Friday, October 18, 2013

Window on Eurasia: Russian Population's Age Structure Means Births Will Decline and Deaths Rise, Moscow Demographer Says

 Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 18 – Despite the upbeat comments of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Health Minister Veronika Skvortsova yesterday, the age structure of the Russian population today means that the number of births in that country will fall in the coming years and the number of deaths will rise over the same period, according to a Moscow demographer.

            In a comment to Aleksey Polubota of “Svobodnaya pressa” today, Natalya Zubarevich of the Independent Institute of Social Policy, says that Russians need to “be honest” and recognize that whatever officials and politicians say, the population of the Russian Federation is about to enter a period of free fall (

            The Putin regime’s policy of providing support for families who have a third child in areas where deaths now exceed births, “perhaps may soften the consequences” the demographic decline ahead, but they cannot by themselves hope to “solve the problem,” even if officials claim otherwise.

            The generation of women now entering prime childbearing years, one born in the 1990s, is simply “too small,” and thus it will produce fewer children even if the birthrate per capita goes up.  And the impact of this decline will be even more noticeable because “the very large post-war generation” will be dying out.

            The government program will help “first of all, rural residents and residents of small cities,” she continues, but adds that she “doesn’t think that a payment of 7,000 rubles [230 US dollars] will prompt anyone living in a megalopolis to give birth to a third child.” Raising one there is much more expensive. 

Moreover, Zubarevich points out, an ever greater share of Russians live in such cities, where birthrates are lower.  For all these reasons and despite the claims made by Putin and Skvortseva yesterday, there is no reason to expect “any demographic growth in the immediate future.”

There is yet another problem with the government’s pro-natalist policy.  Its subsidies “will stimulate the birth of a third child in socially disadvantaged families. That is, in families where people want to earn money from their children. Will we as a reslt obtain new fully valued citizens of Russia? I doubt it.”

Nevertheless, Zubarevich said, from her point of view, it is a good thing that the money is going to young people and families rather than to the support of the bureaucracy or the FSB. “Everything that the state spends on children can only be welcomed.”

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