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The original report

The Levada Analytical Center asked Russians four questions: How many children should there be in an “ideal family”? How many children do you have now? How many children do you expect to have within your lifetime? How many children would you like to have if the conditions were ideal?

It turned out that the share of respondents who had a definite opinion on the subject was extremely high: only 4 percent were not sure about an ideal number of children; 7 percent about the number of children they would like to have; and 9 percent about the number of children they expected to have.

This is where the positive part of the story ends and problems begin.

Child Shortage

For example, only 6 percent of the respondents said an ideal family is a family with just one child, 50 percent said two, and 40 percent said three children and more. The average perception of an ideal family is 253 children per 100 families. The respondents are ready to have almost as many — on average 246 children per 100 families — given the right conditions. In other words, a normal family is a family with two or three children. If this was the case, Russia would have no demographic problems since simple reproduction requires an average of 215 births per 100 women throughout their lifetime, while a higher birth rate guarantees population growth. Unfortunately, the average expected number of children according to the survey is only 183 per 100 families, which is not enough even for population reproduction. The actual number of children born into the families surveyed, however, is 151.

So Russia, on average, has a “shortfall” of one child per family — compared to both an ideal number and a desirable number — the one child that Russia lacks to be able to feel secure and look forward, confidently, to the future. This definitely gives some food for thought.

The Crisis That Sneaked up on Russia

The Soviet authorities overlooked the demographic crisis, while the Russian authorities were confronted with it head-on within the first few years of their existence. It was also when the majority of the people also noticed it, learning that the country’s population was shrinking. Meanwhile, the average number of births had fallen below the level of simple reproduction — that is to say, below 215 children per 100 women — back in the 1960s. That was when demographers sounded the alarm, warning the ruling authorities about an imminent demographic crisis. Alas, during the stagnation era, the Politburo’s educational and cultural level was insufficient to understand the country’s demographic problems. It was not until the crisis entered an acute phase — a net population drop — that the authorities had to finally listen to the experts. By now many politicians have heard something about a demographic revolution or a demographic transition.

Demographers explain that in post-industrial society with a large urban population, a high level of education, and a well developed healthcare system, the population reproduction model is different from the older, more traditional society. The days when a woman bore 8 to 12 children with only three survivors is now history. Family planning is in, while people have as many children as they think necessary.

Some countries tried providing financial incentives to encourage births. Some paid pretty good money for each child born, but that failed to boost birth rates overall. Family plans changed only with regard to timing. That is to say, the families that planned to have only one child still had only one, except that the birth could have taken place earlier. The freedom of choice is the main achievement of modern society compared to the traditional one, and the modern woman is not going to abandon this freedom. She is ready to have as many children as she needs, while money can be made in other, easier ways.

What the State Can Do

The logical conclusion was: the state is unable to influence the birth rate. The Levada survey expanded on this conclusion.

We can see that it is absolutely valid today since both the expected and the actual number of children is less than is required for simple reproduction. Yet with certain conditions in place, the number of births could be increased. What are these conditions? When asked, “What could influence your decision to have at least one child in the foreseeable future?” 38 percent of respondents said: “Our decision will not depend on any conditions.” Some 26 percent, however, are ready to have another child if their incomes increase; 22 percent, if they are confident about the future; 20 percent, if they have better housing. 16 percent said they will have one more child if the state takes better care of families with underage children; 15 percent, if they have regular employment; 9 percent, if prices for staple goods did not grow so fast; and 8 percent, if food prices did not grow so quickly.

So, more than one-third of Russians will not respond to the state’s efforts to boost the birth rate under any circumstances, with another 9 percent unsure. More than one-half, however, are ready to think about this under certain conditions. Is it difficult to meet these conditions?

A Long Road to Happiness

Let us consider the most salient condition: a higher income. Neither sociologists nor respondents spelled out this formula in detail, but it is not difficult to estimate the range of a desirable income. In a family without any children, husband and wife each have a separate income. In a family with two children where the mother does not go to work, one wage income supports four people. In 2004, the average per-capita subsistence level was 2,376 rubles a month; the actual per-capita cash income was 6,337 rubles a month, while the average wage was 6,832 rubles a month.

The average subsistence level for four people is approximately 9,500 rubles a month, or 50 percent more than the average wage today. With the current disposable income growth rates, this difference could be covered within a space of about six years. It should be borne in mind, however, that the current income growth rate is unusually high and may not last long. It should be taken into account that the subsistence level is upwardly revised every quarter of the year. We should also remember that the subsistence level is compared not with the minimum living wage but with the average wage, while people of average means do not necessarily accept a minimum subsistence level as sufficient.

Consider that 25.5 million people have incomes below the subsistence level; their wages will have to be increased more substantially to ensure a decent level of support for their children. Finally, factor in millions of people whose incomes are higher than the subsistence level but below the average level. In short, in the best-case scenario, it will take the lifetime of a working generation (about 30 years) to meet this (income) condition alone. Yet there are also such conditions as better housing, confidence in the future, stable employment, assistance to families with children, and slower price growth. It seems that 30 years is the minimum realistic timeframe for meeting these conditions.

What will happen with the Russian population within this brief timeframe? With the current birth and mortality rates, when Russia is on the upturn of another demographic wave, the country’s population is declining by 700,000 a year. In less favorable years, this decline goes as high as 1 million. Within 30 years, the population loss will be 20 to 30 million. This is comparable to the total losses not only of Russia, but the entire Soviet Union in World War II. Perhaps there is cause for serious nation-wide discussion about getting our socio-economic priorities right. Put simply, are we fighting for what is worth fighting for?

