The Determinants and Implications of an Aging
Population in Russia
By: Sergei A. Vassin
This paper examines rates of growth and changes in
the age structure of the Russian population. Shifts in population and
subpopulation growth rates, as well as waves in the population age
structure, can be traced to the reverberating effects of several
demographic crises in Russia in this century. Fertility has had the most
prominent influence on Russia's population structure. It is due to low
fertility that more than 10 percent of the Russian population is elderly
(ages 65 and over) and the share of elderly will grow another 4 percentage
points by the year 2015. Russia's present and anticipated fertility rates
and subpopulation dependency ratios carry important policy implications
for the nation's economy and social institutions.
In this paper, age distributions and natural changes
in the Russian population are studied for the period of 1959-1993 using
statistics of Goskomstat RF (the national statistical agency of the
Russian Federation), including single-year age distributions based on the
1959, 1970, 1979, and 1989 censuses. Data for 1994-2015 are the results of
projections prepared in 1994 by the Center for Demography and Human
Ecology (CDHE) of the Institute for Economic Forecasting of the Russian
Academy of Sciences. International data are taken from the database of the
U.S. Bureau of the Census (prepared by the International Programs Center).
Annual Growth Rates
The last time a population growth rate of over one percent (10/1,000)
per annum was observed in Russia was more than three decades ago (Figure
6.1). Since 1959, Russia has twice experienced a `crisis' decrease in the
population growth rate--in 1962-1968 and 1988-1992. In 1959, the growth
rate was 1.4 percent, but only a decade later it was already 0.8
percentage points lower. In 1970-1987, the growth rate increased from 0.57
to 0.80 percent--higher than in Western and Eastern Europe, but less than
in North America. The second population growth crisis happened 26 years
after the first. Between 1988 and 1992, the growth rate again declined by
0.8 percentage points and, for the first time after World War II, became
negative (-0.2 percent in 1993).
A: For 1994-2015, estimates that assume high fertility, low mortality, and
high net immigration.
B: For 1994-2015, estimates that assume low fertility, high mortality, and
no net immigration.
Figure 6.1--Annual Population Growth Rates, Russia,
The rate of population growth is a result of both natural
increase (births less deaths) and net immigration. Although the number of
emigrants from Russia exceeded the number of immigrants until the
mid-1970s, the contribution of net immigration to the decline in
population growth was negligible, if it had an effect at all (Figure 6.2).
Until the end of the 1980s, the growth of Russia's population was
determined by natural increase. Thus, the main factor that triggered both
post-war decreases in population growth was a sharp decline in natural
increase, due to low fertility and the peculiarities of the age structure
of the Russian population. Since fertility issues are discussed in detail
in the papers presented by A. Vishnevsky and by S. Zakharov and E. Ivanova
in this volume, it is enough to say here that for the last 30 years the
fertility level was not sufficient for natural replacement, and only a
favorable age structure could maintain natural growth of the population in
Russia during this period. However, under the long predominating
conditions of low fertility in the 1990s, the effect of the age structure
ultimately lost its momentum and it can no longer maintain a natural
Figure 6.2--Components of Population Growth, Russia,
In the case of Russia, on the one hand, distortions in
age structure because of World War II and other catastrophic events of
Soviet history made for weaker population momentum; on the other hand,
they initiated the two sharp declines in natural increase. The second
decline is essentially an echo of the first, as the interval between the
two crises is approximately equal to the mean length of a generation.
However, the second `crisis' of population growth differs considerably
from the first. At the beginning of the 1990s--for the first time in its
history--Russia faced a new demographic situation, where age structure is
no longer able to make up for the long-term trend of a low fertility
level. Moreover, evidence from the early 1990s has made clear the fact
that the age structure in Russia is such that it will promote a natural
decrease rather than an increase in the population. Maintenance of the low
fertility trend will accelerate this negative effect of age structure.
From this perspective, net external migration is
becoming more important. Since the beginning of the 1990s it has played a
considerable role in affecting Russia's population growth. However, its
now positive contribution to the growth of Russia's population is not
sufficient to compensate for the natural decrease. As a result, Russia now
has one of the lowest rates of population growth in the world, and this
negative or almost zero growth rate will persist in the decades ahead,
according to the medium CDHE projections.
