Feature

A once-great nation is dying out

Russia is literally dying, said Nicholas Eberstadt and Hans Groth in The Wall Street Journal Europe. The

Nicholas Eberstadt  and Hans GrothThe Wall Street Journal Europe (Belgium)

Russia is literally dying, said Nicholas Eberstadt and Hans Groth in The Wall Street Journal Europe. The “ambitious goal” the Kremlin has set of making Russia the world’s fifth largest economy by the year 2020 is almost certainly unachievable—there just aren’t enough Russian workers. In fact, Russia is far more likely to go into a steep and gloomy decline. “Brutally high levels of mortality” combine with “anemic fertility levels” to produce a perfect storm of depopulation. Thanks to excessive drinking and smoking, and an epidemic of violent crime, Russian men have a lower life expectancy than do Bangladeshis. And many of them die during their prime working years. Women fare little better, and they don’t have nearly enough children to make up for the die-off. The result: The working-age population is projected to shrink by nearly 20 percent in just the next 25 years. President-elect Dmitri Medvedev says he can avert that dire scenario by offering childbirth incentives. But he’s dreaming. “There is not a single example from modern history where pro-natal policies have been able to achieve a sustainable demographic reversal.” Without a miraculous turnaround in public health, Russia is doomed.

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