Russia will need nearly 1 million immigrants a year for 80 years just to maintain current population levels by 2100
Population decline – Is that why Russia attacked Ukraine?
Russia is currently facing a significant decline in its population due to low birth rates, high emigration rates, alarming health statistics, and the ongoing war in Ukraine. Some experts even describe it as a “silent war” waged against Russia’s own human capital.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has acknowledged the declining population as a matter of national security. However, the war in Ukraine has exacerbated the situation by causing hundreds of thousands of additional deaths among men of fighting age and triggering a mass exodus of younger generations from Russia.
According to estimates by Western defense officials, the number of Russian soldiers who lost their lives in Ukraine may reach up to 250,000. Additionally, reports suggest that since the war began, approximately 1 million people have fled Russia, especially after Putin’s conscription order in September 2022.
Although the war has resulted in the loss of a significant number of men over the past 16 months, it is not the primary cause of Russia’s demographic struggles. Moscow has been grappling with a declining population for the past three decades.
However, demographic expert Nicholas Eberstadt, who specializes in economics and population studies at the American Enterprise Institute, asserts that the declining population alone is not the root cause of Russia’s societal stagnation.
Eberstadt explains that an aging and shrinking society can still thrive under certain circumstances, but Russia is failing to do so. He highlights the country’s health crisis, marked by alarmingly high death rates among working-age men and women. Additionally, Russia seems unable to effectively leverage its seemingly well-educated population to generate knowledge and economic value, further exacerbating the crisis.
Experts are perplexed by Russia’s elevated rates of infertility and mortality, particularly among men. Eberstadt, who has been monitoring Russia’s declining population for many years, attributes these factors to issues like alcoholism and dietary habits, which contribute to higher rates of diseases like heart disease.
However, he argues that these factors should result in mortality rates approximately twice as high as those in Western Europe, rather than the fourfold disparity observed in Russia.
Fact: Russia’s population has dropped every year since 1994.
Consequently, the Russian population decreased by half a million people in 2022, with more deaths than births. This trend brings the national population to approximately 146.45 million people at the beginning of 2023, as reported by the Russian media group RBC.
The Moscow Higher School of Economics (HSE) estimates that Russia will need to welcome up to 1.1 million immigrants annually for the next 80 years to maintain its current population levels by the end of the century.
This necessity arises due to Russia’s low birth rates, high mortality rates, and life expectancy challenges.
A recent report by The Economist highlights that the low birth rates observed in April 2022 were comparable to those seen during World War II. Furthermore, the life expectancy of a 15-year-old Russian male is on par with that of a 15-year-old boy in Haiti—a country plagued by natural disasters, a crippled economy, and extreme gang violence. However, the figures reported by The Economist could not be independently verified.
The authors of the study conclude that even under the most optimistic scenarios for birth rates and mortality, compensatory migration of such magnitude is unattainable. Therefore, a decline in population is expected. Moreover, the study does not take into account the number of deaths resulting from the war in Ukraine or the significant exodus of Russian residents which will only make Russia’s problem worse.
Eberstadt suggests that the impact of the war on births might be noteworthy but not exaggerated. In contrast, the estimated 1 million deaths caused by COVID-19 are likely to have a more substantial influence on Russian demographics than the war in Ukraine.
The unforeseeable aspect is how the invasion and subsequent events will affect the Russian national mood. If pessimism prevails, it could further contribute to a decline in the birth rate. Eberstadt points out that last year’s birth rates were already the lowest in decades, indicating a concerning trend. The ongoing situation may shed light on the future trajectory.
Facts: Russia’s population at the start of 2022 was roughly 144.7 million while Ukraine’s was about 41 million. At the start of the same year, the U.S. population was about 333 million. Absorbing Ukraine’s population was undoubtedly a cause for the war as Russia was likely hoping to boost its population by 30 percent in a short time.
In conclusion, Russia is currently grappling with a historic population decline attributed to low birth rates, high emigration, alarming health statistics, and the war in Ukraine. While the war has caused additional casualties and triggered a mass exodus, it is not the sole cause of Russia’s demographic challenges. The country faces a health crisis with disproportionately high death rates among working-age individuals and struggles to harness the potential of its well-educated population for economic growth.
The video short is below.