Sunday, April 21, 2024

Demography Now ‘Most Important Constraint’ on Russia’s Long-Term Development, Moscow Economists Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Apr. 18 – Declining birthrates and longer life expectancies among the elderly by putting additional burdens on Russia’s working age population are becoming “the most important constraint” on Russia’s long-term development, a situation that should lead Moscow to change its policies, Russian economic prognosticators say.

            The number of children born in Russia last year was the lowest this century, these experts say, the result of declines in the number of women in prime child-bearing cohorts, the departure of young men to fight in Ukraine who might otherwise become fathers, and economic uncertainties (

            Because that means Russia’s population will fall, this trend has attracted widespread attention; and it is one that Vladimir Putin hopes to reverse by his maternal capital program. But the economists say that his program is poorly designed and so does not boost the total number of children but rather modifies decisions about the timing of any additional births.

            But as important as that trend is, the various economists Nezavisimaya Gazeta surveyed say, there is a second one that may prove even more significant in the future. Russians reaching retirement age are now living longer and that alone places greater burdens on the working age population.

            Addressing that problem by raising the retirement age, something Putin has tried, is extremely unpopular; and any effort to raise it still further would generate a backlash. But if birthrates remain low and health care allows Russians to live longer, doing something about the burden older people place on the budget will likely force Moscow to change policies anyway.

            This set of problems is hardly unique to Russia, but it is made worse, the Russian economists say, by Russia’s involvement in a war, the flight of many young people to avoid serving there, and a political system that seems to put more faith into its own press releases than in the facts government statistical agencies collect.


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