Could a looming population collapse be driving Putin’s recent decisions? The intensity of Putin’s actions has shocked the world as other nations have grappled with how to best diffuse the violence amid growing tensions. You can’t look at any form of news for long without some mention of Ukraine or Russia these days, as concerns have escalated over recent months. There has been some speculation on a link to population collapse coloring Putin’s ‘do or die’ behavior of late, but many people may still be unfamiliar with the phenomenon of population collapse.
Population collapse in Russia has been a significant issue for the country in recent years. Russia’s population has been declining since the 1990s, and this trend has continued into the present day. The country’s population peaked at 148.7 million in 1991, but by 2021, it had fallen to 146.7 million. That may not look like a large drop but that is nearly 2 million people gone, and by 2050 that will be nearly 40 million people. This decline is due to a range of factors, including a low birth rate, a high mortality rate, emigration, and economic challenges.
Low Birth Rate – One of the major factors contributing to Russia’s population collapse is its low birth rate. According to the World Bank, Russia’s fertility rate is 1.6 children per woman, well below the replacement rate of 2.1 children per woman. This means that the country’s population is not being replaced at the same rate it’s falling which will lead to a further reduction in population over time.
There are several reasons for the low birth rate in Russia. One factor is the country’s economic challenges. High levels of unemployment, low wages, and a lack of economic opportunities can make it difficult for young people to start families. Additionally, many young people are choosing to delay marriage and family to pursue education or establish a career.
High Mortality – Another factor contributing to population collapse in Russia is the high mortality rate. Russia’s life expectancy at birth is 72 years, which is lower than many other developed countries. Many factors contribute to this high mortality rate, including a high rate of alcoholism, a high incidence of smoking, and a lack of access to quality healthcare.
Emigration – Emigration is also contributing to Russia’s population collapse. According to the United Nations, there are currently around 11 million Russians living outside of the country. This represents a notable loss of population and talent for Russia, as many of these emigrants are young and well-educated.
Economics – Challenges in the economy are contributing to Russia’s population collapse. The country has experienced major economic challenges in recent years, including high levels of inflation, a drop in oil prices, and economic sanctions imposed by Western countries. These challenges have made it difficult for people to find jobs and make ends meet, leading many to emigrate or delay starting families.
Consequences of Collapse
There are numerous potential consequences of population collapse in Russia. One of the most serious factors is the aging of the population. As the population ages, there will be fewer young people to support the growing number of elderly people, which can strain the country’s social welfare systems. This can lead to a decrease in the quality of life for older people, as well as increased healthcare costs for the government.
Another consequence of population collapse is a reduction in economic growth. With fewer young people entering the workforce and fewer consumers buying goods and services, the economy may stagnate or even shrink. This can lead to increased poverty and social unrest, as people struggle with their basic needs being met.
Can Russia Save Itself?
Besides invading Ukraine, assuming that the population collapse is a driving force for the war— there could be different solutions to Russia’s looming population collapse. One approach is to increase economic opportunities for young people. This can involve investing in education and job training programs, as well as creating policies that incentivize businesses to invest in the country. Additionally, providing affordable childcare and parental leave can help young people start families and increase the birth rate.
Another solution is to improve access to quality healthcare. This could involve investing in medical facilities, training healthcare professionals, and implementing policies that reduce smoking and alcohol consumption. By improving health outcomes, the mortality rate can be reduced, and the population can become healthier and more productive.
Lastly, the government can incentivize former citizens to return to Russia. This can involve creating policies that make it easier for emigrants to return, such as offering tax breaks or providing job training programs. Additionally, investing in infrastructure and creating new industries can attract talent back to the country.
Concerns Grow Despite Causes
However, this is where things may get interesting, as some are starting to believe that Putin may be looking to forcefully repatriate Ukraine to stave off the prospect of population collapse, for now. Bringing all the talent, experience, and youth back under Russia’s control in addition to extending Russia’s sphere of influence may be just that extra bit of incentive for Putin to put everything Russia has on the line with his war in Ukraine, including starting World War 3 and deploying nuclear weapons.