Nicholas Eberstadt paints a bleak picture of Russia's demographic future.
On New Year's Day 1992—one week after the dissolution of the Soviet Union—Russia's population was estimated to be 148.7 million. As of mid 2004, according to the Russian State Statistics Committee (Goskomstat), the Russian Federation's population was 143.8 million. During its first eleven and a half years of post-Communist independence, Russia's population had apparently declined by almost five million people, or over 3 percent.
In proportional terms, this was by no means the largest population loss recorded during that period. According to estimates and projections by the U.N. Bureau of the Census, over a dozen states with a million people or more experienced a population decline between mid 1992 and mid 2004, 11 of these amounting to drops of 3.1 percent or more. Unlike some of these drops, however—Bosnia, for example, whose population total fell almost 10 percent—Russia's decline could not be explained by war or violent upheaval. In other places, population decline was due entirely to emigration (Armenia, Kazakhstan), or nearly so (Georgia). Russia, by contrast, had absorbed a substantial net influx of migrants during those years—a total net addition of over 5.5 million newcomers was tabulated between the territory's Soviet-era January 1989 census and its October 2002 population count.
Despite the mitigating impact of immigration, Russia's post-Communist population decline was larger in absolute terms than any other country's over the past decade. Furthermore, continuing population decline—at a decidedly faster tempo—is envisioned for Russia for as far as demographers care to project into the future. The only question is how steep the downward path will be. The U.S. Census Bureau, for example, offers the relatively optimistic projection of a "mere" 14 million person drop in Russia's population between 2000 and 2025—an average net decline of about 560,000 persons a year. The U.N. Population Division's (UNPD) "medium variant" projection, by contrast, suggests a drop of more than 21 million over that same quarter century—about 840,000 persons a year for the period as a whole.
To maintain their current population Russian women need to bear more children than the 2.1 often cited in industrialized countries as replacement level reproduction.
Consider Russia's current fertility patterns. In a society with the Russian Federation's present survival patterns, women must bear an average of about 2.33 children per lifetime to assure population stability over successive generations. In the late Soviet era, Russian fertility levels were near replacement: The country's total fertility rate (TFR) fluctuated near two births per woman from the mid 1960s through the mid 1980s. But with the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Russian fertility rate likewise collapsed, plummeting from 2.19 births per woman in 1986-87 to 1.17 in 1999. Moreover, extreme subreplacement fertility is not peculiar to certain regions of Russia today; to the contrary, it prevails across almost the entire territorial expanse of the Federation.
Since 2001, there have been some indications of a resurgence of fertility in the Russian Federation. For the year 2002, according to Goskomstat, the country's total fertility rate has risen to 1.32.
The number of children that has to be born just to maintain population stability is surprisingly high. That reflects high rates of infant mortality and mortality at later stages of development as well as the surprisingly high rate of infertility.
A combination of scarred reproductive tracts from lots of abortions (really, I am not making this up) and a high rate of sexually transmitted infections (STIs - in other venues referred to as sexually transmitted diseases or STDs) are causing low Russian fertility rates.
According to some recent reports, however, 13 percent of Russia's married couples of childbearing age are infertile—nearly twice the 7 percent for the United States in 1995 as reported by the National Center for Health Statistics. Other Russian sources point to an even greater prevalence of infertility today, with numbers ranging as high as 30 percent of all males and females of childbearing age.
If the Russian leadership wanted to increase child births in Russia then good place to start would be a tax on abortions (and a tax on vodka) that would be used to pay for subsidies to supply birth control pills. Also, the article provides an estimate that as many as 15% of college students may have current STIs. Wow. Rather than test everyone for infections it might make more economic sense to simultaneously give all late teen and early twenties Russians (or whatever age range would be indicated as optimal by testing of population samples) a course of antibiotic treatment to wipe out the STI infections. Russia could really benefit from development of vaccines for syphilis, gonorrhea, and the like.
Russia is also suffering from declining marriage rates and rising divorce rates. Plus, the death rate from injury (including accidents, murders, suicides) is very high.
For men under 65 years of age, Russia's death rate from injury and poisoning is currently over four times as high as Finland's, the nation with the worst rate in the EU. Russia's violent death rate for men under 65 is nearly six times as high as Belgium's, over nine times as high as Israel's, and over a dozen times that of the United Kingdom. As is well known, men are more likely than women to die violent deaths—but in a gruesome crossover, these death rates for Russian women are now higher than for most western European men.
Russian male life expectancy is below 60 years. Alcoholism is one of the reasons for this.
Low life expectancy exacts a large economic toll. A doctor or engineer or manager who gets degenerative diseases decades sooner than a Japanese or an American becomes less productive as the diseases progress and then of course stops producing altogether if death comes when that same person would still have years left to work in a more successful society. The bad habits of binge drinking and higher rates of infectious diseases exact tolls on productivity as well. Esiimates for HIV infection rates in the Russian population range as high as 2%.
Russia's biggest problem is public health. The Russian government ought to elevate public health measures ahead of a lot of other competing uses of government money. If spent wisely, money spent on public health measures (e.g. vigorous tracing and treatment of people exposed to STIs) could pay big economic dividends.
What is most amazing to me is that the Russians are letting this disaster unfold. Think about it. As the core of the USSR the Russians put men into space, developed ICBMs, and built massive dams and other scientific and engineering projects. By some measures theirs is not a primitive society. Yet look at what is going on there. The trends in Russia illustrate the substantial differences in cultures and characteristics that still separate the different peoples of the world.
Read the whole article.
|Share |||Randall Parker, 2005 March 05 09:05 PM Trends Demographic|