Poland is facing its largest demographic decline in 50 years. This is partly a side-effect of the coronavirus pandemic and drastic increase in the number of deaths in the last months of 2020, but is also due to the increasingly lower birth rate in Poland. This means that there are increasingly more Poles disappearing than in previous years.
In the associated chart, one can observe an almost vertical line when it comes to 2020. Although this is just a statistic, there’s a real story behind the data.
According to data from Statistics Poland, there have never been this many death certificates since 1946 (when Statistics Poland began collating data). Seventy-five years ago, there were about 200,000 fewer deaths in one year. In 2020, 479,000 Poles died.
Moreover, in the last 12 months, 360,000 people were born, although full data concerning births will only be available from Statistics Poland in the last days of January.
Such preliminary numbers mean that Poland has lost some 100,000 citizens in just 2020 – due to so many more dying than being born. It’s as if several towns suddenly disappeared. In 2019, only 35,000 Poles were lost in total, while in 2018, 25,000 and in 2017, just 1,000.
The coronavirus is directly killing through the disease it causes, but it’s also killing indirectly through the healthcare system being focused solely on battling the coronavirus, difficult or impossible access to doctors, and fewer specialist examinations and diagnoses of tumors. Also, people are simply afraid of paramedics and visiting the hospital.
The daily data from the Ministry of Health only tell us about the victims who test positive for the virus or cases qualified by doctors. Someone affected by the virus who died in an accident at home will not be entered into the data. The data also doesn’t tell us about Poles who died before their tests were completed nor about those who died without having seen a doctor for several months.
The death statistics are the best at showing the true scale of the pandemic in a country. They show the full picture of the death rate in Poland. Portal money.pl estimates that the hidden number of people who have died due to the pandemic is close to 50,000. It’s important to note that these are the victims of the pandemic overall, not just the virus.
If the following weeks of the first quarter of 2021 bring as many deaths as we had in December, then about 144,000 Poles will die by March. This will mean that in 12 weeks, as many people will die as usually do in 17 weeks.
The worst-case scenario is if the death rate remains at around 12,000 deaths per week for a very long time. This would mean that by the end of 2021, close to 660,000 people will have died.
Title image: A man passing by a poster warning against neglecting COVID-19 symptoms, in Warsaw, Poland, October 16, 2020.