The mayor of a small impoverished town in the Republic of Macedonia has taken a novel approach to solve its problem of lonely single men – he is providing them with free bus tickets to Ukraine in order to find wives (with a free wedding included should they be successful in their romantic pursuits).
“Only four people responded to our call so far, but I expect greater interest in the near future,” said Milosim Vojnevski, mayor of the rural municipality of Makedonski Brod, according to Balkan Insight. Vojnevski added that they will require up to 20 men to apply in order to make the first “love excursion” a reality. “The call applies only to men aged between 30 and 50 as they need most help,” Vojnevski specified. The mayor told Al Jazeera that the plan is for the Macedonian bachelors to “spend a couple of days in Ukraine for them to get to know their future brides.”
The fact that Ukraine suffers from a shortage of men (and shares the common Slavic ancestry of Macedonians) should facilitate the project. In recent years, the town of Makedonski Brod has suffered a huge drop in population – from 24,000 in the 1990s to 8,000 currently – partially as a result of poverty-induced mass migration of young women in the wake of the collapse its sole industry, a floor-making factory. The lack of brides has led to a plunging birth rate – Balkan Insight noted that last year, the municipality recorded nearly 100 deaths and only 49 births. The local school may close down to the dearth of available students.
One Macedonian bachelor named Petre Aleksoski spelled out what kind of woman he is seeking. "She must be smart, good at housework and able to cook for our children, if God grants them," he told BBC. "I'm not looking for a pretty girl who ignores everything else."
Meanwhile, Ukraine is suffering from a demographic nightmare that could have serious implications for its future – a staggering shortage of men, which has partially resulted from their poor health, poverty and low life spans. The State Statistics Committee of Ukraine estimates that the country now has a deficit of almost 3.6 million men – with the average life expectancy for men now 62 years, a dozen years less than the corresponding figure for women. “The premature death rate among working age men in Ukraine is 3-4 times higher than in the EU countries,” said Ella Libanova, director of the Institute for Demography and Social Studies at the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine. Libanova noted that more than one-fifth (22 percent) of Ukrainian men die between the ages of 40 and 60. In the crucial 40-49 age period, men die at a rate more than three times that of women. On the whole, there are only 0.85 males per every female in Ukraine.
According to a blog that covers Ukraine called AdorableLand.com, men in the country engage in various harmful behaviors, including smoking (more than one-half of adult men regularly light up), alcohol consumption, drug addiction and high-risk sexual activities that shorten their life spans. As a result, Ukraine is losing people – according to the CIA World/Factbook, in 2013, the country recorded 15.75 deaths per 1,000 inhabitants (the second highest rate in the world, behind only South Africa) and only 9.52 births per 1,000 inhabitants.
In 2011, the nation’s birth rate amounted to 1.4 per woman, well below the 2.2 percent “replacement rate” needed to ensure a stable population. EuroMonitor estimates that in 2030, the population of Ukraine will fall to 42.6 million, a 7 percent decline from 2010. “Every year, 200,000 more people die than are born,” said Rumane Verikaite, a EuroMonitor data analysis manager. The United Nations projects that Ukraine’s population will fall even further to 35 million by 2050.
Palash has worked as a business journalist for 21 years in New York.