An unconventional threat to international security is also the population explosion, the demographic crisis, child mortality. Population explosion is the rapid population growth in the world. It is characterized by a reduction in mortality, high birth rates and a longer life span. A rapid population growth is seen in parts of the world such as India, China.

The birth rate is directly linked to the population explosion. In Africa, the birth rate is very high despite the increase in poverty. As population increases in some countries where poverty is very high, that gives rise to tension. The younger population is unable to find work, cannot make a living, natural resources are insufficient to meet the needs of the entire population of the world and to cope with the challenge of population growth.

This has a negative effect as some countries cannot address that challenge. The above demographic changes may affect the emergence of other conflicts. The younger population experiencing such problems and difficulties is more susceptible to riots.  These factors are increasingly being taken into consideration and, on that basis, new policies are being implemented in the countries’ governance to ensure security, both at national, regional and international level.

At the other extreme of population explosion is the demographic crisis. The demographic crisis is characterized by low birth rates, an ageing population, high mortality. The increase in the number of disabled people leading to limited labour input has an impact in this respect. The demographic crisis may result from a large number of people migrating to other parts and regions of the world.

Globally, the demographic problem is rooted in the fact that in developed countries the population is aging, unable to work, while in developing countries the population is too large and there are not enough resources to make a living. This problem affects much of the world and there is an essential need of a unified policy in order to address it. Concerted action by all countries would help preserve and improve international security.

Bulgarian population dynamics since the end of 19 c

The first census in Bulgaria was carried out in 1880, reporting a population of 2 007 919 people. In early 20 c, the population doubled to a little more than 4 000 000 people. The next few decades were critical for our country and its human resources. In the period 1910 – 1920, Bulgaria suffered physical loss of population due to a number of wars, crises and territorial claims. About 140 000 people, mainly in reproductive age, died in the wars (the First Balkan War, the Second Balkan War, World War I). About 276 000 residents of South Dobrudzha passed into the territory of Romania, further people from the Western Outlands passed into the territory of Serbia. At the same time, Bulgaria spread over new outlands won in the First Balkan War and World War I – Pirin Macedonia and parts of the Rhodopes and Thracе.

At the time of the People’s Republic of Bulgaria, the population increased slowly but steadily owing to modernised social, labour and health conditions. In 1989 the population peaked to 9 009 018 people after which a trend of irreversible decrease emerged, continuing to date. According to NSI estimates[i], at 31 December 2015 the population of Bulgaria is 7 153 784 people.

Growth, birth rate and ageing

The modern demographic picture is coloured in negative shades on all key indicators of demographic sustainability. There are fewer and older people in our country, and young people continue to emigrate. Logically, people in working age registered the highest decline in the past year – by almost 56,000 or by 1.3% compared to 2016. The downward process in this group started in 2011, but now it is felt more painfully by the business, given the economic upheaval and the overheating pressure on the national labour market.[ii] The good news, if there is any, is that the lifespan increases to 74.8 years. 2017, however, is the year with the lowest number of children born in the country since 1945. Moreover, Bulgaria is the only country in the world (along with Latvia) with a net decline since 1950.[iii] By comparison, more than half of all countries around the world have increased their population by at least a quarter for the same period. For example, the population of the United Arab Emirates today is more than 120 times higher than in 1950; in neighbouring Qatar this value is over 80 times.

The demographic breakdown is not a fatal problem in itself, but it has serious consequences – a higher average age of the population and a lower proportion of working-age population potentially means more years of work for the same standard of living in poorer social systems. But the most unpleasant consequence is that from one moment on, the trend cannot be reversed, at least not in the foreseeable future, and it seems that for Bulgaria this moment or even has already come. Moreover, demographic shrinkage poses a direct risk to the State’s integrity – vast territories are depopulated, unique natural resources are abandoned, national memory and identity are lost.

At this stage, the aging of the population is such that even if the birth rate increases to above the levels necessary for reproduction, the population will continue to shrink for decades. At the same time, the economic consequences of this process make such growth in birth rates over longer periods less and less likely. We are in a spiral where poverty leads to an aging population and vice versa, and the fact that this applies to varying degrees in most Eastern European countries is a little comfort.

There is, however, a flip side to this too – ageing becomes more and more pronounced. At the end of 2017, one person in the so-called dependency age (under 15 and over 65 years) accounts for less than two persons in active age. This ratio has worsened recently, year on year, that is, fewer workers support an increasingly higher number of elderly people and children. This trend is projected to deepen and it will inevitably have a negative impact on the state budget and the pension system – fewer people will pay taxes and a higher number of people will expect social and health protection. There is something else – in 2001, 100 retiring people were replaced by 124 young people, whereas at the end of last year this ratio is 100 to 64. The ratio of people in working-age to people in non-working age is more favourable in cities than in rural areas. It is the worst in Vidin, Lovech and Gabrovo districts and the best in Sofia.

