Staunton, January 8 – All suggestions by political leaders notwithstanding, Anatoly Vishnevsky says, declining birthrates among an ever smaller number of women in prime childbearing age groups and continuing high mortality rates especially among men mean that Russia’s population in the absence of immigration will continue to decline.
The director of the Moscow Institute of Demography tells Yevgeny Senshin of the Znak news agency that the number of women aged 20 to 35 will fall to 11 million by the end of this decade, down from 17.5 million in 2010 (znak.com/2020-01-08/rossiya_vymiraet_ili_optimiziruetsya_pochemu_ubyl_naseleniya_stala_neobratimoy
And because those women are not having the 215 births for every 100 of them that the maintenance of the population requires or even the 175 Vladimir Putin has called for but only 158 in 2018, there will be fewer children to have children in the next generation and the population will continue to fall.
Mortality rates in Russia have been falling over the last 15 years, but it is too early to celebrate as they remain high and far higher than in other developed countries. Combined with falling birthrates, that pushes the total population down even further unless there is immigration, Vishnevsky continues.
Some of the increased mortality reflects changes in the age structure of the population, but what is especially concerning are high death rates among men aged 35 to 50. “No one is immortal, but it is one thing when a man dies at 70 and quite another when he does so at 35,” the demographer says.
Russians and especially Russian men are dying from cardiovascular diseases, something that the health care revolution in the West has almost removed as a cause of premature death. But the Russian health care system not only isn’t working well, but its “optimization” means that in many cases, it is working less well than it did.
Russians also die more often from external causes like accidents, murders, suicides, alcoholism and the like. One consequence of early deaths from this is that deaths from cancer among Russians are lower – but only because Russians don’t live long enough to contract and die from it, Vishnevsky points out.
Immigration is the only way to keep Russia’s population from plummeting in the coming decades, Vishnevsky says. “Of course, we would like that Nobel laureates, highly trained intellectual and qualified specialists come to Russia.” But their arrival will inevitably be too small to solve the country’s demographic situation.
And that is critical: migrants must be attracted, settled and trained to help solve the country’s demographic and not just workforce problems. They need to be placed not just in major cities but throughout the country, and they need special educational programs so they will be integrated by at least the second generation.
That is a requirement if Russia’s population is not going to continue to fall, Vishnevsky says. As to how many live within its borders, “no one knows precisely,” but he suggests the number is unlikely to be “under 140 million.” Emigration is taking away some but it is relatively small.
Later this year, there will be a census. “Theoretically, it should show the true number of the population of the country,” Vishnevsky says. “But I am not certain that it will be conducted it a good way. I fear that it has not been prepared sufficiently. For a census to be accurate, the people must trust the government, the certainty data won’t be used against them.”
“But we don’t have that” in Russia today, the demographer concludes.