The projections of Russia's total population used in this paper are for
the period from 1994 to 2015 and were made by the Center for Demography
and Human Ecology at the Institute for Economic Forecasting (CDHE) of the
Russian Academy of Sciences. Although nine projection variants were
constructed, the projected population figures presented in this paper are
mostly drawn from the medium scenario, which assumes an increasing total
fertility rate (TFR) from 1995 to 2002, reaching a maximum of 1.64 and
stabilizing at approximately 1.6. This level implies sub-replacement
fertility, with a net reproduction rate of 0.74 in the year 2015. In
the medium scenario, life expectancy at birth is expected to decline to
57.4 years for men and to 71.1 years for women by 1996, and then to
increase steadily to 66.5 years for males and 75.6 years for females.
The CDHE short-term projections demonstrate with considerable certainty
that future growth rates will have an upward trend from 1997 to 2004 and a
downward trend after 2004. This certainty is due to the fact that, in the
future, natural population change will continue to be negative (Figure
6.2) and will lead to a population decrease of 5.4 million from 1994 to
2001. Hence, the answer to the principal question--whether Russia will be
among the countries with slowly growing populations (0.2 percent per
annum) or among countries experiencing population decrease--depends on
future trends in net external migration. In Figure 6.1, the two trends in
growth rates for the 1994-2015 period correspond to two extreme scenarios,
one with high fertility, low mortality, and high net immigration (A), and
the other with low fertility, high mortality and no net immigration (B).
The difference between these two projection trends is not large.
Nevertheless, the former scenario guarantees that Russia will gain
population after the year 2000. According to the CDHE migration scenarios,
a moderate flow of immigrants will not prevent a population decrease in
Russia. Only annual net immigration of at least 500,000-600,000 would
allow Russia to avoid this situation.
The influence of the age structure on population growth is evident from
the wave-like trend of births (see Zaharov/Ivanova paper in this volume).
The favorable effect of the age structure of the female population (i.e.,
large numbers of women at the more fertile ages) will itself accelerate
the rise of fertility incorporated in the CDHE projection. This effect
will erode by 2009, when a negative effect will appear. As such, the
annual number of births will reach a maximum of 1.8 million in 2004 and
then shrink to 1.6 million by the year 2009.
Single-year age pyramids tell the demographic
history of Russia in the 20th century. Like a kind of social memory, the
age structure of any population retains changes in fertility, mortality,
and migration in the relatively recent past, reproducing them over an
interval of time which may be defined as the mean interval between
In the first half of the 20th century, Russia passed
through a number of social shocks and accompanying demographic crises that
left indentations on its age structure (see Figures 6.3 and 6.4). This
chain of demographic disasters included: World War I (1914-1917); the
Civil War of 1917-1922; the famine of the early 1920s; collectivization of
agriculture (1929-1932); the famine of the early 1930s (1932-1933);
Stalin's political and military purges in the 1930s; World War II
(1941-1945); and the famine of 1947.
Russia's population pyramid for 1989 (Figure 6.3)
reveals many bulges and indentations attributable to Soviet history. The
direct effects of some disasters have mainly disappeared, but others
persist. The three most significant social catastrophes are apparent in
this age pyramid (see also Andreev and Darsky, 1991). Summaries of the
observed population effects from these events follow.
Figure 6.3--Population Pyramid: Total
Russian Population, 1989
World War I and Civil War. Large fertility declines
during World War I and the Civil War caused a decrease in the size of
cohorts born during 1914 to 1922. At the same time, the effects of
increased mortality due to actual combat and other hardships of war are
not very evident in the 1989 age pyramid because they relate to persons
aged 80 and above.
The famine of the early 1930s. Both higher
mortality and lower fertility rates sharply reduced the size of cohorts
born during 1933-1934, who are now entering the ranks of the elderly
(i.e., persons aged 54 to 55 in 1989).
World War II. This war produced the most
noticeable distortions in the age structure of the Russian population,
which, in turn, continue to influence the current demographic situation.
As combat deaths were mostly to males of military age, the very low number
of males age 65 and over in 1989 is evidence of the enormity of military
losses in Russia. Another consequence of World War II is the sharp
fertility decrease during that time and its subsequent increase at the end
of war and into the 1950s. This is of great importance for the current and
future demographic situation.
