Russia’s population is in historic decline due to migration, war and falling birth rate

President Vladimir Putin has spent years racing against Russia’s demographic clock, only to order an invasion of Ukraine that he assigned. The country’s population is in historic decline.

In addition to the thousands of casualties on the battlefield, the recruitment of 300,000 reservists into the war – and a bigger flight men abroad – are falling short of Putin’s goal of starting to stabilize the population this year.

The devastating disruptions caused by war are converging with a population crisis that dates back to the 1990s, a period of economic hardship following the breakup of the Soviet Union. birth rate plunge. Independent demographer Alexei Raksha calls it “a perfect storm”.

Plans via Putin’s Government has set a goal of starting to reverse population decline by 2022 before growing again in 2030. However, weeks before the mobilization was announced in September, a Internal report drafted for a closed-door meeting shows that officials have concluded that those goals are illusory.

Citing the consequences of the coronavirus and migration flows, the report proposes an amendment that projects a reduction of 416,700 people by 2030.

According to Igor Efremov, researcher and demographer at the Gaidar Institute in Moscow, if military operations continue in the coming months, Russia could see 1.2 million fewer births. next year, the lowest level in modern history. The total number of deaths in Russia averages almost 2 million annually, although this number has increased during the pandemic and come close 2.5 million last year.

‘Chief Blow’

“The main impact on birth rates will be indirect, because most families will have their planning horizons completely destroyed,” Efremov said. “And the impact will be stronger as mobilization lasts.”

A demographic reckoning has come to Russia, whose economy lacks young workers and is now in danger of stagnation or worse after the war ends. Bloomberg Economics now estimates Russia’s potential growth rate at 0.5%, down two percentage points from pre-war levels – with demographics accounting for about a quarter of the drop.

Renaissance Capital economists said in a report this month that unfavorable demographics in parts of Ukraine that Putin plans to annex can only add to the challenges Russia faces from population burden is increasing.

While demographic injuries often persist for decades, fall out of invasion is making worst-case scenarios more likely – and much sooner than expected.

For Putin, who has just turned 70, Russian demographics have long been an existential problem, and just last year, Mr. declare that “saving the Russian people is our top national priority.” He presided over efforts to buy time with costly policies that contributed to longevity and range from one-time payments for new mothers to mortgage discounts for families.

But as Russia approached the invasion of Ukraine in February, it began deadliest since the Second World War – made worse by the pandemic – with a declining population since 2018. It reaches 145.1 million on August 1, down 475,500 since the start of the year and down from 148.3 million in 1991, when the Soviet Union collapsed.

Continuing the campaign and military mobilization until the end of spring next year would be “catastrophic,” according to Efremov, potentially reducing the number of births to 1 million in the 12 months to mid-2024, Efremov said. The fertility rate It could reach 1.2 children per woman, he said, a level Russia saw only once in 1999-2000.

A reproduction rate of 2.1 is needed to keep stable populations from migrating.

“It’s possible that under conditions of uncertainty, many couples will postpone having children for a while until the situation stabilizes.” Elena Churilova, a research fellow in the International Laboratory of Population and Health at the College of Economics. “In 2023, we could see the birth rate continue to decline.”

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