Staunton, November 10 – Despite occasional upticks caused by changes in the numbers of women in prime childbearing age cohorts, the population of the Russian Federation continues to decline, but instead of bewailing it, Moscow officials are now saying that this decline will lead to a growth in the incomes of those who remain and become “a motor of economic growth.”
In an article in “Argumenty Nedeli” entitled “Withering Away for the Better,” Denis Terentyev calls attention to a declaration of the Economic Development Ministry in September in which officials said that population declines will continue but they will work to the benefit of those Russians who remain (argumenti.ru/society/n364/212546
That is even more likely because the bureaucracy has become ever less interested in investing in health care now that there is widespread recognition that “Russian women will not give birth to six or seven children as in the middle of the 19th century.” As a consequence, “plans for improving demography will remain without money and attention.”
Almost a year ago, Elvira Nabiullina, the then economic development ministry, said that the Russian state budget couldn’t support population points, unless they had at least 100,000 residents. Concentration in Russian megalopolises is part of a worldwide trend, sociologists say, but in Russia it has taken extreme forms and become “dangerous.”
As many people now live in Moscow and its environs than do in all Siberia, a pattern that some Russian economists argue means that Russia is following the Canadian path. But that is nonsense: Canadian agriculture is highly profitable and based on good road and rail connections with the cities; Russia has none of those advantages.
This fall, the Economic Development Ministry has stopped “denying the obvious. Instead, it now acknowledges that the working age cohort in the country will fall by four million over the next four years. Supposedly as a result, productivity and hence wages will grow, as employers have to get more out of the remaining employees.
But economist Andrey Bliznets says that it is far from clear where the investments for such a development will come from given that capital is flowing abroad in unprecedented amounts. Instead, he says, investments and incomes may fall, and to cope with the situation, Moscow will have no choice except to raise taxes.