Evaluation of the Demographic Potential of Russia’s Northern Regions

Fauzer Victor, Kuratova Lyubov

  Open Access OPEN ACCESS  Peer Reviewed PEER-REVIEWED

Evaluation of the Demographic Potential of Russia’s Northern Regions

Fauzer Victor1, Kuratova Lyubov2,

1Department of socio-economic problems and the laboratory of demographic and social management, Institute of socio-economic and energy problems of the North Komi Science Centre of Ural Branch of the Russian academy of sciences, Syktyvkar, Russian Federation

2Laboratory of territorial development problems, Institute of socio-economic and energy problems of the North Komi Science Centre of Ural Branch of the Russian academy of sciences, Syktyvkar, Russian Federation


Nowadays relevance of studying of all aspects of the development of Northern regions of the Russian Federation consists in the fact that in spite of limited stocks in the old rendered habitable regions of the country North is considered as a source of resources for social and economic development of Russia. Based on the recognition that the territory is as a separate object of state observation it is noted that the best resources for labor of the economy of North may become demographic potential of adjacent regions. The different points of view and approaches to definition of the demographic potential and a set of indicators by its assessment are given. On a basis of the statistical analysis of population dynamics and a level of birth rate and mortality it is shown that quantitative demographic potential of the northern regions, since 1990s significantly decreased. It was affected by migratory outflow. It is revealed that in northern regions still have positive differences by age and sexual structure. The results can be used by regional governments by drawing up Strategic plans of social and economic development of territories. The article concludes with recommendations.

Cite this article:

  • Victor, Fauzer, and Kuratova Lyubov. "Evaluation of the Demographic Potential of Russia’s Northern Regions." International Journal of Econometrics and Financial Management 3.1 (2015): 12-18.
  • Victor, F. , & Lyubov, K. (2015). Evaluation of the Demographic Potential of Russia’s Northern Regions. International Journal of Econometrics and Financial Management, 3(1), 12-18.
  • Victor, Fauzer, and Kuratova Lyubov. "Evaluation of the Demographic Potential of Russia’s Northern Regions." International Journal of Econometrics and Financial Management 3, no. 1 (2015): 12-18.

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1. Introduction

The disintegration of the union state, the change of ownership forms, the changing role of the state in the development of the northern areas of the Arctic have led to a significant reduction in population and labor resources of the Russian North. Previous economic and social mechanisms of attracting population and its adaptation do not work in the new environment. At the same time, Russia's economy depends, and for the foreseeable future will depend on the economic potential of the northern regions, their contribution to the total GDP of the country. Consequently, in the northern regions of the country should be sufficient and effective demographic and labor potential, capable to provide the necessary level of economic development of the North and to satisfy the needs of the country in the hydrocarbon feedstock, gold, diamonds, and other strategic resources.

The Russian North for many years was an attractive place of residence in material terms and conditions of work for all residents of the former Soviet Union. Public appeals, organized sets, All-Union Komsomol buildings, distribution of graduates of educational institutions provided extensive development of the North and completing of the enterprises by the industrial and production personnel. The situation changed dramatically in the late 1980's - early 1990's. When almost all the northern territories began migration outflow.

According to the United Nations globally, there were 232 million international migrants in 2013. Of these, nearly 59% lived in the developed regions, while the developing regions hosted 41% of the world’s total. Of the 136 million international migrants living in the North in 2013, 82 million, or 60%, originated from a developing country, while 54 million, or 40%, were born in the North. Further, 82 million or 86% of the 96 million international migrants residing in the developing world in 2013 originated from the South, while 14 million or 14% were born in the North [2].

2. Demographic Potential

From 1990 to 2014 the population of the Russian North decreased from 9731 to 7885 thousand persons, i.e. the total loss of the northern territories amounted to 1 million and 846 thousand persons. At the same time the European part of the Russian North lost 72,5%, the Asian part – 27,5%. It should be noted a positive trend - in recent years the population of the Russian North decreases slower than the population of Russia. If during the period from 1990 to 2000, Russia has lost 775 thousand persons, over the past 14 years, from 2000 to 2014 the country has lost 3 million and 223 thousand persons. The population of the Russian North decreased by 1 million 278 thousand persons during the period from 1990 to 1999, and during the period from 2000 to 2014 only by 568 thousand persons. In other words the Russian North began to lose the population 3,1 times smaller. It happened because of a consequence of population growth in the Asian North and due to reduced rates of reduction in the European North. If the whole during the period from 1990 to 2013 the Asian North lost 507 thousand persons, and the European North - 1 million and 339 thousand persons. Over the past 14 years, the population of the Asian North increased by 87 thousand persons and the European North lost 655 thousand persons (Table 1).