During the war the number of births declined twofold,
which is why cohorts born in 1943 and 1944 are the smallest in Russia this
century. The indentation around ages 45 to 50 is due to the decrease in
fertility during World War II. The bulges in the pyramid at ages 30 to 40
are evidence of a post-World War II increase in fertility. There was a
gradual increase in the annual number of births that began after the war
but did not reach its peak until the late 1950s. Large differences in the
size of cohorts produced a strong demographic waves, the influence of
which is noticeable in population dynamics long after the war itself.
Post-World War II "Echoes." The fertility declines during
World War II have reproduced themselves (or "echoed") twice
since the war. The first time was in the 1960s, when cohorts of the 1940s
entered their fertile ages. This effect may have been enhanced by the
smaller cohorts born during the famine in 1933, who were in their thirties
by the 1960s. A real decline in fertility in the 1960s, triggered by
intensive rural to urban migration, also contributed to the small size of
birth cohorts in the 1960s.
Twenty years later, the small birth cohorts of the
second half of the 1960s entered into fertile ages and produced a
second-order "echo." That echo appears in the 1989 pyramid. The
2015 pyramid (Figure 6.4) also reflects this indentation--a third echo.
Hence, the original fertility decline during World War II contributed to
the demographic crisis of the 1990s. Moreover, these unfavorable aspects
of age structure coincide with a real decline in fertility rates. As a
result, the new indentation at the bottom of Russia's age pyramid is even
more noticeable than it would be in terms of the World War II effect
Figure 6.4--Population Pyramid: Total Russian
Cohorts born during the late 1980s to the early 1990s
will, in turn, produce a drop in the number of births in the second decade
of the 21st century. Part of this future indentation is visible in the
2015 pyramid (Figure 6.4). However, due to the weak ergodicity of human
populations (Coale, 1957, 1962; Lopez, 1967), the influence of the
distortions made by World War II will gradually disappear.
Another major demographic change affecting population composition has been
the imbalance in the numbers of males and females in the population, with
the latter outnumbering the former. However, the number of males per 1,000
females shows a steady upward trend throughout the period of 1959-1993, as
well as for the projection period. Sex ratios have risen from 805 males
per 1,000 females in 1959 to 885 in 1993 and are projected to be a little
higher by the year 2015. This reflects the passage of smaller male
cohorts, which were decimated in World War II, as they survive to the
later stages of life. However, female domination in population size is
mainly due to the high male mortality. In Russia, the gap in life
expectancy at birth between females and males is the highest in the world
(see paper by Shkolnikov and Mesle in this volume).
The sex imbalance is most evident for the older age
group (Figure 6.5). The sex ratio for ages 60 and over was only 390 males
per 1,000 females in 1985. However, by the mid-1990s it reached 500 males
per 1,000 females, due to the aging and dying off of the cohorts decimated
by the war. Eventually (by 2015), the sex ratio will rise to 600 males per
1,000 females for the older age group. This process may be viewed as the
age and sex structure of the Russian population "forgetting" the
horrible effects of World War II.
Figure 6.5--Sex Ratio For Persons Age 60 and Over,
Population Aging in Russia
As just discussed, changes in population structure
reflect historical trends in births, deaths, and migration, and they
portend the future dynamics of these forces. The main feature
characterizing the age distribution of the Russian population has been and
will continue to be population aging, by which we mean progressively
larger numbers of persons at older ages and an increasing proportion of
older persons in the total population. The aging process can be measured
in a number of ways. Changes in four measures of aging are presented
below, including: the percentage of the population in broad age groupings,
including for age groups 60 or 65 and over, and 75 and over; the
dependency or support ratios, such as the elderly support ratio; the
median age of the population; and the aging index.
Broad Age Distributions
Figure 6.6 displays the trends in the proportions of
persons in broad age categories. A wave-like decline in the proportion of
youth and steady increases in the proportion of the elderly (aged 60 and
over) are revealed, including the growing proportion of the oldest ages
(75 years and over).
