MOSCOW BLOG: If Russia is a "dying nation," so are other CEE states

By bne IntelliNews April 29, 2013

bne -

Much has been made of Russia's poor demographic situation and the problem of a shrinking population has been held up as the reason the country is doomed. But in an excellent piece, Forbes contributor Mark Adomanis points out that if Russia is doomed, then so are all the countries of Central and Eastern Europe. Moreover, this problem is not limited to the region.

"The problem with all of these attempts to paint Russia as possessed of uniquely terrible demographics is that they are completely and entirely false," writes Adomanis. "Numerous other countries that border Russia, and numerous other counties in post-Communist Eastern Europe, have long-term demographic outlooks that are at least as harrowing."

And many countries in Western Europe are in the same boat. If you compare Russia to the other countries in the region, then it turns out that Russia is actually doing better than almost all of its peers when it comes to having babies. "Since 2000, there has been a massive divergence between an increasingly authoritarian Russia and a Visegrad group comprised of fully consolidated Western-style democracies that are members in good standing of the European Union and NATO. Can anyone look at that graph and, with a straight face, claim that what is really causing Russia's problems is its lack of democratic accountability?" says Adomanis.

To driver home the point, he goes on to compare Russia (the thick red line in the chart above) with most other CEE countries. Russia clearly stands out as a leader in the region and the last half decade has made a huge difference to the population outlook. "Every country in Eastern Europe, and a number of Western countries as well, has a fertility rate that will lead to substantial long-term population decline and Russia is the exact opposite of unique in this regard. In fact, as you can see from the charts above, Russian fertility has actually held up better over the past several years than it has in countries that were more significantly impacted by the economic crisis," says Adomanis.

bne has emphasised this point on many occasions and it is becoming increasingly obvious to anyone who can be bothered to actually look at the data. Former head of Goldman Sachs Asset Management , Jim O'Neill, told bne last year that Russia's demographics was going to be an "upside shock to our projections" on the size of Russia's population.

The statistics show that since the birth rate began rising in 2008, the trend for population growth, albeit a short data set, now is now running above even the most optimistic forecasts. That far from being a demographic disaster, Russia is on course to have the fastest growing population in CEE. Gawd blimey.

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