Thursday, March 16, 2017

Russia Needs 500,000 Migrants a Year to Stabilize Population – an Influx No One’s Ready For, Vishnevsky Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 16 – To compensate for the anticipated decline in the size of the Russian population as a whole and the workforce in particular over the next decade, Russia will need to attract 500,000 immigrant workers every year, an influx that neither the Russian government nor Russian society are prepared for, according to Anatoly Vishnevsky.

            The head of  the Moscow Institute of Demography of the Higher School of Economics says by 2025, the share of the working-age population (aged 20 to 64) will decline to 60 percent from its current 65 percent, meaning that it will number 86 million as opposed to 94 million at that time (

            The contraction in the labor force “will be accompanied by its aging.” The youngest cohort (aged 20 to 39) has already declined in size to 52 percent of the total workforce. Over the next eight years, Vishnevsky says, it will decline further to 42 percent.

            Those changes will mean that the number of children and retirees compared to the number of workers will increase from 56 for every 100 workers now to 71 per 100 in 2025 and 76 per 100 workers in 2030.

            These trends cannot be changed by boosting the birthrate alone, given that the number of women in prime child-bearing age cohorts will decline. In 2010-2012 when births were highest in recent years, there were approximately 40 million women in this group.  By the early 2030s, that number will decline by seven to eight million.

            Even Rosstat is predicting that the size of the Russian population will begin to decline this year, Vishnevsky says.  Between 2009 and 2015, immigration ran at about 300,000 a year and compensated for approximately two-thirds of the population decline among the indigenous population.

            “But in order to guarantee stable growth of the population in the future,” Vishnevsky says, Russia will have to “increase migration to 500,000 people per year.”  Neither the Russian government nor the Russian people are ready for that given the ways in which such immigration would dramatically shift the shares of ethnic Russians and Muslims in the population.

            Given that most immigrants will be coming from Muslim countries and that ethnic Russians are already declining far more rapidly than the Muslim peoples within the Russian Federation, such a rate of immigration would cause the ethnic Russian share of the population to decline by almost two percent a year – and that of Muslims to go up by the same amount.

            And consequently, even if one accepts the current Rosstat figures which show that ethnic Russians form about 80 percent of the population, that would mean that the Russian share would decline by approximately 10 percent every five years, a change that would call into question what Vladimir Putin views as the civilizational choice of Russia.

             What is more likely is that Moscow will accept a decline in the size of the Russian population and workforce rather than boost immigration with all its consequences or use this demographic prospect to justify an even more aggressive Russian stance concerning the conquest and integration of Slavic areas in neighboring countries.


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