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North Macedonia population drops nine percent in 20 years

North Macedonia's population has dropped by a little over nine percent in the last two decades due to continuous emigration driven by the country's dwindling economy, census results published Wednesday showed.

FILE PHOTO: A couple walks on an empty city square due to coronavirus disease (COVID-19) measurements in Skopje, North Macedonia March 14, 2020.REUTERS/Ognen Teofilovski/File Photo

North Macedonia’s population has dropped by a little over nine percent in the last two decades due to continuous emigration driven by the country’s dwindling economy, census results published Wednesday showed.

The Balkan country, which aspires to join the European Union, is home to 1.8 million people, according to the results of the census held in September.

That is a population drop of 185,834 in less than two decades, when the previous census was held.

A total of 58 percent of the population are Macedonians and 24 percent ethnic Albanians, the results showed.

The remainder are Turks, Serbs, Vlachs, Bosniaks, Roma and other minorities.

Two decades ago, Macedonians and ethnic Albanians made up 64 and 25 percent of the population respectively.

The census in the multi-ethnic country is far from a mere statistical operation because government jobs are subject to ethnic quotas.

Also, privileges like the use of minority languages in state institutions are closely linked to the size of an ethnic group.

An attempt to organise a census in 2011 was abandoned after a few days with Macedonian and Albanian officials trading accusations of inflating the sizes of their communities.

The latest census was not free of controversy as the main opposition VMRO-DPMNE party voiced concern over holding it amid a surge of coronavirus cases.

The party accused the government of “amateurism” and proposed online registration instead.

Smaller political parties also called on boycotting the census and claimed that its results have been manipulated in advance to the detriment of Macedonians.

Around seven percent of the population, who were either not at home when census workers came or boycotted it, were registered without ethnic affiliation, the state statistics bureau said Wednesday.

Bureau head Apostol Simevski stressed that the results were nevertheless objective and gathered according to EU standards.

“We did not work according to someone’s wishes or expectations,” he told reporters.

“If someone likes it or not, that is his thing.”

The former Yugoslav republic has been plagued by a continuous mass exodus since gaining its independence in 1991.

The emigrations accelerated after the 2009 visa liberalisation, with the departure of mainly young people seeking job opportunities lacking at home.

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