Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Children of Immigrant Workers an Increasing Share of Declining Number of Births in Moscow

Paul Goble

            Staunton, November 1 – Newborns, at least one of whose parents is a foreign gastarbeiter,  formed an increasing share of the declining number of all births in Moscow during the first months of this year, a reflection of the continuing demographic decline of ethnic Russians and a contribution to a more radical shift in the ethnic balance in the country.

            For the first seven months of this year, Irina Khmara of Svobodnaya pressa reports, registration data show that the number of newborns in the city of Moscow fell by 7.8 percent from the same period a year earlier, while the share of them at least one of whose parents is a gastarbeiter rose from 8.5 percent to 12.5 percent in the first quarter. 

            On the one hand, as Khmara makes clear, that shows that “the baby boom about which people talked in recent years has ended. And on the other, it shows that immigrants are responsible for an increasing share of births. Indeed, their contribution may be even larger than the statistics show because many don’t register (

            That pattern also helps to explain why Moscow’s decline, almost eight percent, is less than for Russia as a whole where it is 11-12 percent – a figure offered by Moscow State University demographer Valery Yelizarov -- because migrants constitute a larger share of Moscow’s population and that of other major cities than they do of the country as a whole.

            These trends have long been expected by demographers, Yelizarov says. Birthrates reflect among other things the size of the prime childbearing cohort of women and the number of marriages in the previous years, both of which have been declining among Russians, and the relatively lower age structure and greater propensity for large families among migrant workers.

            Ethnic Russians in Moscow as a result of changing preferences about family size and the economic pressures of living in the expensive capital are having far fewer children than needed to keep the population stable. For stability, each woman needs to have from 2.1 to 2.15 children. In Moscow now, the figure is “approximately 1.3,” Yelizarov continues.

            Immigrants and their children have kept the population from secular decline, he says; and they should be welcomed for that as well as for their contribution to the economy.  He adds that he “does not see any threats either for the population of Moscow or for Muscovite culture” from their presence and growth.”

            Moscow is “a multi-national city. It was and so it remains,” the demographer concludes; it is just becoming more multi-national than it used to be – and that isn’t something that all Muscovites or Russians in general are pleased about.

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