Monday, October 21, 2019

Belarus in Even Worse Demographic Shape than Russian Federation

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 18 – As disastrous as is the demographic situation in the Russian Federation, Nashe Mneniye journalist Aleksandr Mukha says, the one in Belarus is even worse with sharper declines on those measures both regimes would like to see increasing and sharper increases on those each would like to see decline.

            Unless there is a dramatic turnaround, the number of children born in Belarus this year will be less than any year since 1950, some 85,000, and the age of first-time mothers rising t 29.4 years, the highest ever (In 1990, it was 22.9 years.) And two out of every three mothers will be ill at the time of giving birth (

            The Belarusian government’s statistical service reported that there were 23,300 abortions in Belarus last year, 249 for every 1000 live births, a figure down from 1287 abortions per 1,000 live births in 2000. Between 2000 and 2018, Minsk estimates, just under a million Belarusians did not appear among the living because of abortions. 

            Among other unwelcome data are the following: 20.8 percent of Belarusian newborns are ill as well, with 2.6 percent of them suffering from innate abnormalities; and 4.4 percent are born prematurely. And the summary coefficient of births fell to 1.448 in Belarus in 2018, far below what it was there in 1990 (1.93) and far below replacement levels (2.2).

            The number of marriages is falling: The figure for 2018 as the lowest since 2004, and the rate s far this year is on course to depress the total further.  The number of divorces in Belarus, in contrast, is far higher than it was in Soviet times, but it has in fact declined somewhat since 2000.

            As a result, the number of children living with a single parent rose in 2018 to 26,201. In addition, Belstat reports, last year 12,206 children were born to unmarried women.

            Belarus has other demographic problems as well.  Life expectancy among Belarusian men is more than 10 years less than among Belarusian women. Belarus ranks sixth among the countries of the world in terms of the number of suicides. The overall figure for the country fell slightly last year to 33 suicides per 100,000 people. But in rural areas, the figure was 65.1.

            As of 2017, net migration (arrivals over departures) failed to cover the natural decline in the population, and this gap is growing. In the first half of 2019, the natural decline in the population was 19,920 – and immigration amounted to only 899 people.

            Mukha concludes that “the current demographic crisis in Belarus is a reflection of the continuing degradation of traditional family values and negative phenomena in the social and economic sphere.” Correcting this, he argues, will require an improvement in the standard of living and reduction of social problems including corruption.

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