It appears as if Russia’s previously anaemic fertility rate is rising from its very low levels of a decade ago (1.7 births per woman in 2013, under 1.2 in 1999). Furthermore, its mortality rate is stabilising so that the Russian population is actually naturally increasing for the first time in twenty years (all of this according to Wikipedia). We reported on this a few months ago, and I concluded at the time by stating that:

“So while the current demographic outlook of Russia is much better than it was five or six years ago, it seems as if the medium-long term is still less than healthy. Russia will have to rely on immigration to grow or stabilise its population, and that in itself is problematic.” 

The problems I was talking about was assimilation of large numbers of immigrants, but there may be a more immediate demographic problem to add to the Russian list: a serious upsurge in emigration.  The Diplomat website reports:

“According to the [Reuters] report, five times as many Russians are emigrating now, during Vladimir Putin’s third term, than in the early 2000s. The demographic issue is also compounding Russia’s severe capital flight problem, which has grown worse since Russia’s international isolation over its actions in Ukraine, including annexing the Crimean peninsula earlier this year.”

Russia’s official statistic service, Rosstat, has announced that 186,382 Russians left the country in 2013 and 122,751 left in 2012. This is a substantial increase from 36,774 who left in 2011 and 33,578 Russian who emigrated in 2010.  (The Diplomat alleges that some experts doubt that these numbers are accurate and that the actual numbers are much higher…) If this emigration rate continues, it will represent a drain on the population that will require more births or more immigrants to cover. But this problem is much more than counting heads, apparently those that are leaving are concentrated in the middle class, including intellectuals and entrepreneurs.

“It appears that what remains of the middle class after the emigrants have left the country are bureaucrats and others with connections to Russian state-operated enterprises (SOEs).”

Why are there so many more Russians leaving (about 4-6 times the rate of only four years ago?)

“According to Reuters, most Russian emigrants are leaving the country for a handful of reasons: ‘Most just want a better life, with some seeking more political freedom than under President Vladimir Putin and others keen to escape an economy that has been hit by Western sanctions over the Ukraine crisis and is on the verge of recession.’”

There can surely be no doubt that the uptick in emigration at the same time that Russia is being seen as more of a global pariah is not coincidental.  However, as The Diplomat notes:

“On one level, this emigration could be a boon for Putin. It may leave Russia’s private sector worse off than it would have been had many of these middle class entrepreneurs stayed in the country, but the upside for Putin is that it will leave behind a Russian middle class dominated by Putin-friendly bureaucrats on the state payroll.”

On another level, this could be seen as an indication that people are starting to get nervous about the direction that Russia is heading in and the potential political and economic reaction of Western Europe. Things are looking bleak throughout many parts of the world. 

Marcus Roberts is a Senior Researcher at the Maxim Institute in Auckland, New Zealand, and was co-editor of the former MercatorNet blog, Demography is Destiny. Marcus has a background in the law, both...