This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 13th (it will be out in January 2020), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Thursday, March 10, 2011

Russians Vote With Their Feet

By all accounts, Russians have plenty to protest about, living in a country rife with corruption and few opportunities to get ahead. Of course, there is no youth bulge to push an agenda to the streets, as has happened in several of the now volatile Arab nations. Indeed, Russia has been slowly losing population since the mid-1990s, due to very low fertility, high mortality (life expectancy for males is about the same as in Ghana), and...outmigration. The Washington Post features a story this week about the slow, but steady leaking of people out of Russia.
The departures are not easily documented because they are mostly unrecorded, but they have become the talk of the independent press and professional circles here. Russians blame their malaise on an authoritarian system in which political limits have settled over society as a whole, dead-ending career opportunities.
In the Soviet era, emigration was a daring and irreversible public act that required getting an exit permit, renouncing citizenship and leaving most family and worldly goods behind forever. Today's emigrants often set off temporarily to study or for a contract to work for a year or two elsewhere. They return home frequently to visit and only gradually make themselves emigrants.
Sergei Stepashin, chairman of the government's Audit Chamber, which oversees public spending, estimates that about 1.25 million Russians in this country of 140 million have left in the last few years. Gennady Gudkov, head of the security committee in the lower house of parliament, puts the figure at 96,000 a year. He told a Russian newspaper that small-business people are reportedly leaving in great numbers because working here is too difficult.
It is not clear what could change this situation. The very same reasons that push people out of a country--lack of opportunity--are very unlikely to attract immigrants from other places, and are unlikely to encourage people to start having more children.

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