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Five charts that show just how bad Ukraine's economy really is

Ukraine has never quite recovered from its days as part of the Soviet Union. It is still grindingly poor - although its unemployment rate is better than ours...

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 15 Apr 2014

Here in the relatively affluent UK, it's hard to imagine that a European country could be described as 'impoverished', but Ukraine has had a rough ride since it split from the Soviet Union. Thanks to a series of increasingly inept leaders (pet ostriches, anyone?), it has struggled the muster significant economic growth.

These graphs show how bad the situation is: we've compared Ukraine with Poland, which at the beginning of the 1990s had similar levels of poverty, using the UK for reference. The figures only go as far as 2012 - but it gives you an idea of how slowly it has adjusted to life in the global economy.

1. Its GDP growth is unpredictable

Ukraine's GDP growth has veered wildly between low teens and, in the early nineties, almost 25% contraction. Since 2012, it's been weak - at the end of 2013 it grew by 3.7%, which offset a decline at the beginning of the year, averaging out at 0%. That's even worse than us...

2. Its GDP per capita is tiny

In 1990 both Poland and Ukraine had GDP per capita of about $1,600 - now Poland is at just over $12,000, and Ukraine is at quarter of that. That's partly because skilled workers have gone elsewhere to look for jobs. In fact, the labour force is expected to shrink 15% by 2035, according to estimations by the World Bank.

3. Its Population is shrinking

Here's proof of that World Bank prediction: whereas the UK's population has risen and Poland's has stayed largely the same since the 1990s, Ukraine's has dropped as its educated workers went elsewhere to look for work.

4. ... although its unemployment rate is surprisingly low

Unemployment is currently 7.3%, only marginally higher than the UK's 7.2% - although there are complaints from highly-qualified graduates that there aren't enough jobs that require their training.

5. Debt repayments are astronomical

Back in sunnier times, when Russia and Ukraine were still BFFs, Russia merrily lent its neighbour the cash to build infrastructure, buy ostriches, etc. This chart shows how much interest Ukraine has paid on its borrowing since 1992: in March, it assured Russia that it would make good on payments of a $3bn loan it received in December - but last week Russia threatened to cut off Ukraine's gas over $2.2bn it owed.

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