Staunton, May 29 – Even if the recent much-ballyhooed rise in Russian fertility rate were to last and that is almost certainly impossible, a Moscow State University demographer says, the population of the country would decline by half over the next 50 years. In fact, it is likely to decline further and faster than that.
In an interview posted by Stoletiye.ru yesterday, Anatoly Antonov notes that fertility rates in Russia stood at 1.2 children per woman in 1992, rose to 1.4 in 2007-2008, and now stand at “approximately 1.6.” That has given rise to much optimism, but that optimism is misplaced (stoletie.ru/obschestvo/anatolij_antonov_sudba_gosudarstva_zavisit_ot_demografii_480.htm
the declining quality and availability of health care in the Russian Federation in the Putin years and by the government’s unwillingness to invest funds in this sector or in increasing family incentives to European levels, which would require a 1000 percent increase in such spending.
It will be still worse, he adds, because Russia women who will be entering the prime childbearing cohort are even less disposed to have two children than are those in it now, a reflection of the different expectations about family size the two groups received from their parents.
The size of the Russian population is also going to be affected by continuing and in some areas rising rates of adult male morbidity and mortality, he says. No one in the 1980s would have predicted that male life expectancy at birth among Russians would fall to 58 years or that it would not quickly rebound. There has been some improvement but not enough.
Antonov said that he personally believes that “people who understand that the fate of the state depends on demography will come to power by 2025-2030.” That successor government will have its work cut out for it because if Russia can’t at least maintain its current population, “the Russian state will collapse.”
That regime, he continues, will promote the image of larger families by promoting stay-at-home motherhood and raising the wages and salaries of men to a level that will allow them to support such families in comfortable homes. Some conservatives want one of these things but do not understand that both are required. Unless they do, Russia’s demographic future is bleak.