Friday, October 09, 2009

The UNDP on Russia's demographic crisis

My thanks to the Financial Times' Tony Barber for linking to this UNDP report describing Russia's situation. As Barber points out in his own summary, it isn't pretty.

The report describes the stark reality of a country whose population is falling fast, to a considerable extent because of rampant alcohol abuse among men, who on average are dying before they make it to 60 years old. “Short life expectancy is the main feature of this crisis, though by no means its only feature. The birth rate is too low, the population is shrinking and ageing, and Russia is on the threshold of rapid loss of able-bodied population, which will be accompanied by a growing demographic burden per able-bodied individual. The number of potential mothers is starting to decline and the country needs to host large flows of immigrants,” the report says.

Since 1992, the natural decrease of Russia’s population has amounted to a staggering 12.3m people. This has been compensated to some degree by the arrival of 5.7m immigrants. But many are ethnic Russians from former Soviet republics, and the source is drying up. Overall, Russia had 142m people at the start of 2008, compared with 148.6m in 1993. By 2025, the figure will almost certainly fall below 140m and could be as low as 128m.

The implications for Russia’s economy are enormous. The authors cite forecasts from Rosstat, the national statistics agency, that Russia’s working age population will decline by 14m between now and 2025. As Vladimir Putin said three years ago when he was president, the demographic emergency is “the most acute problem facing Russia today”.

On the subject of migration, the study's authors point out that the supply of politically acceptable Russophones is running out. In the Baltic States, higher living standards would presumably encourage Russophones to remain in those countries or to go the wider European Union, while in Ukraine and presumably Belarus low living standards don't compensate for the ongoing assimilation of ethnic Russians to the titular nationality, as has happened in independent Ukraine. Indeed, the authors point out that there is no reason Russia can't become a source of emigrants, not only to a Poland that offers higher wages than Russia but to the wider European Union. As for the birth rate, the authors argue that substantial changes in everything from popular culture to government funding would be needed.


akarlin said...

A different perspective - Through the Looking Glass at Russia’s Demography

Anonymous said...

I think that Russia probably needs to try a very wide variety of birth rate boosting (and improving the health situation to reduce death rates) measures and not only rely on going deep in particular areas. It looks like Russia has one of the very low TFR social cultures which will makes things much more difficult (see Germany and Italy).

Seems like very large sums of money should be devoted considering the sheer size of the problem (even if it ends up not being as bad as the commonly held scenarios).

Борис Денисов said...

the country needs to host large flows of immigrants

for any country it is a very strange need

Coleman wrote about it

Randy McDonald said...

@ Sublime Oblivion:

Hi! I'd like very much to take a look at that post later here, if it'd be OK with you.

@ Anonymous:

The Russian--basically post-Soviet, really--pattern involves women having very few children and having them at the beginning of their career, in contrast to the western European pattern of delayed parenthood.

In theory, then, there's some of the time necessary for Russian and other women to become mothers to other children. In theory.

@ Борис Денисов:

This Coleman?

Cicerone said...

In fact, Russia has two ways that it will take. Russia is an orthodox Christian country, so it's very vulnerable to low birth rates.

1. Continuing of a Soviet atheist policy to prevent inflexibility in family issues. Avoid mistakes in southern european countries and do it like France or Scandinavia. The SU has sustained TFRs at around 2.1, but the fertility of muslims was at 5-6 children.

2. Strengthen the Orthodox and national proudness. That is the way that Russia goes now and could lead to Ireland (Same result as in France, but in a different way, because the Irish had the highest fertility in western europe all the time) or Italy (Inflexible families common in orthodox and catholic countries, where the woman has to stay at home)

Could be that Eastern Europe will split in two groups, one that follows way 1 and one that follows way 2. Candidates for way 1 could be Estonia and the former GDR (2008, the TFR of eastern Germany rose above that of western Germany for the first time since reunification, despite still higher unemployment rates. The east has much more childcare facilities)

Борис Денисов said...

Russia is mostly atheist nation

Anonymous said...

Oxford Coleman

Unknown said...

Борис Денисов said...
Russia is mostly atheist nation

Not that this fact helps demography so much

:D :D

Anonymous said...

There seems to be a large gulf in the TFR within the Caucasus region that is part of Russia.

Many of the regions in the Russian Caucasus appear to have TFRs around 1.6-1.9 TFR whereas Chechnya has more than 3.

It appears that almost all the groups suffered a fall in the birth rate, like the rest of the country, during the 1990s but most have increased their TFRs since then.

akarlin said...

"Hi! I'd like very much to take a look at that post later here, if it'd be OK with you."

Sure! I'd appreciate it.

PS. This report was actually released back in May. I don't know why the FT blogger only picked up on it now and tried presenting it as a new publication.

Anonymous said...

The median Russian female is nearly 42 years old. There are only 10 million girls between the ages of 0 and 15. I'm not sure how, exactly these figures lead one to believe that Russia can sustain a population of 140 million.

Other countries with 10 million or more girls in the 0 to 15 age group:

Turkey: 10 million
US: 30 millin
Mexico: 15 million
Afghaniston: 7 million
Pakistan: 32 million

World: 895 million

So, Russia has slightly more than 1% of the world's girls but about 2% of the world's population. No matter how you frame it, Russia is in for a severe relative and absolute decline.