, according to Ukraine’s Sociologial Service, more than 1.3 million left Ukraine between 2015 and 2017, while another 3 million have already emigrated prior to 2012. The World Bank, for its part, estimates some 6.5 million Ukrainians are abroad, while Expand Insider investigations placed that number at 8 million. Pew Global, relying on International Migration Organization assessment, 5.94 million Ukrainians were living in foreign countries as of 2017, with its definition of migrant being residence abroad for more than 1 year.
Interestingly, Gosstat data is disputed by Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Igor Klimkin, who said that in 2017 alone over 1 million Ukrainians left the country, and that 100,000 leave every month after visa-free movement with the EU. The former Minister of Labor and Social Policy and current Rada deputy Mikhail Papiev believes that Ukraine’s population does not exceed 32 million. Papiev said that he arrived at the number after joint calculations with experts and the Demographics Institute of Ukraine Academy of Science. Moreover, even the 32 million figure is optimistic, because it does not take into account Crimea and LPR/DPR.
It seems that, given the above, one can estimate the likely number of migrants since 2001 who are permanent residents of foreign countries and not included in official statistics at 6-8 million.
Moreover, the number of current work migrants is estimated at 5-9 million. For example, Yulia Tymoshenko said on November 23 that according to official statistics, 9 million Ukrainians engage in seasonal migrant work. To cite her, “It’s no labor tourism, it’s a massive and panic-stricken flight from one’s own land”.
Accordingly, using the estimates cited above, one may assess with a high degree of confidence the actual population of Ukraine in late 2018 to be somewhere between 20,759,738 and 26,759,738 individuals.
In addition, these numbers are heavily skewed in the direction of non-working age segment of the population, due to high mortality (4th highest in the world and 3rd highest in Europe, with 14.4 deaths per 1,000 population) and low birth rates (186th out of 226 countries, with 10.5 births per 1,000 population).