Staunton, Dec. 24 – Everyone agrees that Putin’s war in Ukraine has had adverse demographic consequences for Russia; but most analysts have focused on the immediate costs from the loss of life in combat and the massive exodus of young Russians who do not want to fight in this war.
But Russian experts point out that the number of deaths, even if one accepts the largest estimates, is still relatively small compared to the population and that the number of Russians who have left and will remain abroad is unknown at least as far as publicly available statistics are concerned.
The real and larger problems are elsewhere and likely to be manifest not immediately but in the coming years and even decades. The war is certainly going to depress the fertility rate which currently stands at 1.44 children per woman per lifetime, a figure far beyond the 2.3 to 2.4 children per woman per lifetime needed to keep Russia’s population from declining.
The current figure is the lowest since 2007, independent demographer Aleksey Raksha says, and means that every woman in the childbearing age cohort would have to have an additional child to keep the population stable (rfi.fr/ru/россия/20221224-насколько-война-усугубит-демографические-проблемы-в-россии).
That isn’t going to happen, especially with the large number of young men now serving in the war, economic problems and worries about the future; and the figure itself is an indication of the insurmountable problems Moscow faces in dealing with its demographic problems, almost all of which have only been intensified by the war in Ukraine.
Because the number of births follows nine months after conception, the extremely small numbers of new babies in recent months is not the result of the war, which didn’t start until February but rather changes in the rules governing the distribution of money for maternal capital that meant women had fewer incentives to have a second child, Raksha says.
The independent demographer predicts that “in January and February 2023, the decline in births will accelerate because of circumstances connected not with the war but in the first instance with social policy.” But later, he says, the war is likely to intensify this decline even if it is not yet the primary factor.
He suggests that falling real incomes and growing concerns about the future, both of which are connected with the war, will depress the birthrate still further over the course of 2023 and beyond.