Here is the TLDR on what they project for 2035:
- As usual, there is a Low, Medium, and High scenario.
- Population will change from 146.7M in 2020, to:
- L: 135.2M
- M: 143.1M
- H: 149.8M
- Numbers of annual births, deaths, and natural increase will change from ~1.5M, ~1.8M, and -0.3M, respectively, in 2019, to:
- L: 1.1M – 2.0M = -0.9M
- M: 1.3M – 1.7M = -0.4M
- H: 1.4M – 1.4M = 0.0M
- These estimates are reliant upon the Total Fertility Rate (TFR) increasing from a projected ~1.50 children per woman in 2019, to:
- L: 1.37
- M: 1.58
- H: 1.74
- … life expectancy going from 73.4 years in 2019 (note: In reality, it was already at 73.6 years as of the first eight months of this year), to:
- L: 75.4
- M: 79.1
- H: 81.7
- … and annual net immigration going from ~250,000 in 2020, to:
- L: 15,000
- M: remaining stable
- H: rising to close to 400,000
Since I released my Russia demographics model in 2008, Russian life expectancy has consistently tracked the High variant. My High variant correlates to somewhere in between Rosstat’s Medium and High scenarios, reaching an LE of just a bit over 80 years by 2035. I am almost certain that, barring some humanitarian catastrophe, Russia’s LE will be way higher than 75.4 years by 2035.
That said, life expectancy has by far the least impact on future population trends relative to fluctuations in TFR and net immigration.
2. Predicting fertility trends is much more of a risky undertaking than life expectancy. That said, I have argued that there is good cause to think that Russia’s long-term TFR should recover to at least 1.7 children per woman, the dip from 2016-today regardless.
At any rate, I expect Russia to hew closer to the High scenario than the Medium one, while the Low scenario – which has TFR plummeting to a trough of 1.28 by the mid-2020s – a number that would return it to its 1996-2002 nadir, when the country was in the midst of a comprehensive socio-economic collapse – strikes me as highly unlikely.
3. Obviously, immigration is the toughest of all to predict. Even the authorities can’t assess it properly except during Census time (in 2010, it was discovered there were 1M more Russians than expected). That said, many Central Asians are now going to South Korea instead of Russia, some are even going to the EU (encountered a Kyrgyz Uber driver in Warsaw), and by the 2030s, potentially, maybe even China would start becoming a cheap labor magnet. Few of them are actually settling in Russia. Meanwhile, the stock of Russians in the f.USSR who are willing to emigrate to Russia has dwindled, as everyone who was ever going to come back has largely already done so. The main avenue for politically-uncontroversial demographic growth through immigration now lies with enticing Ukrainians, Belorussians, and Moldovans to emigrate to Russia. And steps on that are already being taken.
Will it be enough to cancel out the flood of repatriating Russians from prior years? Much will depend, of course, on socio-economic and political trajectories in the Near Abroad, especially the Ukraine. As well as on Russia’s own economic success or lack thereof in coming years. My conservative guess is that net migration will hover between the Low and Medium scenarios. Though perhaps the Federal Migration Service’s tendency to undercount will push that number up closer to the Medium scenario.
In summary, my expectations are:
- Life expectancy: Medium-High scenario
- Fertility: Medium-High scenario (sooner High)
- Net immigration: Low-Medium (sooner Medium)
Obviously, I don’t have access to the Rosstat model, so there’s no way for me to play around with it. That said, there are a few observations I can nonetheless make:
1. I would set a floor on the Medium scenario, i.e. a population of ~143M+ in 2035. I.e., neither rise, nor freefall.
2. The main divergence from Rosstat’s High scenario that I expect will be in the sphere of net immigration. The total difference in net immigration between these two scenarios through to 2035 constitutes 1.6M. These will be young people, so assume they produce some children to get a figure of ~2M. Subtract that from 149.8M, and one gets 147M-148M. That is broadly where I actually expect Russia’s population to be at come 2035.
3. One further thing we can do is look at past demographic projections from Rosstat:
Russian statistics agency Rosstat forecasts 140.9 million in 2025, the High version being 146.7 million…
This was from 2011. Current population is 146.8M, subtract ~2.5M to account for Crimea to get 144.3M. So, actual result was about midway between the Medium and High estimate.
Meanwhile, it was the High scenario from Rosstat projections in 2000 that ended up coming true by 2011. (In fairness, this was at the end of a decade of very negative trends).
Still, based on the past Rosstat predictive record, weighing one’s bets between their Medium and High projects is hardly a risky or radical idea.