Russia facing demographic challenges. National Human Development Report. Russian Federation
Readers are invited to inspect the latest Human Development Report for the Russian Federation. National reports such as this are published on the initiative of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in many countries of the world. Global reports are also brought out annually. The reports are compiled by teams of independent experts. The central theme of the present Report is encapsulated in its title, ‘Russia Facing Demographic Challenges’. The authors have attempted to analyze main aspects of the most urgent demographic challenges, to offer their analysis of causes and to highlight certain constructive axes of socioeconomic policy, which can serve to reduce mortality rates, improve the present birth rate, regulate migration flows and, at the same time, to alleviate adverse consequences of demographic trends, which cannot be adjusted in the nearest future. The Report is intended for use by senior administrative personnel, political scientists, teachers, scientific researchers and students.
Adverse demographic trends, adding up to what deserves to be called a demographic crisis, have been apparent in Russia for some time. Th is crisis is bound to have negative impact on qualitative and quantitative features of the country’s human capital, and on potential for development of that capital. Russia has been aff ected by natural decrease of population since 1992: shrinkage has totaled 12.3 million persons over 16 years. Th is phenomenon has been partly compensated by immigration (5.7 million persons), but by the beginning of 2008 the Russian population had declined to 142 million from 148.6 million at the beginning of 1993, a reduction of 6.6 million persons.
In 2006 in his Message to the Russian Federal Assembly, President Vladimir Putin called demography “the most acute problem of modern Russia”. His speech focused attention of the government and society on problems of demography and led to some practical measures for amelioration of the demographic situation. Vladimir Putin and the current President Dmitry Medvedev have emphasized that Russia has so far only taken the first steps and that eff orts to overcome the demographic crisis need to be developed further. Many diffi cult tasks remain to be solved along the way, and the start of a new phase of demographic development, with many highly unfavorable aspects, makes their solution even more complicated. Th ere is no reason to expect that the demographic crisis in Russia, which is the outcome of negative inertia accumulated over decades, will be quickly overcome. Many demographic illnesses have no tried and tested cures. Some of these illnesses are common to other urbanized, industrial and post-industrial countries, have roots in modern ways of life, and are highly intractable for governments, even for a government that pursues a vigorous demographic policy. The capacities and limitations of such policy need to be given a sober and realistic assessment. We cannot change everything, which we do not like. So policy needs to include not only eff orts at changing adverse trends, but also measures for adapting to trends, which cannot be changed.
The government Concept fails to take adequate account of fundamental structural changes in family relationships, the microconomy of households and fertility in the medium and long terms. But growing complexity of types and forms of unions, and of the structural characteristics of families and households where children are born, is an undeniable fact that must be studied and considered when social and demographic policy decisions are made. There is every reason to predict further increase in the contribution of informal unions and second unions to fertility. These structural changes have had limited impact on the overall Russian total fertility rate to date, but they may be decisive in the future. The successes of recent years must be reinforced by consistent development and improvement of the government’s family policy taking account of economic, social and demographic realities, which have grown more complex and diverse. The only policy, which stands a chance of success, is one, which broadens freedom of choice for individuals of both genders and families, and enhances their ability to give birth and bring up children in the context of today’s economic, social and demographic diversity.
The categorical imperative for Russia is reduction of mortality, analyzed in Chapter 3. Since the 1960s there has been a widening mortality gap between Russia and developed countries (and now, increasingly, also developing countries). The gap underlines the profound nature of Russia’s mortality crisis.