Figure 6.6--Percentages of Five Broad Age Groups, Russia, 1959-2015
Youth population (ages 0-14). In spite of the fact that there was
no marked change in the number of young people in 1959-1992, its
percentage dropped from 30 to 23 within one decade (1965-1975). After a
period of stabilization, that percentage began to decline again in 1990s.
More significant changes in the youth population are anticipated for the
next decade, when the number of children at age 0-14 will decline from
30.4 million to 25.1 in 2004, and their percentage will reach 16.5 percent
of the population. It should be noted that the proportion of children at
age 0-4 will almost stabilize then, and the most important changes will be
observed in the 5-14 age group.
Elderly population (ages 60+). From 1959 to 1990, the elderly group
demonstrated the most rapid growth. The numbers of persons aged 60-74 and
75 and over both doubled over this period. As a result, at the beginning
of the 1990s the proportion aged 60+ reached 16 percent, and will increase
to 20 percent by the year 2015. It is worth pointing out that the increase
in the oldest old (ages 75 and over) will be the fastest. By the year
2015, nearly one out of every three people age 60 and over is projected to
be in the oldest old category (75 percent).
Working age population (ages 15-59). As a result of steady growth
in 1960s and 1970s, the working age group gained 15 million people between
1960 and 1979. During the next 14 years (from 1980 to 1993) its size did
not change, but the percentage relative to the total population dropped
from 65 to 61. According to the medium variant of CDHE projections, in the
year 2006 this age category will reach its peak--the highest in all
Russian history in terms of absolute numbers (97 million) and in
percentage terms (66 percent). However, this will not last long. The year
2006 is a turning point for this trend, after which, in the next nine
years, the size and percentage of this group will drop again to the level
of the mid-1990s.
Population age structure ratios, sometimes referred to as dependency or
support ratios, are often presented to capture relative changes in the
sizes of different age groups. Figure 6.7 shows that in the year 2015, the
total support ratio--the ratio of persons in the combined young (0-14) and
old (60 and over) groups to those at ages 15-59--will be at almost the
same level as in 1959. However, between these two time points, the total
support ratio will have passed through three periods of increase and two
periods of decrease. The highest level of the total support ratio was 67.6
percent in the year 1965, while the lowest level is projected to be 50.7
percent in the year 2006.
Figure 6.7--Age Structure Ratios, Russia, 1959-2015
The elderly support ratio (the age 60-and-over
group relative to the 15-59 group) demonstrates a steady increase over
this period, with only moderate deviations from the linear trend. The
waved trend of the total support ratio, therefore, is mainly due to the
irregular changes in the youth support ratio (the age 0-14 group relative
to the 15-59 group). Fluctuations in numbers of births played and will
continue to play the main role in these changes. This is especially true
for the periods of decline in total support ratios. From 1965 to 1980, the
total support ratio was decreasing when the large birth cohorts of the
1950s came to be of working age and were replaced by the small birth
cohorts of the 1960s. This situation will be repeated in the 1990s,
because the 1980s cohorts will become of working age and the small birth
cohorts of the 1990s will take their place.
In spite of the uneven character of support ratios, the
general trend is very clear. Figure 6.7 reveals that the youth support
ratio has been decreasing from 47.1 percent to 37.2 in 1992, and to 28.8
in 2015, whereas the elderly support ratio has been growing, from 14.5
percent in 1959 to 32.4 in the year 2015. In other words, the size of the
elderly support ratio will surpass that of the youth support ratio in the
next century. A clear aging shift is evident in these changing ratios.
Though the youth ratio rises slightly after 2006 (because of a larger
number of births), the relative growth of the aged group is striking after
2010. Thus, future changes in the total ratio will depend more strongly on
the changes in the elderly group.
Median Age and the Aging Index
The changes in broad age groups and age-structure
ratios described above indicate that the Russian population became older
over the last three decades and that this process will continue into the
next century. The median age of the population and the aging index (the
percentage of persons aged 65 and over to persons under age 15)
demonstrate this tendency even more clearly. From 1959 to 1993, the
Russian population aged by 7 years, with the median age reaching 34 years
overall (see Figure 6.8); the median ages in the year for males and
females were just under 32 and just over 36, respectively. During the same
period, the aging index rose from 20 to 50 percent for the overall
population and is projected to reach almost 90 percent in the year 2007
(Figure 6.9). Therefore, it is reasonable to anticipate that by 2025 the
number of children will equal the number of elderly. As with the median
age, the index for females is much larger than that for males.
