The Determinants and Implications of an Aging Population In Russia

by Sergei A. Vassin [1]


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).

Population Growth

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, 1959-2015

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 population increase.


Figure 6.2--Components of Population Growth, Russia, 1959-2015

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.[2] This level implies sub-replacement fertility, with a net reproduction rate of 0.74 in the year 2015.[3] 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.

Population Composition

Population Pyramids

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 successive generations.

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 alone.


Figure 6.4--Population Pyramid: Total Russian Population, 2015

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.

Sex Imbalance

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, Russia, 1959-2015

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.

Dependency Ratios

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 elderly.

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., Martinelle, 1991).

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.[4] 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.


1. Andreev, Evgeny M. and Leonid E. Darsky, "The Population Age and Sex Structure in the USSR: Causes of Deformation and Prospects of Normalization," in Social and Economic Consequences of Aging, New York: United Nations, 1991, pp. 90-96.

2. Caselli, Graziella, and Jacques Vallin, 1990, "Mortality and Aging," in European Journal of Population, 6(1), 1990, pp. 1-25.

3. Coale, A., "How the Distribution of Human Population is Determined," Cold Spring Harbor Symposium on Quantitative Biology, Vol. 22, 1957, pp. 83-89.

4. Coale, A., "Estimates of Various Population Through the Quasi-Stable Age Distribution," Annual Conference of the Milbank Memorial Fund, 1962.

5. George, M.V., and A. Romaniuc, "Effects of Fertility and International Migration on Changing Age Composition in Canada," in Social and Economic Consequences of Aging, New York: United Nations, 1991, pp. 260-271.

6. Lachapelle, Rejean, "Effects of Mortality, Fertility, and International Migration on Age Structure: An Application of the Open Stable Population Concept, in Social and Economic Consequences of Aging, New York: United Nations, 1991, pp. 272-280.

7. Lopez, A., "Asymptotic Properties of a Human Age Distribution Under a Continuous Net Maternity Function," in Demography, 4(2), 1967, pp. 680-87.

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' Comments

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.


[1] 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 Sciences.

[2] 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.

[3] 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.

[4] See paper by Zakharov and Ivanova in this volume.