Ukrainian Reality - A Rich Poverty Explained

Updated: Dec 1, 2020

How a country of 37,289 million survives with an in-country workforce of 13 million?

Based on official statistics, this blog post aims to help readers understand how social and cultural circumstances shape a country and its way of life through adverse, demographics, labor force, maternity welfare (single mothers), legal surrogacy, high emigration levels, and centuries of lived turmoils until today.


Many cultural behaviors we foreigners often censure in Ukrainian culture or do not understand, expressive numbers can explain well.

Not having experienced the Ukrainian hard reality, I do not feel having the right to judge, excuse, or disagree. But many so-called "wrong" behaviors can be if not excused, at least comprehended when knowing the facts.


How a country of 37,289 million survives with a 13 million in-country working force?

Disclaimer: data was collected, and sources are shared. The author's analysis is personal and based on that available data and sources and susceptible to not representing an exact reality.


Facts found:

According to Government Portal, the current population of Ukraine is 37,289,000 people, as per the Service of the Minister of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine, posted on January 23, 2020. (these data do not take into account the population that is currently in the occupied territories)

A so-called electronic census found Ukraine's population has decreased by almost a quarter since 2001, driven by migration, death rates exceeding birth rates, but also because it was impossible to count residents in Russia-occupied Crimea and the territories in the country's east that Kyiv doesn't control.

11,300,000 are pensioners (27.% of the total population)

What do they receive after 30/35 years of work? The official pension is 1,712 UAH. ($63) Men receive (after 35 years of work) an extra +1% per each additional year of work and women the same 1% after 30 years working.

The state estimates the living costs in Ukraine as of 2,118 UAH/month. ($78 - something to think about)


A third of pensioners in Ukraine receive a pension of up to UAH 2,000 ($73)

The Pension Fund of Ukraine has published data on pension payments as of January 1, 2020. Most pensioners receive in the range from 1500 to 3000 UAH.


Pensioners that receive bellow 1,500 UAH/month ($55) are 0.7% (79,100 persons) Receiving between 1,501 to 2,000/month ($55 to $73) are 34.8% (3,932,400 persons) Receiving between 2,001 to 3,000/month ($73 to $110)are 34.2% (3,864,600 persons) Receiving between 3,001 to 4,000/month ($110 to $146) are 12.0% (1,356,000 persons) Receiving between 4,001 to 5,000/month ($146 to $183) are 6.3% (711,900 persons) Receiving between 5,001 to 10,000/month ($183 to $366) are 9.3% (1,050,900 persons) Receiving above 10,000/month ($366) are 2.3% (25,990 persons)


Also read: What you need to know about legal surrogacy in Ukraine $55,000 to $60,000 for a guaranteed baby plan


Pregnancy and childbirth assistance or so-called "maternity"

This benefit is provided at the rate of 100% of a woman's average monthly income (scholarships, salaries, unemployment benefits, etc.) per month. Still, it cannot be less than 25% of the subsistence level set for a non-disabled person. That is, from July 1, 2020, it cannot be less than UAH 549.25 ($20).


Alimony - a divorced mother receives per month:

  • children up to 6 years - 929 UAH ($34)

  • children aged 6 to 18 years 1,159 UAH ($42)

  • If attending university, the state helps between 18 till 23yo with 2,197



Subsistence minimums for a single mother from July 1, 2020

  • children under 6 years - 1859 UAH ($68)

  • children aged 6 to 18 years - 2318 UAH ($85)



Almost a fifth part of the working population of Ukraine is abroad


Stated by the Macroeconomic Review of the Ministry of Finance of Ukraine from July 2019.

Mass labor migration from Ukraine reached the scale of a national disaster in recent years. It is gaining momentum in the conditions of the failed economic policy of the authorities, who use it to lower the degree of social tension and reduce unemployment rates.

  • "A significant factor in increasing imbalances in the labor market is the outflow of labor abroad. Thus, according to the Ministry of Social Policy, there are about 3.2 million migrants from Ukraine abroad (data for 2018), which makes up almost 18% of the economically active population of the country age 15-70 years,"

Read here: Ukrainian Economic Migration Stats


Conclusions to take:

Placing ourselves in Ukrainian's shoes, honestly, I can only admire their determination and strength to survive an always constant state of disturbance, confusion, and uncertainty Ukraine permanently went through during centuries and until today. (150+ conflicts within 20 centuries time spam - read at the end of this post)


The number of Ukrainian population younger than 18 years is today at 7.5 million. That said, the pensioners and the youngest represent 19.3 million— half of the population (51.7%). From the remaining 18 million, if deducting 3,2 million of emigrants, and 9.4% of the unemployed population (1,7 million), remains a working force of 13.1 million to sustain the second-largest country in Europe (by area 603,628 km2 - 233,062 sq mi) after Russia, and the 46th largest country in the world.




List of wars involving Ukraine

  1. Kievan Rus - 830s till 1435 fought 40 wars and lost 17

  2. Uprisings - 1591 till 1769 fought 14 wars and lost 7

  3. Cossack naval campaigns - 1602 till 1617 - fought 10 and won all

  4. Other conflicts - 1558 till 1775 - fought 19 and won 7

  5. Under Austrian and Russian empires - fought 48 and won 38 until WW1 starts 1914

  6. War of independence - fought 6 and lost 5

  7. As a part of the Soviet Union - (1922–1991 incl. WW2) - fought 30 and won 20

  8. Tajikistani Civil War (1992–1997) United Nations-sponsored

  9. Russian military intervention in Ukraine (2014–present)



Living in Ukraine, learning this people's legacy, and listening to reports from persons whose parents survived the 1932–33 famine in Ukraine killed starvation six to seven million people.

Or reading and seeing every other day people still victimized from the Chernobyl radiation, considered the worst nuclear disaster in history, that occurred in Ukraine in 1986 Or not so long ago, the Euromaidan Revolution in 2014 where I had the opportunity to see personally.


When interiorizing such a legacy, I must take into consideration so many social and cultural factors that I can no longer blame anyone at first glance for their supposed "wrong" or politically incorrect attitudes for surviving such a legacy surrounded with permanent instability and uncertainty on tomorrow's day.

I doubt I would be a better person than Ukrainians or live a joyful life.

Portuguese popular wisdom has a saying: "Only those who live in the convent knows how life is inside." After 15 years in Ukraine, I still feel I am ignorant of how much some people can stand, survive, and look to the future with hope in a better life. Sometimes, they cross the line but, who wouldn't? I won't throw the first stone.


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