Figure 6.8--Median Age, Russia, 1959-2015
Figure 6.9--Index of Aging in Russia, 1959-2015
Thus, all measures of aging affirm that the Russian
population has been growing older since 1959, and that Russia's present
proportion of elderly is similar to that in other developed countries.
Aging in Russia: International Comparisons
International comparisons provide a basis for
interpreting how far the aging process has progressed in Russia and reveal
Russia's unique pattern of aging. As is apparent in Figures 6.10-6.12, the
Russian population is far from the oldest (it ranks 25th by aging index
and percent of oldest old, and 28th by percent of elderly). Moreover, the
projected population aging in Russia is not as dramatic as in a number of
Eastern European countries such as Romania, Serbia, and Bulgaria, or in a
number of other developed countries such as Japan, Germany, Italy,
Belgium, etc. In fact, in comparison to other developed countries, Russia
has shown a relatively moderate pace of aging. The U.S. population,
however, will age even more slowly. As a result, by the year 2015, the
populations of these two countries will have approximately the same
pattern of aging.
Figure 6.10--Percent Elderly in Developed Countries, 1990-2015
Figure 6.11--Percent Oldest Old in Developed Countries
Figure 6.12--Index of Aging in Developed Countries, 1990-2015
The fact that Russia has a younger population than most
other countries with high proportions of elderly is not a surprise. Russia
is still at the first stage of the aging process, in which the size of the
middle-age group remains somewhat stable while the older group grows as a
percentage of the population and the percentage of children declines.
However, the middle-age population also continues to age, serving to
strengthen the population aging process.
Russia has one of the oldest working-age populations
among 30 selected developed countries, measured by the percentage of
persons aged 15-64 who are aged 55-64 (Figure 6.13) and by the aging index
for that category of the population (the ratio of number of persons aged
55-65 to the number aged 15-24, see Figure 6.14). This index could also be
referred as the "index of replacement of the working age
population." During the 1980s, it rose from 40 percent to 80 percent,
and it is expected to drop to 50 percent between 1997 and 2004, after
which it should rise again sharply to 130 percent by 2015.
Aging of the working-age population does not help
Russia's transition to a market economy. Economic restructuring implies
changes in professional composition and in employment. As in other former
Soviet republics, the labor force participation rate in Soviet Russia has
been enormously high (Figure 6.15). Such a rate could exist only under an
ineffective economic system. Russia inherited a rigid professional
structure and low professional mobility from the former USSR. Professions
did not die in the former USSR, and most of the population did not ever
have to change professions. Now, the situation is the opposite, and
adaptation is more difficult for generations approaching the age of
retirement. Thus, from the point of view of economic reforms, the age
structure of the working age population plays an unfavorable role.
Figure 6.13--Percent Working-Age Population (Ages 15-64) Who Are Aged
Figure 6.14--Index of Aging of Working-Age Population
Figure 6.15--Labor Force Participation Rates for Russia, 1989
Most social and economic implications of aging are
universal and have been studied extensively. A peculiarity of aging in
Russia is that Russia is simultaneously going through a transition to a
market economy. Such a transition process is always very complicated and
painful, especially for the most vulnerable social groups like the
Russia's Aging Population: Discussion
Population aging is the product of a demographic
transition that is the consequence of a global tendency towards social
modernization. Basic changes in the economy and society associated with
industrialization and urbanization have generated changes in values,
attitudes, behavior, institutions, and technology, and have generally
resulted in fertility and mortality decreases. These societal changes
constitute the framework within which the implications of population aging
have to be considered.
The main cause of population aging is the fertility transition, i.e.,
fertility decline and its stabilization at the sub-replacement level (Lachapelle,
1991). However, in the future, the role of mortality decrease in older age
cohorts is expected to make a significant contribution to aging (Caselli
and Vallin, 1990). In a number of Western countries the result of this
so-called second epidemiological transition can already be seen (e.g.,
In Russia, as in many countries of Eastern Europe,
mortality trends have not yet had much influence on population aging (Velkoff
and Kinsella, 1993). Russia's population is young in comparison to Western
societies; the higher level of Russian mortality has contributed to this.
Two factors have determined, and will determine in the
future, population aging in Russia--fertility and the consequences of
demographic catastrophes of the recent past. Fertility is a universal and
the ultimate determinant of population aging; it is of great importance
for the aging of any population. By contrast, catastrophes define the
specific character of population aging. Because of the ergodicity of human
populations, the influence of catastrophes becomes noticeably weaker over
time as the age structure forgets them. Hence, their influence is temporal
by nature and is of relatively little importance for the remote future.
But, for several reasons, the current and short-term consequences of such
catastrophes are important, especially for social policy.
The first, and least important, reason is that
demographic catastrophes affect aging rates and, in this way, can be
misleading in evaluating the situation. For example, the aging of the male
cohorts that had undergone the highest losses during World War II resulted
in lowering the male rate of aging in comparison to that for females. As a
result, the rate for the total population, which is commonly used in the
demographic analysis of aging, was also lowered.
The second, but more important, reason is that
demographic waves caused by catastrophes often have negative impacts on
social institutions and a nation's economy, as the current situation in
Russia shows. Considering the demographic experiences of other countries,
this is particularly unfavorable for large cohorts which follow small
ones. This development has been observed for the cohorts of the 1950s and
is expected to be the destiny of forthcoming generations born at the
beginning of the next millennium, following the small cohort born in the
early 1990s. The difference in the size of kindergarten, school, and
conscript-age population subgroups of these cohorts is expected to be
several million persons, and will put considerable stress on the nation's
social institutions. For countries with transitional economies, like
Russia, it is unclear how to address this problem.
The last example discussed shows that demographic waves
are reproduced again and again by age distribution. It is evident in
Figures 6.3 and 6.4 that the number of indentations in the Russian
population age pyramids are expected to grow, such that there will be four
large indentations in the 2015 pyramid, in contrast to the three in 1959.
Over the longer term, however, the waves in the age pyramids should become
smoother, due to the fact many different fertile-age female cohorts are
contributing to fertility. Also, the experience of family policy in the
former Soviet Union in the 1980s demonstrated that it is possible to
influence fertility and increase the number of births within a short
period of time. Thus, if such a policy were successfully implemented in
2008, it could eliminate the appearance of a new indentation in Russia's
age pyramid in the second decade of the next century.
The dominant features characterizing Russian population dynamics since
1991 have been negative natural population growth, an aging population
structure, and demographic waves induced by irregularities in age
distribution. In fact, the 1990s have turned a new page in Russian
demographic history. The 1990s have been characterized by an unfavorable
population age structure from the point of view of slow natural growth,
natural population attrition, and greater numbers of pension-age people
(above age 55 for female and 60 for male) than children (0-14 years). The
aging process is occurring in all regions of the country, and it is
projected that the pace of change in the age structure will be especially
rapid in the years 2010-2015.
Population aging occurs not only within the total population, but also
within and across subpopulations, such as those of kindergarten and school
ages, working and voting ages, and even the oldest-old segment of the
population. It is projected that the numbers of persons approaching draft
age, ages of entry for kindergarten, school, employment, retirement and
the oldest ages will change dramatically through the 1990s to 2015. The
changes will have wave-shaped patterns, but the general tendency in the
size of any youth subpopulation is toward decrease, whereas for older
sub-populations it is toward increase. Population waves require more
flexibility from the social security system and decision makers. They have
to be taken into consideration by policy-makers to avoid potentially
negative effects on the economic and social situation, and to make maximum
use of favorable situations.
Changes in the size of entry and exit cohorts have
specific effects on the structure of the labor force. In Russia, new labor
force entrants will exceed those leaving the labor force until the
beginning of the second decade of the 21st century. In fact, between 1993
and 2006, the dependency rate will drop from 58.6 to 48.5 percent. Thus,
the short-term provides a demographic "window of opportunity" to
the Russian economy for approximately 10-12 years.
By the end of the first decade of the next century,
this window will be closed. Due to the long-term trends of retirement-age
subpopulation growth and the decline of the youth subpopulation, the
balance between entering and exiting cohorts will become negative by the
year 2015. The negative impact of these trends is exacerbated when they
occur simultaneously with poor economic performance, high unemployment,
inflation, and stagnant productivity growth. Thus, Russia's economic
growth is a crucial linchpin in averting major adverse consequences
created by changes in population structure.
