by Carl Haub, senior demographer
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has long advocated a rise in Russia’s very low birth rate. In 2007, with his bidding, the government took the dramatic step of providing women with a $9,000 payment for the birth of a second child. The incentive certainly seems to have worked. In 2007, births jumped nearly 9 percent over 2006 and, in 2008, by 6.4 percent over 2007. Russia’s total fertility rate (TFR) now stands at 1.49 (2008), up from its nadir of 1.16 in 1999. And several other developments may combine so that Russia’s population size avoids the decline begun in 1995. This was not lost on Mr. Putin, who has been widely quoted celebrating the prospect of a year with no decrease.
Photo used under Creative Commons from Sangudo
Official demographic data have been released by the state statistical bureau, GOSKOMSTAT, for January 2009 through November (Russia releases vital statistics very quickly). Those show an increase in births for the January-November 2009 period of 2.8 percent, lower than the previous two years but still an increase. At the same time, deaths dropped by 3.7 percent so that natural decrease, birth minus deaths, was “only” -224,310. I say only because that figure was an astounding -958,000 in 2000. So for population to grow in 2009, net international migration will have to offset that -224,310. That certainly seems to be well within reach since net immigration from January to October was reported as 210,446, much of it from Central Asia and other former Soviet republics which the Russians often refer to as the “near abroad.” Based on typical migration patterns in Russia in November and December, about 250,000 net immigration can be expected. So, population-watchers, look for some celebrations in Russia later this month.
But, hold the phone. The Russian TFR, at about 1.5 is still very low and the country still depends upon non-Russian migration to keep its head above water. But there’s more and it’s even more important. Russia’s age-sex pyramid took a body blow during the period of high natural decrease. The number of young people moving up the age ladder into the prime childbearing ages is much less than those now in the childbearing years. As of January 1, 2009, there were 6.2 million females in the age group 20-24. The 15-19 age group was only 4.5 million and both the 5-9 and 10-14 age groups taken together totaled 6.5 million. As those younger age groups begin childbearing, births will certainly decline even if the TFR rises. Beyond that, deaths will rise as the elderly population grows significantly in size.It may be a short party.