Staunton, Feb. 10 – In 2022, Russia had more deaths than births for the fifth straight year, Rosstat reports, a pattern that led to a decline in the resident population of the country of 555,000 people or 0.38 percent, despite the end of the pandemic which had led to the highest number of deaths in 2021 and thus a significant decline in the number of deaths year-on-year.
Demographers, like Moscow’s Aleksey Raksha, say that the main cause of this pattern was a combination of the decline in the fertility rate among Russian women and a decline in the size of the prime child-bearing age cohort (sibreal.org/a/naselenie-v-rossii-sokrashchaetsya-pyatyj-god-podryad/32256528.html).
And what is most disturbing, scholars like Raksha say, is that there are no signs that the situation is going to change for the better over at least the next half dozen years. Fertility rates are likely to continue to decline, the size of the prime child-bearing cohort won’t increase until at least 2030, and the aging of the population means that deaths will remain high or even increase.
In 2022, Raksha says, the fertility rate in Russia was “approximately 1.44 to 1.45” children per woman per lifetime, down 0.6 from 2021. He predicts that in 2023, it will fall another 0.09 to 0.1, something that will mean there will only be 1.1 million births during this year.
He sees no prospects for any turnaround: the economic situation is uncertain, there is a war, and the government’s material capital program which boosted births earlier now appears to have run out of steam at least as far as leading Russian women to have second and third children. (As currently run, it does encourage some to have a first child.)
Moreover, Raksha continues, mobilization for the war in Ukraine and flight to avoid service there has reduced the birthrate by “approximately four percent,” something no other measures have had any success in compensating for. By 2025, he suggests, Russian women may have no more than a million children.
The end of the pandemic has had a positive impact on the number of deaths, he says. Last year, excessive deaths from covid were on the order of 125,000, down from 660,000 in 2021. But the underlying death rate remains high, something unlikely to change as long as the Russian government cuts spending on health care and fails to boost the incomes of the population.