The demographic downturn that hit Russia in the 1990s is starting to catch up with it. In that decade, the number of births declined sharply leading to population loss for about twenty years. Although the natural population decline has eased in the last few years – indeed in 2013, 2014 and 2015 there was a modest number of births in excess of the number of deaths – the effect of the drop in births in the 1990s is starting to hit the country’s workforce.

According to the Russian Economy Minister, Maxim Oreshkin, the Russian economy’s recovery from the 2008 economic crisis and the downturn in oil prices will be battered by its constricted workforce. He predicted that the lack of young people entering the workforce will take several percent of the country’s GDP in the years ahead. For the next five or so years, or until 2022, this problem will continue, meaning that the only solution will be for people in their 30s (so old!) 40s and 50s to retrain in the new skills needed for a modern economy. According to Oreshkin:

“In countries with a normal demographic pyramid, a new generation comes in with modern skills and takes up jobs in a modern economy and modern industries, and with their arrival the labour market changes in favour of new sectors … To a large extent economic growth depends on how things proceed with the processes of changing people in these middle generations”

But the problem of a smaller workforce is not going to go away in a few years. By 2035, the finance ministry predicts a four percent decline in the Russian working population. The Institute for Social Analysis and Forecasting at the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration (RANEPA) predicts that the work force will shrink by about 0.8-0.9 million people a year until 2025. A RANEPA survey showed Russia's labour force, which has risen since 1999, stood at 76.3 million people in July 2017, down by 1 million a year earlier.

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...