According to the Russian statistics agency, Rosstat, the country’s population will have shrunk by more than one million people in 2021, marking the largest population fall in the country’s history and the first time since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
The epidemic has compounded the country’s already-existing demographic problems, with Rosstat estimates suggesting that more than 660,000 people have died as a result of the coronavirus since the first incidence was reported by health officials in the country.
The latest data confirms a declining trend that began the previous year, when Russia’s population decreased by more than half a million people.
The number of COVID-related deaths reported by Rosstat on Friday is more than double the number of deaths reported by a government website tracking the pandemic, which shows 329,443 overall fatalities as of Friday.
Russia has struggled to contain the epidemic because of a sluggish vaccination campaign combined with inadequate regulatory measures as well as widespread non-compliance with the requirement to wear masks in public places.
Because of low birth rates and short life expectancies, Russia has been suffering from a demographic catastrophe for the past 30 years. The pandemic death toll has exacerbated this situation.
Birth rates have been declining since the 1990s, when the birth rate plummeted as a result of economic uncertainty following the collapse of the Soviet Union. The generation now becoming parents was born during this time period.
The number of births per woman is approximately 1.5, which is significantly lower than the required minimum of 2.1 births per woman to replenish the population.
Since President Vladimir Putin came to power more than two decades ago, Russia’s decreasing population has been at the top of the country’s domestic priority list.
Vladimir Putin routinely encourages Russians to have more children while also adopting a better lifestyle in order to extend their life expectancy.
For parents who have more than one kid, the government has created a range of financial incentives, such as cash bonuses and favourable mortgage rates.
Russian President Vladimir Putin stated during his annual news conference in December that the country’s population of 146 million people is insufficient from a “geopolitical standpoint,” resulting in labour shortages.
He went on to say that it is critical to demonstrate that having children is a “pleasure” and that there is “no greater satisfaction in life or in the globe.”
In the words of Sergei Zakharov, a demography expert at Moscow’s Higher School of Economics, “the demographic problem is unquestionably a failure of the state’s policy.”
He told AFP that attempts to increase the birth rate encourage people to have children earlier, but that they have little effect on the number of children they ultimately wish to have in the end.
In his opinion, the government’s effect on birth rates is “limited,” and he believes that shifting births to a younger age will result in a “demographic gap” in the coming decades.
In the opinion of independent pollster Levada Centre’s Stepan Goncharov, the low birth rate is linked to widespread “uncertainty about the future.”
Since 2014, living standards in Russia have been steadily declining, with the economy being pressured by repeated Western sanctions, a reliance on the oil and gas industries, and pervasive corruption.
The Russian economist Goncharov stated that “people have not ceased shopping, but their income and savings have decreased.”
According to a survey conducted by the recruiting website SuperJob last year, 43 percent of Russians do not have any financial reserves.
In addition, Goncharov stated that “people are not putting money aside and are not planning for the future of their families.”