Sunday, September 19, 2021

The Dying Off of Russia Beginning with Pensioners, Drozdov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Sept. 17 – By any objective measure, “Russia is dying off, beginning with its weakest members, the pensioners,” Pavel Drozdov says. And the number of them is rapidly declining not only because of deaths among that age group but also because Russian men now “do not live to pension age” because of living conditions and the state of healthcare.

            Tragically, the Sovershenno-Sekretno analyst says, it is becoming obvious that the problems leading to the declining number of pensioners and hence the declining number of Russians as a whole are rooted in “a battle” between three sets of interests (

            The Russian people benefit if they are healthy. The government with its budgetary problems benefits if “people are healthy but do not live to pension age,” and the medical system as currently designed is better off if “people live for a long time but are constantly sick” and in need of medical treatment.

            Most of the time, the interests of the Russian people are ignored, and the real fight is between a government that wants to reduce the cost of pensions to itself and a medical system that focuses on treatment rather than on the prevention of illness. And the consequences of this competition are increasingly obvious, Drozdov says.

            Between July 1, 2020, and July 1, 2021, the number of pensioners in Russia declined by 1.2 million people or approximately 3300 a day. Some of this decline came in the form of deaths, of course; but much of it reflected that super high male mortality among working age Russians and government policies cut the number of new pensioners dramatically.

            When the federal government posted these numbers online, the reaction of analysts and the public to this obvious sign of the looming death of the nation was so angry that the Kremlin did what it normally does in these situations. It took down the report. But the bird was out of the cage, and eventually the numbers were restored.

            In addition, Drozdov says, the government is increasingly paying pensions to non-Russian citizens and doing what it can not to pay them to Russians; and the healthcare system is helping by reducing their numbers. But it is not just the healthcare system that is killing off older people.

            Overall government policy is as well. Moscow is committed to promoting the urbanization of Russians, but urbanization has consequences in this sector. In rural areas, people live in extended families and thus have children and grandchildren to help look after them and keep them happy.

            But in urban areas, the pensioners often live alone and die more quickly as a result. They become angry and depressed, and that pushes down their life expectancy as well. The government doesn’t object because that saves it the costs of pensions over a longer period, and the medical system doesn’t because the urban elderly fill up its clinics and hospitals.

            And in conclusion, Drozdov points to a particularly galling problem: “Getting drugs to treat rare diseases has turned into a sinister competition,” he says, with officials “openly delaying trials” in which those who need these medications are suing to get them. The officials clearly hope that the plaintiffs will die before judgments force them to pay up.


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