April 22nd, 2011 | Posted in Population Basics
by Carl Haub, senior visiting scholar
Back in 2000, Russia achieved what Russians consider a dubious milestone, deaths (2,225,300) outnumbered births (1,266,800) by an astounding 958,500. The crude birth rate had sunk to 8.7 births per 1,000 population. Along with a crude death rate of 15.3, natural increase hit an all-time low of –6.6 per 1,000, or –0.7 percent rounded off. The total fertility rate (TFR) bottomed out at 1.195 children per woman. The crisis, as it was seen to be, was definitely noticed, but nothing really effective was done until 2007 when Vladimir Putin announced a baby bonus of the equivalent of $9,000 for second and further births. Putin has been an outspoken advocate for raising the birth rate and improving health conditions in order to avoid the consequences of sustained very low fertility. The program must have worked since births in 2007 jumped to 1,610,100 from 1,479,600 the previous year and have rising ever since. This is one of the very few “success stories” in the industrialized countries’ efforts to raise the birth rate.
By 2009, the official TFR had risen to 1.537, 1.417 in urban areas and 1.900 in rural areas. Both urban and rural TFRs rose by about the same amount from 2000 to 2009, about 0.330. Vital statistics for 2010 were just released by the national statistics office, GOSKOMSTAT, also known as ROSTAT. The birth rate continues to rise but not as sharply in the past two years as it did in 2007 and 2008. One must wonder if the slower increase in the past two years suggests the birth rate revival may be running out of steam or that it may be due to the global recession. But natural decrease is now but one-fourth of what is was in 2000 and that is a truly dramatic turnaround. The TFR can be estimated at about 1.56 for 2010 although we must wait for the official TFR when it is released later this year. Births for January 2011 have also been released and those are down slightly from January 2010, 131,454 from 132,371. One month hardly defines a trend but I thought I’d pass that along.
The number of deaths has also helped to lower natural decrease. Declining from 2,365,800 in 2003 to 2,031,000 in 2010. This has largely been in response to rising life expectancy at birth, a trend that has not received much publicity. Life expectancy rose from 59.0 years in 2000 to 62.8 in 2009 for males and from 72.3 to 74.7 for females, changes that closed the male-female gap a bit from 13.3 years to 11.9.
Natural Change in Russia 2000-2010
|Births(1,000s)||Deaths (1,000s)||Natural Increase||Births per 1,000 Population||Deaths per 1,000 Population||Natural Increase per 1,000 Population
||Total Fertility Rate|
Note: 2010 TFR estimated by the author. Source: GOSKOMSTAT, accessed at www.gks.ru, on April 10, 2011.
There is more to the story, however, than simply the rise in the TFR, which tends to give a rosier picture for than the future than reality. The peak years for childbearing are in the 20s with 90.3 per 1,000 women ages 20 to 24 giving birth and a slightly higher proportion for 25-to-29-year-olds (2009 data). The age groups of women who will gradually replace, however, are far smaller due to the past period of very low fertility. As of Jan. 1, 2010 there were 12.1 million women ages 20 to 29 but only 7.4 million ages 10 to 19 waiting in the wings. Thus, TFR increase will have to be very dramatic to avoid a coming possible rise in natural decrease once again. This is precisely the same situation many European countries, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan find themselves in. In this way, demography, more specifically age structure, truly is destiny. Yet another development assisted recent TFR increase. Abortion has declined quite sharply from 2.1 million in 2000 when there were 169 abortions for every birth to 1.3 million in 2009 when there were 74 abortions for each birth.
Russia also released some preliminary figures from its October 2010 Census. The preliminary count was given as 142,905,200, a decrease of 2.3 million from the 2002 count of 145,166,700. The count has been criticized by Russian social scientists from such prestigious institutions as the Russian Academy of Sciences who believe that “statistical errors and the questionable procedures of the calculation of migrants who accepted citizenship” has resulted in “too optimistic” a count. They argue the true population size is more likely to be between 141.5 and 141.9 million. The announced count is higher than the official figure used before the census and, interestingly, the usual population figure is missing in the most recent online edition of the monthly Demographia issue on the GOSKOMSTAT website.
The social scientists have offered their opinion that the only way to avoid Russia’s population dropping below 140 million is to improve health conditions and lengthen life. They have recognized the relatively small number of women who will soon enter childbearing age and also warned that the supply of Russian-speaking migrants from other former USSR Republics is dwindling, particularly since many prefer to seek higher-paying work in the European Union. Migrants from former Central Asian republics of do not have work qualifications. The scientists have recommended that greater efforts be made to assimilate those migrants and prepare them for more worthwhile participation in the labor force.
All of this is particularly interesting to someone who lived through the Cold War, as did this writer. We were often called into the hallways of school during air raid drills to crouch down with hands behind one’s head to protect us from atom bombs dropped by the feared “Russians.” The fear of nuclear was ever-present, often featured in the media of the time and in some very scary layouts in Life magazine. If anyone would have suggested that the USSR would break up and then decline in population, no one would ever have believed it. I also had the experience of several work-related trips to Belarus about 10 years ago. On a sightseeing trip, our driver pointed out a large flat area where the very missiles we feared in grade school would have come from. An odd feeling!
Finally, Russia’s neighbor to the south, Ukraine has had less luck in raising the birth rate. The TFR hit a low point in 2000 at 1.110 and has risen to as much as 1.460 in 2009 but births took a dip in 2010 so that the 2010 appears to have declined to about 1.40.