In the European North the biggest losses in the population suffered Murmansk Oblast for about 420 thousand persons (of the number of its population in 1990). Then follow the Komi Republic – 377 thousand persons (30,2%), Arkhangelsk region – 384 thousand persons (24,4%), the Republic of Karelia – 158 thousand persons (19,9%).

On the Asian North 6 of 8 regions lost population, and 2 regions had an absolute growth. The leader in population decline is Chukotka Autonomous Area – 111 thousand persons (68,5% of the number of its population in 1990). A significant decline in population was in the Magadan Oblast – 240 thousand persons (61,5%); Kamchatka Krai – 157 thousand persons (32,9%); Sakhalin Oblast – 223 thousand persons (31.2%). In the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia), the loss amounted to 14% of the population in 1990 or 156 thousand persons. In the Asian North there is also located two autonomous districts in which, on the contrary, there was an increase of the population: in the Khanty-Mansiysk (Yugra) Autonomous Area – 330 thousand persons (126%) and in the Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Area – 51 thousand persons (110,4%). In the Republic of Tuva was a small decline in the population for about 1 thousand persons (0,3%).

Table 1. The population of northern regions of Russia, which territories completely refer to the Far North and districts equated to them in 1990-2014, million persons

Table 2. The number of births, the number of deaths and natural increase of the population of the northern regions, which territories completely refer to the Far North and districts equated to them in 1995-2013, persons

Thus, it is possible to emphasize that if current trends won't change through a short period of time the state and society will face a situation of acute shortage of labor, which make up will be very difficult.

3. Fertility, Mortality, Life Expectancy

Formation of the demographic potential of the northern regions is organically linked with the processes occurring in Russia as a whole. These are the cases of fertility, mortality and life expectancy dynamics. Flowing within the general trends in the European and the Asian North demographic dynamics has its own specificity and difference. The most important and the main difference is that in the whole in the Asian North the number of births consistently exceeds the number of deaths (Table 2).

In 2013 for the first time since 1992 in the European North, there is a natural increase of the population by reducing the number of deaths, as well as in Russia as a whole. Positive natural increase of the European North provided the Komi Republic (1952 persons) and Murmansk region (674 persons). Positive natural increase of the, the Asian North provided all its regions except the Sakhalin region.

It should also be noted that in the past fourteen years there has been a positive growth trend in fertility. This applies to increasing the number of births and total fertility rates. Significant role in increasing the birth rate has played a change in the system of values in the population. So the most important role in life plays a family, which was noted by more than two thirds of respondents (68%). The next place in the ranking takes a health (42%), a professional career (40%) and children (less than a third - 29%). Our monitoring of the reproductive attitudes of students revealed the following hierarchy of values in life: to have a good health – 74% of respondents; to have a material well-being – 72,3%; to have children – 59,3%; to have a good housing – 55,9%; to achieve success in their work – 47,6%; that the marriage was stable – 43,3%; to realize themselves in various spheres of life – 36,8%; to be married – 33,7%; to spend leisure time – 25% [1].

The mortality has a tendency to decrease since 2004. At the same time, it should be emphasized that years of potential life of working age due to malignant neoplasms in 2010 amounted to 43 138 years (including men - 27812 years, women - 15326 years), the European North - 19456 years (including men - 12868 years, women - 6588 years), the Asian North - 23682 years (including men - 14944 years, women - 8738 years). GRP forgone as a result of the loss of years of potential life of working age due to malignant neoplasms in 2010 in northern Russia totaled 40,771 billion rubles (0,83% of GRP), in the European North – 9,114 billion rubles (0,85% of GRP), in the Asian North – 31,657 billion rubles (0,82% of GRP) [calculated from 4].

