Staunton, January 16 – Most commentators expected Vladimir Putin to devote most of his address to the Federal Assembly to the economy and the problem of poverty; but instead, Anatoly Vishnevsky says, the Kremlin leader devoted half of his remarks to a discussion of Russia’s demographic crisis and his plans to boost the birthrate by increasing maternal capital.
But the director of the Institute of Demography of the Higher School of Economics says that such spending will not have much influence on birthrates as “low birthrates are observed now not only among the poor” and reflect declines in birthrates in most developed countries (novayagazeta.ru/articles/2020/01/16/83471-nadezhd-na-reshenie-problemy-rozhdaemosti-v-rossii-net).
The declining number of newborns in Russia reflects both low fertility rates among Russian women – now each has about 1.7 children per life time and not the 2.1 needed to maintain population at the current level – and the declining number of women in prime child-bearing age groups.
In the course of his address, Putin said that the situation in Russia with regard to mortality rates is “better than in many European countries.” But Vishnevsky says he would like to know which ones have a worse situation in that regard than Russia. In fact, on average, Russia is a half century behind Europe in terms of mortality rates.
But perhaps Vishnevsky’s most important observation on this occasion is his argument that “people should receive incomes not via assistance packages but through incomes earned in the workplace.” The Kremlin appears confused about that or doesn’t see any way forward to boost the number of jobs.
The demographer added that it is difficult to say why Putin focused on demography rather than the economy and especially on poverty which in Russia today is “a real problem” but one that can be addressed in a serious way. Talking about demography as Putin has done is simply a distraction from issues the Russian government should be tackling.