Researching the Past in Order to Foresee the Future
During the conference Low Fertility and Low Mortality: Observable Reality and Visions of the Future, dedicated to the 25th anniversary of the HSE Institute of Demography, leading international researchers not only presented their reports, but also shared their impressions about their collaborations with their Russian colleagues.
Vladimir Shkolnikov, former Research Fellow of the HSE Institute of Demography, Head of the Laboratory of Demographic Data at the Max Plank Institute for Demographic Research (Germany), and Director of the Center for Demographic Research at the New Economic School noted that the combination of low fertility and low mortality was a relatively new phenomenon for humankind and that it was important to determine the consequences. In Russia, as in many developed countries, the fertility rate is lower than the replacement level. But the mortality rate in Russia is extremely high, especially among the middle-aged and older population. At the same time, infant mortality in the country is rather low and continues to decline.
Massimo Livi Bacci, Professor at the University of Florence, presented a report with an historical emphasis. He analyzed different time periods of low fertility that resulted in a population decline or extinction. A fertility decrease is typical during wars, plagues, and famine. But during peacetime, fertility rates have always been high, except when the very ‘fabric of society’ was changing. According to Professor Livi Bacci, it’s rather difficult to determine the reason for the current low fertility rates in developed countries. Some researchers point to changes in the labour market, which include the mass integration of women into the workplace — they simply don’t have enough time to bring up more than one child. It’s also unclear how long the phenomenon can last and whether the fertility rate will ever reach the replacement level.
France Meslé and Jacques Vallin, demographers from France, researched mortality trends from an historical perspective. These trends help describe the situation with mortality in the future. Professors Meslé and Vallin have been carrying out joint projects with Anatoly Vishnevsky and his colleagues for more than 20 years already. They are trying to find out why life expectancy in most European countries keeps growing while in some post-Soviet countries, it doesn’t change or is even decreasing.
Barbara Anderson, Professor at the University of Michigan, presented a report on the methodology of demographic forecasts and their reliability.
Prominent Czech demographer Zdenek Pavlik drew the audience’s attention to the fact that demographic differences among European countries could be traced by the mortality rate, which is growing from West to East. Professor Pavlik also pointed out the ever-growing role of migration, which is determined by two factors: the push factor (when a population is ousted from a territory due to military conflict, or social or ecological catastrophes), and the pull factor (when migrants are attracted to new territories). Professor Pavlik noted that social and economic development that gives rise to a certain mental attitude is more important for a country, than its demographic policy. He added that humankind needs to believe in a bright future and look forward with optimism.
Oleg Seregin, HSE news service
Photos by Nikita Benzoruk
Russians have been estimating their general health as better over recent years, and life expectancy has been growing. Meanwhile, Russia is still falling behind EU countries according to this indicator. Alexander Ramonov, researcher from the HSE Institute of Demography, studied the reasons for this.
Reproductive behavior is modernizing at different rates in post-Soviet countries. Things are changing faster in Russia, Armenia, Georgia and Ukraine, where, over the last fifteen years, the average maternity age has increased and the contribution of women in their thirties to their countries’ birthrates has grown. Meanwhile, old reproductive patterns persist in Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, where firstborns are usually born to parents under 30, demographers Vladimir Kozlov and Konstantin Kazenin note in a paper delivered at HSE’s XX April International Academic Conference.
More than half of school graduates in medium-sized Russian cities will change their place of residence either forever or at least for a long time. According a report on internal migration presented by HSE demographers at the XX April International Academic Conference, these people are lost to their cities.
Demographers have created a detailed colour map of population ageing in European countries; a collection of demographic stories, it uses colour coding to indicate the varying stages of population ageing across Europe. By looking at the map, you can easily spot areas with a higher concentration of older people, countries with the youngest populations and the main destinations for workforce flows. The map's author Ilya Kashnitsky comments on some of the demographic stories it tells.
Seniors in Russia are not responsive to public promotion of healthy living. Their behaviours follow eight different patterns, and a healthy lifestyle is far from being the most popular one. Only 17% of elderly people live what can be termed a 'healthy' lifestyle, Elena Selezneva discovered. The results of the study were presented at the XIX April International Academic Conference on Economic and Social Development at HSE.
The HSE Institute for Social Policy held an event entitled ‘Demographic Challenges of the 21st Century’ on 13 June 2017. At the event, Lauren Woodard, PhD candidate, Department of Anthropology, University of Massachusetts, presented her report ‘Politics of Return: Resettlement of Compatriots Programme in Primorsky Territory’. Here she talks to HSE News about the event, her research, and her interest in the complex issues of identity in Russia and the Former Soviet Union.
Older Russians are generally less healthy that their peers in Europe, the US, and other BRICS countries. Poor health is one of the barriers to remaining active and enjoying a well-deserved rest after retirement age. The second most common problem affecting elderly Russians is having to share a home with children and grandchildren, while a lack of social engagement and limited social connections come third on the list of barriers to active aging in Russia. According to researchers, the Russian elderly have social potential, but rarely use it.
Twenty years from now, the number of retired persons worldwide will have grown by 600 million, almost double the current number. Life expectancy will have increased, bringing new economic challenges. Yet the growing number of seniors can also stimulate important breakthroughs in medicine, biotechnology, nanotechnology, cognitive sciences and robotics, according to the report 'Global Population Ageing and the Threat of Political Risks in the Light of Radical Technological Innovation in the Coming Decades.'
The level of education, the size of the settlement, and the social status can all seriously affect the chance of feeling poor in Russia. These are the findings by experts of the HSE Institute for Social Policy, revealed as part of their regular Monitoring of the Social and Economic Situation and Well-being of the Population.
At a time when industrially developed countries are facing migration pressure, Russia needs to take a fresh look at immigration to assess its geopolitical benefits and prevent inherent social risks; a smart migrant integration policy can provide a solution.