In the last few years, the Russian population decline that began in the 1990s slowed and then reversed. In 2013-16 the natural population growth went into positive territory for the first time since 1992. Although the working aged population was predicted to fall in the years ahead (due to the decline in numbers of the cohort born in the 1990s and now starting to enter the workforce) at least the population overall was starting to turn itself around into the black.

However, the news this year isn’t good. According to the Russian statistics agency, there were over 100,000 more deaths than births in the Federation between January and October 2017. This means that the natural increase seen in the three years 2013-16 was more than wiped out in the first ten months of this year. The population now stands at about 146.5 million people (three million of whom live in the recently annexed Crimea).

This news is somewhat of a concern for Russian President Vladimir Putin who has made improving the country’s demographic position a priority during his three presidential terms. In a meeting on child policy in Moscow, the President noted that “Russia's demographic situation is once again deteriorating” although this was “predictable” due to the previous “overlapping deep demographic declines”.

To try and reverse the current decline, he announced that the Government would reset its demographic development policy and pay particular attention to low-income families. Thus, USD2.4 billion would be allocated to a new scheme which would provide new monthly handouts for the birth of a first child. From January 1, Russian women would be paid an allowance of $180 for the first 18 months after the birth of their first child. One wonders whether such a policy will have much impact on Russia’s rapidly worsening  demographic situation.

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...