Sunday, January 14, 2018

To Counter Demographic Disaster, Kazan Goes Beyond Moscow to Boost Birthrate and Boost Workforce Participation

Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 14 – In addition to all the other problems Tatarstan has, it now faces projected demographic declines mean that it will soon not be able to fill all the jobs of its economy from natural increase in the population. In response, Kazan is launching a pro-natalist and anti-mortality program far more comprehensive than anything Moscow has proposed.

            Aleksey Pesoshin, the republic prime minister, warns that “in a short time, the demographic growth of the population will not be sufficient to cover the need of the republic for labor resources” and that the government must seek to boost the birthrate, lower adult male mortality, and increase workforce participation (

            Demographers project that the size of the labor force there will decline by five percent by 2030 to only 2.1 million while the number of people of pension age will increase by 16 percent, to 1.1 million people.  That is because the birthrate among the Tatars has fallen from 1.855 children per woman per life time, above the all-Russian average, has now fallen significantly.

            Vladimir Putin’s program of providing eight months of subsidies to families who give birth to their first child may help somewhat, Kazan officials say; but they are now planning to subsidize families giving birth not just to the first but to the third child and not for eight months but for “not less than three years.”

            Significantly given the ethnic balance in the republic, Kazan will target these benefits in the first instance to the predominantly ethnic Tatar rural areas rather than to the cities where Tatars are either roughly equal to ethnic Russians or form an even smaller percentage of the total than the latter.

            But that is not the only step Kazan is taking to boost the number of workers.  It is seeking to get more people now classified as invalids into the workforce by setting up quotas for the hiring of this group and subsidizing firms that do. The hope is to boost invalid participation in the workforce from the current 37 percent to 50 percent in 2020, a rise in about 10,000 workers.

            At present, workforce participation of the adult population in Tatarstan is 68 percent, while for Russia as a whole it is 66 percent. But Kazan hopes to increase that share by various incentives because there are now more than 34,000 advertised job vacancies that employers are having a hard time filling, something that is exerting upward pressure on wages and salaries.

            Kazan officials believe that one way to boost participation is to decrease the level of income differentiation.  Tatarstan’s is less than Russia’s but it is still too high.  And another way is to reduce the share of all workers engaged in “unofficial” – that is, unregistered – work. There, they say, there have been some successes.

            And they are also taking steps to reduce adult male mortality by cracking down on those firms where workforce safety is less than ideal and where workers have died as a result. Notably, the officials did not say anything about pushing down rates of alcohol consumption, something that is less of a problem is Muslim Tatarstan than it is in Russia as a whole.

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