In fact, Sofia and Varna are the only cities in our country that have seen an unchanged permanent increase in their population in recent years – by about 30% in Sofia and by about 10% in Varna. At the same time, however, out of the nearly 2.6 million housing units in the cities, over 650,000, or nearly 25%, are practically uninhabited. 24% of the housing units in Sofia are uninhabited, 48% in the vicinity of Sofia, 30% in Varna, 26% in Plovdiv.[iv]

The medium-term perspective: between the negative and the extremity

Projections for the future are not rosy – the population will continue to decline and age over the next 20 years, which is a prerequisite for a limited economic growth. By 2040 the population of Bulgaria will decrease by about 20-25%. This is the data from the forecast for the demographic development of Bulgaria for the period 2015-2040. The document was prepared by the Institute for Population and Human Studies at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences based on data from Eurostat, NSI, UN and the World Bank.[v]

It is difficult to predict the exact population growth for the coming decades. The birth rate is gradually decreasing compared to its average levels, but it varies considerably between countries (developed and developing) and among different ethnic groups. Mortality may change sharply due to illness, wars, global catastrophes, or major improvements in medicine. However, the NSI prepares three variants of the forecast for the population of Bulgaria by 2050. In the optimistic scenario, the population will decrease but at a very slow pace, while in the most negative one we are in for a drastic fall.

This also determines the projected decrease in the number and share of the working-age population. The population decline on a territorial basis covers almost all areas, excluding the capital, and this process is expected to continue throughout the entire period. The long-term trend of depopulation of rural areas and movement of people to the big cities in Bulgaria will persist. For about 65 years, rural areas have lost nearly 6 million people at the expense of urban areas. At present, some 1.8 million people live in the rural areas of Bulgaria.[vi]

Measures to stimulate the birth rate

Factors influencing the birth rate fertility as a species-specific trait; food, which, if enough, gives birth to more children; overpopulation reduces the number of individuals; and ultimately birth rate depends on the age composition of the population.

The main approach to addressing the unfavourable present situation should be to raise the quality of human capital through better education, health conditions, and to create an economic environment in which declining human resources generate higher returns on investment. Aging societies in Europe and North America (including the Bulgarian one) need to consider new birth rates stimuli as well as incentives for voluntary extension of working life until we reach a higher level of working population.

The package of measures can be varied and practical, because variants do exist. One proposal provides for the birth of a third child to be financially stimulated by paying kindergarten fees, granting aid for clothes, teaching aids, so that the third child does not become a burden for the Bulgarian family.

Many of those who left the country do not plan to return permanently, but people with Bulgarian self-consciousness could be attracted from Macedonia, the Western Outlands, Moldova, Ukraine, where there is a non-negligible reserve for restoring population growth.

Last but not least, the health of older people should not be underestimated. They should not be considered an element excluded from demographic work, and measures are needed for health prophylaxis rather than treatment of illnesses that have already been established, which will ensure their longer life expectancy. Measures are needed to ensure that people in retirement age are not isolated from the economy and from the labor process.

Modern society has yet another “hidden weapon” to accelerate growth over the coming years: producing knowledge and technological innovations. Revolutions in the areas of healthcare, biosciences, information technologies and material sciences achieved by the past generation show the road to be taken to find the chances for future labor productivity increases. More than ever, development and research should be encouraged to reward people who take risks.

Demographic changes are developing slowly but relentlessly, and their cumulative effect may ultimately be extremely serious. The truth is that there is no time to sparein recognizing and adapting to the gigantic dimensions of the inevitable demographic challenges which the future of our country and the whole Western world involves.

Demographic trends and projections are an important part of foreign policy planning. Unlike other conditions, reliable predictions can be made in the coming decades on the basis of current birth rates, mortality rates and migration. These projections can help identify countries where the population may affect governments’ ability to provide reliable protection and conflict prevention strategies. Planning of joint actions and plans for further management is also needed. Addressing these unconventional threats to international security is critical because they directly threaten security at national, regional and international level.

[i] Население – демография, миграция и прогнози, НСИ, available at

[ii] България през 2017 г: По-малко хора, по-стари, а младите продължават да емигрират, Капитал, 12 април 2018 г., available at

[iii] Comen, Evan, The fastest growing (and shrinking) states: A closer look, USA Today, Jan 15 2018, достъпна на

[iv] Население по области, общини, местоживеене и пол, НСИ, available at

[v] Населението на България ще намалее с около 20% до 2040 г., БТВ Новините, 28 март 2018 г., available at

[vi] Евростат: В България има трайна тенденция за обезлюдяване на селските райони, БТВ Новините, 9 февруари 2018 г., available at