“1.7 children per woman in 2012”

An interesting piece notes the demographics of Russia, “For decades, first the Soviet Union and then Russia languished under adverse population trends. Deaths far outpaced births, life expectancy was dismally low, and social ills, from alcoholism to unsafe abortion practices, were rampant. Over the past several years, however, this demographic picture has somewhat brightened. In 2012, live births outnumbered deaths for the first time since the collapse of the Soviet Union. That indicator has remained marginally positive, and others have also begun to improve. By 2013, Russia’s average life expectancy reached a historic high, at 71 years, and birthrates nearly matched European averages. These reversals have been modest, but they have been enough for the Kremlin to proclaim victory in its decades-long fight against demographic decline. In a December address to Kremlin officials, for instance, Russian President Vladimir Putin celebrated the “effectiveness” of Russia’s demographic programs in reversing the country’s trajectory”.

He continues “His conclusion, however, is extremely premature. That is the assessment of a 2015 study by the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration (RANEPA), a state university. The report points to some marked improvements in Russia’s recent demographic fortunes, with fertility rates, for example, rising from 1.3 children per woman in 2006 to 1.7 children per woman in 2012. But it maintains that Russia’s demographic prospects are profoundly negative in the longer term. “Despite . . . recent positive dynamics,” the report notes, “the potential for a demographic crisis is not over.” Indeed, Russia’s window for further population growth is rapidly closing. Within a decade, according to RANEPA’s estimates, the population of Russian women aged 20 to 29 will shrink by nearly 50 percent. The corresponding decrease in birth rates, particularly when combined with the country’s mortality rates—the 22nd highest in the world, according to the study—makes it clear that Russia is still in for long-term decline”.

Yet pointedly the author writes that “Russia’s window for population growth is rapidly closing.  In fact, without remedial action, Russia’s population could shrink to 113 million by 2050, a decrease of more than 20 percent from today’s population of 144 million. And in a worst-case scenario, RANEPA argues, Russia’s population could fall by nearly a third, to 100 million, before midcentury. The economic effects of such a shift would be dramatic; Russia’s working-age population would decrease by more than 26 million, making the country less competitive and less prosperous. But there is still some hope: if Moscow takes measures to reduce mortality and boost the birthrate, RANEPA estimates that the Russian population could rise modestly, to 155 million, by 2040. In other words, Russia has a choice to make—one with deep social and economic consequences. If implemented in the near term, improvements in health care, tax benefits for families, and steps to discourage emigration could offset and even reverse Russia’s long-term population decline. The opportunity to do so, however, will be lost over the next decade, and the social and economic consequences of governmental inattention could be catastrophic”.

The author makes the point that “Unfortunately, there’s little chance that the Kremlin will seize the moment. In recent years, preoccupied with regaining its place on the world stage, Moscow has only peripherally addressed the long-term sources of national decline. Instead, it has prioritized spending on programs that reinforce its reputation as a great power. Even before the outbreak of the conflict in Ukraine, it was estimated that Russia planned to spend upward of $600 billion on upgrading its military capabilities by 2020. The increased expenditures have funded, among other projects, the creation of new intercontinental ballistic missiles, the deployment of additional long-range strike capabilities, and serious work on electromagnetic pulse weapons. Over the past year and a half, as Russia’s relations with the West have deteriorated and as its economy has suffered under Western sanctions and slumping oil prices, Moscow has assumed an even more martial focus.

The piece concludes “That’s a potentially dangerous mistake. Unless Moscow gets serious about Russia’s internal health, and does so quickly, the country’s recent population rebound is destined to be temporary —and Russia’s negative demographic future will return with a vengeance”.

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: