MOSCOW, February 6 (RIA Novosti) – Deaths exceeded births in Russia by more than 2,500 in 2012, the Labor and Social Protection Ministry said Wednesday, underscoring that natural population growth remains an elusive goal despite officials’ earlier expectations.
“A natural population loss of 2,573 was registered in 2012 in the country,” the ministry said.
During the 12 months of 2012, over 1,896,000 children were born, which is 102,400 (5.7 percent) more than in 2011 – the highest figure since 1990, the ministry said. (It was not immediately clear whether the ministry meant this was the highest growth rate or the highest increase in absolute terms.)
At the same time, deaths numbered more than 1,898,000 in 2012, down 26,200 (1.4 percent) on 2011.
In the first 11 months of 2012 the ministry had recorded a natural population growth of more than 4,500, which led President Vladimir Putin to heap praise on the country’s demographic programs in his December state-of-the-nation address.
He warned, however, that failing to tackle the country’s high death rate, especially among men, would have disastrous consequences for the economy and for the country as a whole.
He targeted smoking, drug use and alcoholism as particular scourges that “prematurely take away hundreds of thousands of our citizens’ lives each year.” Putin listed the aggressive promotion of sport as one factor that could help reverse this trend. The emphasis on a healthy and active lifestyle has long been a central feature of Putin’s policies and he has cast himself as a physically fit and able leader. The anti-smoking bill currently under review in the State Duma is just one of the latest initiatives to improve public health.
Population decline has been one of the most significant social issues to face Russia since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Despite large-scale labor migration into the country, the population has decreased by about 2 million over the past 10 years, from around 145 million in 2002 to about 143 million in 2012, according to the latest census figures.