NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


October 14, 2004

Russia is facing a demographic nightmare according to the Economist. Its population has fallen by around 3.5 million since the collapse of the Soviet Union. The article finds that Russia not only suffers a dearth of babies, but an increasing death rate.

According to the article, Russia's birth rate dived at the start of the 1990s. It has since stabilized, but widespread infertility -- caused by an overuse of abortions and sexually transmitted diseases -- will prevent a rebound. Nevertheless, a low birth rate is not unique to Russia. Many rich countries have comparably low birth rates, but Russia?s situation is worse, because of its high death rate.

Russian men are dying earlier than in previous times of comparable hardship, and earlier than other, even poorer people elsewhere. The article notest:

  • Male life expectancy is lower than it was 40 years ago.
  • Fewer than half of 16-year-old Russian boys will reach 60.
  • Alcoholism is a big source of avoidable deaths -- a Russian man is around ten times as likely to die a violent or accidental death as a British man.

The article estimates that Russia's population could dwindle to 100 million by 2050. It warns that depopulation could eventually threaten Russia with disintegration if its vast depopulated territory became ungovernable.

Source: "Death wish -- Russian demography," Economist, October 2, 2004.

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