Monday, July 27, 2020

Immigrants Now Compensating for Only 16 Percent of Russia’s Natural Population Decline

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 25 – Russia’s population decline is accelerating not only because the number of deaths is increasing more rapidly than the number of births ( but also because immigrants are compensating for ever less of this difference.

            In most of the 1990s, the return of ethnic Russians from the former union republics covered much of the demographic decline of native-born Russians; and since 2000, immigrant workers from Central Asia and the Caucasus have typically covered this increasingly large gap, Aleksandr Zhelenin says (

            But now, the Rosbalt commentator notes, as the gap itself has expanded and the number of immigrants has fallen, the latter this year are covering only 16 percent of the gap, something that presses down the overall population of the Russian Federation and puts new pressures on its economy because of the increasing difficulty of finding cheap, unskilled labor.

            According to official figures from Rosstat, during the first five months of 2020, immigrants compensated only 16.8 percent of the natural decline of Russian residents, a significant change from recent years where they often made up “100 percent or more” of the difference.

            In 2017, for example, the natural decrease of the population stood at 134,000; but there were 212,000 immigrants, so the total population of the country rose.  Since then, the number of immigrants has fallen even as the natural rate of decrease has become larger, something that was true before the pandemic but has grown with its onset.

            Many in Moscow don’t believe these figures because they say they see more Central Asians and Caucasians on the streets. But there are three reasons for that, Shelin says. First, many of the migrants aren’t working and so are more often seen on the streets than they were in the past.

            Second, a large number of immigrants to Russia have moved from hard-hit regional cities to the capital in the hopes of finding work there. And third, there are the usual problems with Russian statistics in that Moscow counts as an immigrant only those who have been present nine months or more. Many real immigrants are thus not counted at all.

            But overall, the Rosbalt commentator suggests, fewer people from Central Asia and the Caucasus are coming to Russia; and in recent months, ever more of them have gone home or at least tried to – some are blocked at the borders. Consequently, Moscow can’t count any more on immigrants covering the country’s natural demographic decline.

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