Like Japan, Russia is in a demographic crisis.
The men are dying too young; the women aren’t having enough kids; the country has more immigrants than it knows what to do with; and it’s running out of working-age people to support everybody else.
Plus: vodka. According to World Health Organisation data cited by Quartz’s Matt Phillips, a staggering 30% of Russian deaths in 2012 were some how related to drinking, from liver failure to car accidents.
All that adds up to a “perfect demographic storm,” according to former United Nation demographers Joseph Chamie and Barry Mirkin.
In a recent
Yale report, they cite a range of chilling statistics:
• Low fertility rate: It’s about 1.7 births per woman, lower than the 2.1 per woman needed for population replacement. That’s better than the 1.2 rate from the late 1990s, but still.
• Men dying super young: A boy born in Russia today is expected to live to approximately age 64. That’s 15 years less than in Germany, Sweden, or Italy.
• A lot of HIV/AIDS: 700,000 Russians were living with HIV/AIDS in 2013, a 5% increase over 2012. The Irish Times reports that in five years, three million people (or a full 2%) of the population are expected to be carrying the virus. Worse, the Russian government just announced it’s going to ban the import of foreign condoms.
• A skyrocketing number of drug addicts: Russia’s Federal Drug Control Service estimates that the country had 2.5 million drug addicts in 2010. In 2013, it was at 8.5 million.
• Little government spending on public health: “In terms of health expenditure per capita, Russia ranks near the bottom among OECD countries — spending $US1,474 in 2012, compared with the OECD average of $US3,484,” Chamie and Mirkin write.
Equally striking, life expectancy in Russia is growing slower than just about every other advanced economy in the world. A study published in August in The Lancet medical journal found that from 1990 to 2013, the life expectancy in Russia grew by 1.8 years, compared with the global average of a 6.2 year increase. The Moscow Times reports that this puts Russia in the 108th position for life expectancy growth, in a disreputable sandwich between North Korea and Iraq.
When all these demographic factors come together, there aren’t enough people around to earn money and support the rest of the country.
In Russia, the working age population — the number of folks aged 15 to 60 that can go to work — is collapsing.
So it’s going to get mighty hard for Russia to take care of everybody, especially given the fact that the country has super low retirement ages: 60 for men and 55 for women.
Adding to this demographic maelstrom is immigration, which seems like an even more divisive issue in Russia than it is in the US.
Russia is home to 11 million immigrants, the second-largest number in the world after the US, according to a 2013 UN report.
The Yale scholars Chamie and Mirkin argue that all that influx doesn’t actually compensate for all the people that are dying: Most of Russia’s immigrants come from Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and other outlying areas of the former Soviet Union, so it’s difficult for them to integrate into Russian society. They usually lack a formal education and end up working low-skill jobs.
Not to mention the 1.4 million people displaced by the conflict in Ukraine, many of whom have attempted to settle in Russia.
The unfortunate consequence? A swelling of xenophobia: 2013 had the most attacks on immigrants on record, and the fan culture of Russian soccer is so reportedly racist that fans coming for the 2018 World Cup could be in physical danger.
Meanwhile, President Putin is posting pictures of working out in a $US3,200 sweat suit.
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