By Paul Goble
Russia’s demographic situation will continue to worsen over the next several years and by more than Moscow thought earlier, the State Statistical Agency Rosstat says. In 2020, it said the country’s population would decline by 2.1 million by 2030; now, it says that it expects the number of residents of Russia to fall by 3 million.
Neither of these figures include the recently annexed regions in Ukraine where there are serious problems in enumeration and whose inclusion, Rosstat experts say, would distort the figures for Russia as a whole. Those annexed regions are projected to have 3.23 million residents by next year (rbc.ru/economics/11/10/2023/6523d6669a7947fbf1552967).
What that means is that Vladimir Putin, whose regime does count those people, will be able to claim that he has stabilized the Russian population rather than overseen its continuing fall. But the Kremlin leader will have achieved that not by improving fertility, mortality and migration figures but by absorbing new territories.
The number of births is down, reflecting both a decline in the size of the prime child-bearing cohort of women and a fall in the fertility rate from 1.505 children per woman per lifetime to 1.416 now. Infant mortality is down allowing Moscow to claim longer life expectancies. And migration, while it has gone up and down, has helped to fill some of the gap.
Migration data are especially unreliable compared to the other figures because the information is collected by interior ministry offices in the federal subjects. But one thing is now clear: Moscow isn’t likely to be able to count on migration to compensate for the declines in the number of child-bearing age women and in fertility rates.
Experts like Igor Yefremov of Moscow’s Gaidar Institute say that the Kremlin could affect all three factors with changes in policy but that doing so in the next few years may be difficult if not impossible.