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- Over the past 20 years, Russia has seen high death rates, low birth rates, and low life expectancy.
- Shrinking cohorts of childbearing women will contribute to population decline despite rising birth rates.
- International collaborations are most successful when they bypass the central government.
- Facilitating the transfer of technical knowledge from the Russian cities to the regions is a potential area of collaboration.
This essay is based on interviews over the past two years with a variety of subject-matter experts in Russia and on extensive background conversations with US and European professionals currently working with Russian colleagues in these areas. It explores the parameters of international partnership with Russia in areas involving human capital.
Is there still a compelling logic driving such international collaboration with Russia, given its increasingly hostile political climate? Do Russia’s own challenges affect its potential contribution to international collaboration? Is it possible, through collaboration, to help Russia address its human capital crisis? If so, what are the specific types of projects and programs that make sense? Are there Russian colleagues willing and able to partner? How could we construct politically viable partnerships that move beyond the outdated (and perhaps never appropriate) US-Russia assistance paradigm of the 1990s? And, finally, even beyond overarching political considerations, does it make sense to ask these questions, given that Russia has ample resources to tackle these problems?
Russia's human resources crisis in numbers, by Nicholas Eberstadt and Hans Groth
By the reckoning of its 1989 census, the Russian Federation’s population stood at about 147.4 million that year. Over two decades later, Russia’s 2010 census counted just 142.9 million persons. Russia has thus been in the grip of a long-term depopulation. The depopulation has been a post-Communist phenomenon. Between the start of 1993 and the beginning of 2009, according to the Russian Federal Statistical Service (Goskomstat), Russia’s numbers fell from 148.6 million to 142.7 million—that is, by nearly 6 million, or about 4 percent.
After 16 years of unremitting population decline, Russia reported a marginal (10,000-person) population gain over the course of 2009. It has subsequently claimed slight population gains for the years 2010 and 2011—and a gain of nearly 250,000 for the first 10 months of 2012—suggesting that total population growth for the year might end up in the 300,000 range or even slightly higher (subsequent revisions of these estimates altered the picture somewhat, but still pointed to a population increase between the start of 2009 and the beginning of 2013). Has Russia’s depopulation finally come to an end?