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#2 - JRL 2006-49 - JRL Home
Date: Fri, 24 Feb 2006
From: "Murray Feshbach" <Murray.Feshbach@wilsoncenter.org>
Subject: Re: three items on demographic issues in JRL #47, 23 February 2006:

--Figures may be correct (or not) but out of context they can be misleading. In the case of the first item, reference is made to the fact that the current 2005 birth numbers are greater by 210,000 than in 1999. Yes, but (odnako). the 1999 birth numbers in Russia were only about 1,250,000 and the 2005 figure is 1,460,100 (in 2004, the number was even higher1,502,500). Two points arise here, in sequence, the 1999 figure itself was one-half of the number in 1987, of 2,500,000 births, a drop of 50 percent. The comparison to 1999 may be technically correct, but leaves out much in its analysis. Second, the 1.4 or 1.5 million birth numbers are in part a reflection of a higher total fertility rate (the number of children born to women in ages 15-49 years), as well as in absolute terms the issue of the number of such women. Shortly, these latter numbers will decline by some one-third to reflect the downturn 20 to 29 years previously (the ages of their mothers at which some two-thirds of children are born in Russia). In addition, major issues of child and reproductive health are complicating factors now and in the near term.

--Simultaneously, the total fertility rate is cited as 1.34 children born on the average to women in the fertility ages. On one hand, it is much higher than the low point of 1.17, yet far from the number necessary to maintain the population at its current level given mortality and migration levels. Zurabov, according to the second item, is cited as indicating thata rate of 2.4 children are needed to stop the demographic crisis in Russia. Until now, a figure of some 2.15 or 2.2 was usually specified. Why such a large increase? Probably because mortality continues to increase in absolute and relative terms, and legal migration is still quite low, far less than the 750,000 cited by Putin in the past, and Zurabovs 400,000. Changes in the status of illegal, or undocumented migrants may boost this number significantly. The latest estimates of 5 to 14 million such individuals is a large pool of potential additions to the population of Russia.

--Mortality issues are not just problematic in number and rate, but significantly better in trends in infant mortality and worse in average life expectancy at birth. Much credit can be attributed to the efforts to reduce infant mortality by providing many new neonatalist and resuscitation facilities throughout the country. At the same time Baranov and other leading pediatricians at a national meeting earlier this month have denounced the negative condition of child health. The Child Health Census of 2002 covering 31 million children under the age of 18 found their condition to be much worse than officially registered in current health statistics.

--Life expectancy of males, cited in the second item, of Russia being ranked 136th in the world is not one to boast of on any basis, especially since it is a very minuscule improvement of the many-year ranking of 137th in these evaluations by the World Health Organization. A better achievement can be noted for females who improved from 100th (not cited in the source) to 91st a better but not very good ranking. Much improvement is needed, particularly among young males who die at astonishing rates before their 60th birthday. --The need for a serious, broad, well-funded program is beyond question.