In the short-term, it is important to emphasize that
Russia's demographic and economic conditions require more concerted
attention. As in other former Soviet republics, Russia has had unusually
high employment rates (over 90 percent for working ages, see Figure 6.15),
especially for women (compared with those in other countries). However,
this high level of employment now includes considerable hidden
unemployment, and the surplus labor force in Russia presents immediate
problems for a society shifting from a controlled to a more
market-oriented economic system. Policy responses to cope with this
situation could include increasing productivity through training of
younger workers and retraining of older workers, and assuring income
maintenance for persons of all ages.
Potential intergenerational conflicts arising from the
changing proportions of younger and older persons could affect political
structures and processes. The progressive aging of the voting-age
population calls for further efforts to develop some system of sharing
resources across generations. The political and economic transition to
democracy and the market economy makes intergenerational issues especially
important now in Russia for two reasons. First, the generations who
devoted their labor to the former Soviet Union are in a dubious position
because the resulting wealth either never existed or was lost during the
reforms in the 1990s. Second, the welfare system itself is now in flux.
The geographic variation in social, economic, and
demographic characteristics across Russia's large territory calls for more
attention to interregional issues. Considerable variation exists in
population growth rates, age distribution, and population density among
the subregions of Russia, and across rural and urban subpopulations. The
crucial concern for all Russian regions is sustained economic growth,
which may be stimulated by greater regional economic integration. Ethnic
or other social and political conflicts and poor economic performance
could well undermine the capacity of the Russian nation to respond
favorably to the consequences of low or negative population growth,
changes in age structure, and demographic waves.
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7. Lopez, A., "Asymptotic Properties of a Human Age Distribution
Under a Continuous Net Maternity Function," in Demography, 4(2),
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8. Martinelle, Sten, "On the Causes of Changes in the Age Structure:
The Case of Sweden," in Social and Economic Consequences of Aging,
New York: United Nations, 1991, pp. 84-89.
9. Velkoff, Victoria A., and Kevin Kinsella, Aging in Eastern Europe and
the Former Soviet Union, Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Commerce,
Economics and Statistics Administration, Bureau of the Census, 1993.
10. Population of Russia, Moscow: Eurasia Publishers, 1994. (In Russian:
"Economically Active Population.")
Discussants: Constantijn Panis, RAND; and Jim Smith, RAND
Discussants of Dr. Vassin's paper noted that Russia
and the United States have very similar proportions of older people,
although the shares of the elderly in both countries are still lower than
in many other developed nations. Unlike the United States and other
western countries, however, aging in Russia has been driven mainly by the
decline in fertility, while the stagnated mortality levels have had little
effect on it. In most developed countries, rapid aging places strong
pressure on social security programs. For example, the U.S. social
security system will face a profound crisis if no radical modifications
are enacted. Possible ways to avoid or mitigate the approaching crisis
could include reducing benefits, increasing retirement age, and promoting
individual savings. In Russia, the situation is aggravated by the fact
that the old pay-as-you-go pension system is completely inadequate in the
new economic environment. At the same time, high inflation has depleted
individual savings and continues to be a strong disincentive for saving in
the future. The official retirement age in Russia is very low--60 years
for men and 55 years for women--and any future pension reform will have to
contemplate its increase, regardless of an inevitable social opposition.
However, the well-being of older people in Russia, as in other countries,
will depend not only on the viability and flexibility of a formal social
security program but also on family and other informal intergenerational
networks of support.
Sergei A. Vassin is a senior research associate at the Laboratory of
Analysis and Forecasting of Mortality at the Center for Demography and
Human Ecology, Institute for Economic Forecasting, Russian Academy of
The total fertility rate (TFR) is the sum of the average number of
births for female cohorts age 15-49 in a population, divided by 1000. It
is the average number of total births a woman would have over her lifetime
if she experienced current age-specific fertility rates.
The net reproduction rate is the TFR multiplied by a survival
probability (from the mother's birth through her childbearing years) and
by the proportion of female to all births.