Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Decline in Real Incomes Driving Down Russian Birthrate, Experts Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 16 – The number of births per 1000 women in Russia fell from 13.2 in the first 11 months of 2016 to 11.6 in the same period in 2017, a decline that reflects not just the long-term “echo” of the demographic problems of the 1990s but more importantly the declining real incomes of Russians as a result of the economic crisis, experts say.

            Russians lack confidence in the future and thus are unwilling to assume the additional costs associated with children, economists say, according to Olga Solovyeva of Nezavisimaya gazeta. As a result, this decline has more than wiped out out the gains of the previous five years when this statistic rose from 12.3 to 13.3 (ng.ru/economics/2018-01-15/1_7151_crisis.html).

            Economic problems have pushed down Russian birthrates before, demographers say. Between 1980 and 1990, they fell from 16 per 1,000 women to 13.4; and between 1995 and 2000, they declined again from 9.3 to 8.7, before recovering in the economically more prosperous first decade of the 2000s.

            These earlier declines, of course, also have an impact on the total number of births in the Russian Federation because they mean that the number of women in prime child-bearing ages has declined. When joined with the falling birthrate, that pushes the total number of births down still further.

            Aleksandr Shcherbakov of the Russian Academy of Economics and State Service is among those who says that the economic crisis is playing the key role in driving down the number of children born per 1,000 women. That factor is often understated, Solovyeva adds, because “the authorities don’t very much like” to link falling birthrates to economic problems.

            However, the various pro-natalist policies they have announced including subsidies for families having a first child, maternal capital and possible subsidies for mortgage payments all suggest that the powers that be understand that how many children a family has is profoundly affected by its economic situation.

            Deputy Prime Minister Olga Golodets says that the government “hopes that this complex of measures will lead us back to the level of births which was planned” and that Russia will soon return to the projected rate of 1.9 million births a year that it reached in each of the previous three years.

            However, even if these subsidies are in fact paid and the Russian economy turns the corner, achieving that figure will be difficult given that the pool of potential new mothers continues to decline in size and the share of them who want several children or even one is falling as well.   

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