The aforementioned makes it perfectly clear that the most vital thing for the country’s future is to raise the general living standards, address the housing problem, and provide better healthcare and education. If we look at the national budget and its line-item breakdown, however, we will see that the most important expenditure now is military spending. It has been growing the fastest at a time when we have lost the strategic adversary that we have been preparing to fight for half a century. Granted, minimum strategic capability is crucial even in these conditions, otherwise we could risk falling victim to some form of political pressure. Nevertheless, should the current socio-economic and demographic problems continue, Russia might not live to see this happen. After all, there is the experience of the Soviet Union which strengthened its defense capability until there was nothing left to defend.
This is what so many people (myself included) are talking about at every opportunity for many years now. Because of this prob. the loss of the entire Eastern Siberia to China is all but preordained. Unless the imperial ambitions are completely abandoned and Russia hitches its wagon to the US without any conditions attached. And even though the US does have an interest to prevent territorial transfer to China this might be too late: it is highly unrealistic to expect that demographic trend can be reversed in a single generation so much as to restore national vigor. Let alone to re-populate Far East.
And, apparently, this is not first (or even third) priority in present Politburo. They are more interested in "staying their ground" now. Eventually they might end up with no ground to stand on.
The US attutude towards Russia is rather controversal. Are you sure they want to hitch our wagon? Maybe they want to saw it up for scrap metal and repopulate Siberia with cheap Chinese workforce?
According to NSS the US will try to prevent an emergence of any competing hegemony. And weak Russia without imperial ambitions might be an useful ally in restraining China. But even weak Russia with imperial ambitions might be much less predictable: Sino-Russian alliance and all that. Current Russian attempts to play up both Iran and China are not very encouraging in that regard.
Then again...

Paul Ehrlich is not God. Predictions of future populations do not fit into nice pigeonholes of orthodox philosophy.

If it was up to me to make sense of what might happen... I suppose you could point to successful nations emerging out of third world status, and how Free enterprise makes life more pleasant and enjoyable - with less need of multi-generational subsistence farmer progeny to eke out survival. Or how diseases run rampant in over-populated cultures glorifying Thanatos.

Maybe it will take contact with star-faring visitors to make Earth into one entity. Such a convergence will happen, eventually - whether catalyzed by aliens or slowly by stumbling cultural growth and success.

In the meantime, all nations will change. People will migrate. Can you imagine a Europe without the migrating Lombards to populate it? Will a Caliphate emerge to blend Muslims worldwide into relevancy? Will a charismatic Russian leader emerge to propel the Russian people into partnerships undreampt of now?

You betcha.
Well, it makes sense. However if Russia drops any activities in the CIS and Iran, I am more than sure American opressing will go on. We just have to ebb from there a bit slower than America makes us to.

Anyway, our modern empirial ambitions are mostly economical (the sell of weapons and oil).
Interestingly, Stratfor says no word on the Russian population decline.
The major problem (equal in its impact to Ukraine joining NATO) is considered to be retirement.
The forecast is made up to 2015 year.
Green Wrote:Well, it makes sense. However if Russia drops any activities in the CIS and Iran, I am more than sure American oppressing will go on. We just have to ebb from there a bit slower than America makes us to.

Anyway, our modern imperial ambitions are mostly economical (the sell of weapons and oil).
Not as I see it. They continue to devote too many resources to strategic posturing and too little to human capital maintenance.
Although the chances are low, it all might (notice, I've said "might", not "will" or "should") end in complete disintegration back to Moscow dukedom or even Rurik times (a.k.a. "come to us and rule us"). Please, observe that just a generation ago such ideas were not in the realm of "possible". Now they are in the realm of "probable". Albeit with low probability. But they do seems to head in this direction.
Here is the decision: Wink1
Russia is ready for national projects
16:15 | 01/ 12/ 2005

MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti political commentator Yury Filippov.) President Vladimir Putin has chaired the first session of the Council for National Projects in the Kremlin.

This is a momentous event: Russian leaders have not addressed any large-scale, long-term and ambitious projects in the last several years. Most endeavors of the government were designed at resolving numerous difficulties that arose in the 1990s. It worked to achieve macroeconomic stabilization, to curb runaway inflation, to repay mammoth external debts (that exceeded budgetary revenues many times over), to resolve the involved Chechen crisis, to strengthen the state machinery and to accomplish numerous other objectives.

All these extremely important trouble-shooting measures could not be called truly national projects that would consolidate, mobilize and eventually change the society. In fact, they were mostly called on to overcome the protracted crisis.

And now there are plans to overhaul Russia's health care and education systems, to build inexpensive housing and to create a cost-effective agro-industrial sector. Russia has the required resources for implementing these four high-priority national projects. President Putin has said that the 2006 federal budget will set aside 180 billion rubles ($6.26 billion, or _5.31 billion) for this purpose. These projects may receive additional appropriations later on. The budget will spend one-third more money on education and agriculture, with health care appropriations soaring by 60%. And 300% more will be spent on housing construction.

Apart from funds, Russia and its leaders have the will to put these projects into practice. In the first half of the twentieth century a number of monumental national projects were implemented: electrification, industrialization and space exploration. As a result, Russia became one of world leaders, and its society was modernized. They often required tremendous efforts on the part of the people but produced a significant economic effect.

It appears that today Russia once again has sufficient resources and willpower to implement national projects in the social sphere today.
If the Russian Mafia lets them succeed.
The problem is that they are the mafia themselves.
Al Capones are providing their future by squandering on their vassals.