Russia: Population shrinks for first time in 15 years

Experts attribute decline to pandemic, which has seen many die, while migration and low birth rates have also played a factor.

A man wearing a protective face mask sits in a wheelchair in front of a mural near a clinic in the town of Domodedovo near Moscow, Russia, December 3, 2020 [File: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters]

Russia’s population shrank by about half a million last year, its first contraction in 15 years, the country’s statistics agency said on Friday.

Russia has a population of 146.2 million, according to newspaper Nezavisimaya Gazeta, citing the agency.

Experts attributed the decline mainly to the pandemic.

There were 229,700 more deaths between January and November 2020 than in the same period the previous year, an excess mortality rate of more than 13 percent, the agency said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has long called for greater efforts towards population growth. Last year, he blamed the trend on low incomes.

Experts say further causes are the migration of younger, well-educated people abroad and the low birth rate.

Similar trends

This month, statistics from Poland and the United Kingdom, have shown similar trends.

On Tuesday, statistics for 2020 showed deaths spiking in Poland to a level unseen since World War II and births sharply decline, trends attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic and described by some as a demographic crisis.

The data reported on Tuesday by the daily newspaper Dziennik Gazeta Prawna came from a state register that includes weekly births and deaths.

Commenting on data the state agency Statistics Poland released in December for 11 months of 2020, economist Rafal Mundry said the number of deaths was the highest since World War II and the number of births the lowest in 15 years.

“We have a huge demographic crisis,” Mundry said on Twitter.

In 2019, some 30,000 people died in Poland each month on average. In November, when COVID-19 cases spiked, the country registered almost 60,400 deaths.

In the UK, a study published on January 14 suggested it could be the largest population decline since World War II, citing the pandemic.

Faced with bleak employment opportunities, expatriates have been leaving the UK in large numbers, according to the UK’s Economic Statistics Centre of Excellence (ESCoE).

About 1.3 million people born abroad left the UK from July 2019 to September 2020, it said.

Meanwhile, Brexit also appeared to have an impact in motivating people to leave Britain, with some Al Jazeera interviewed citing the UK’s divorce from the European Union as a push factor.

In London, the ESCoE said, as many as 700,000 people left the capital in the 14 months analysed.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies