Here is a graph of monthly births in Russia since 2006 through to March 2017:
It is pointless to make sweeping conclusions based on demographic data from the past one or two months.
That said, the three month moving average has been down relative to the same period in the previous year since the middle of 2016, and as of this year, has widened to 10%, an unprecedented figure in the past decade.
Now to be sure, birth rates should – all else equal – be falling, because the diminished generation of the 1990s is now moving into its peak childbearing years. It shouldn’t be falling by 10% in any one year, however. If this new trend continues, Russia’s TFR for 2017 should fall to about 1.65 children per woman from the 1.76 in 2016.
OTOH mortality continued improving, falling by 1% in the first three months of 2017 relative to same period last year, which translates into a correspondingly greater improvement in life expectancy because of Russia’s ageing population (i.e. for the same reason that Russia’s fertility rate would increase if the number of births was to stay the same).
So I don’t want to imply all is doom and gloom after having covered Russia’s demographic turnaround for almost a decade.
However, it does perhaps warrant a reassessment of the weight we attach to different demographic projections.
For instance, the “Medium” scenario in my Russian demographic model – also the one which I long thought likeliest – involves the assumption that the TFR would converge to about 1.75 (where it has generally been since 2012), with steady convergence in life expectancy to developed world levels, and annual (official) immigrant inflows of 300,000. In this scenario, Russia’s population would actually increase to about 150 million in 2025 and 158 million by 2050 (that’s including Crimea, aka +2 million).
However, if the recent fertility decline is not a one-year blip, and were to instead to continue falling to about 1.50, then Russia’s population would stagnate (this is from before Crimea):
Low (TFR=1.5 from 2010)Population growth starts from 2011, going from 142mn to 143mn by 2023. Then it falls slowly to 138mn by 2050. The birth rate peaks at 12.5 in 2013, falls sharply to 7.8 by 2032, and then remains in the 8-9 range. The death rate troughs at 11.4 in 2032, then rises to 12.9 by 2050. Positive natural increase is never attained.
Not really the demographic apocalypse long promised by the Western media either, but a disappointing outcome nonetheless.
It’s also possible that this will further encourage the kremlins to intensify immigration from Central Asia.