It is known that in all the northern territories (except for the Khanty-Mansi and Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Areas), life expectancy for both of men and women, is lower than the Russian average. However reserves of growth in life expectancy in the Russian North is enormous, even when compared with the corresponding figures calculated by the other territories of Russia or by the similar climatic conditions of the regions in USA (79 years for both sexes, 2012) and Canada (81 years for both sexes, 2012). In comparison with the average Russian indicators reserves of increase in average life expectancy in northern territories make 9 years for men and 11 years for women. In comparison with the maximum level of life expectancy reached at some Russian territories, reserves of growth of the life expectancy of the population can be estimated more than in 18 years for men and more than 15 years for women in the north. For example the life expectancy for men of the Republic of Tyva makes 55,5 years, and for men of Chukotka Autonomous Area – 56,6 years (take the last and penultimate places in the Russian Federation). The worst indicators of women’ life expectancy are in Chukotka Autonomous Area – 64,9 years and in the Republics of Tyva – 66,9 years. For comparison, the average expected life expectancy of men in Australia makes 80 years and of women makes 84 years [5]. As you can see, it's a break for a whole historical epoch, indicating a fundamentally different quality of life.

4. The Impact of Migration

Along with births and deaths, migration is one of the three demographic components of population change, and it has often been described as the most difficult to measure, model and forecast. Unlike fertility and mortality, migration is not a single unique event in time and space, but can repeat itself over the lifetime of an individual. Thus, the volume and type of migration measured and analyzed depend on the definitions used to identify a migrant [3].

Migration plays the critical role in the population formation of the northern territories. Since the migration process gives relatively inexpensive labor at no additional cost to the education and training. Today, their role is also high. But if during the period of extensive development of the North and Arctic migration contributed to the growth of the population, today the situation is reversed (Table 3).

The dynamics of the population of the Russian North mainly determined by the migration population loss in the last 20 years (Table 4).

Negative migration dynamics characterized both the European and Asian North. However, Asian North, in contrast to the European, differs stable positive natural increase.

Inside the northern regions has been a different combination of natural and mechanical population growth.

In 1991-1995 overall positive growth had only the Khanty-Mansiysk Autonomous Area - 23 thousand persons and the Republic of Tuva – 0,6 thousand persons. The European North had negative natural and mechanical growth. On the Asian North natural decline was only in the Sakhalin area - 7582 person and mechanical grows was everywhere.

In 1996-2000 only Khanty-Mansiysk Autonomous Area (80,164 persons), the Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Area (11221 persons) and the Republic of Tuva (687 persons) had an overall positive growth/ The Khanty-Mansiysk Autonomous Area had positive natural and mechanical growth and the Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Area and Republic of Tyva - only natural growth.

Table 3. Increase (decrease) of the population of the northern regions, which territories completely refer to the Far North and districts equated to them in 1991-2013, persons

Table 4. Increase (decrease) of the components of population change of the northern regions, which territories completely refer to the Far North and districts equated to them in 1991-2013, persons

In 2001-2005 positive population growth in the Asian North provides the Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Area - 84,343 persons and the Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Area - 19114 persons. The first territory had a positive natural and mechanical growth, and the second - only natural.

In 2006-2010 the demographic situation in the European North remained still troubled, and all areas were natural and migratory population decline. In 2011-2013 the natural decline in the Komi Republic and Murmansk Oblast was replaced by natural growth due to the increasing number of births and the decrease in the number of deaths. Fertility growth is partly related to the fact that in the fertile age began to enter more numerous generations of women born in the 1980s, in part - with the increase of the intensity of fertility after the introduction of new measures to support families with children (priority national projects).

On the Asian North in 2006-2010 half of the area (Republic of Sakha, the Republic of Tuva, Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Area and Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Area) had a positive population growth due to natural increase, having a negative mechanical growth, except in the Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Area. The other half of the regions had negative population growth due to both migration loss, and through natural attrition, except Chukotka Autonomous Area. In 2011-2013 all the autonomous regions of the Asian North and the Republic of Tuva had positive population growth, all of the territory - the negative mechanical growth, except in Khanty-Mansiysk Autonomous Area.

Table 5. The share of age groups in the general population of the northern regions, which territories completely refer to the Far North and districts equated to them in 1998, 2002 and 2010, persons

Overall, in 1991-2013 all the territories of the European North had natural and migratory population decline. All territories of the Asian North had negative mechanical growth except Khanty-Mansiysk Autonomous Area; most territories had the natural increase except Magadan Oblast, Sakhalin Oblast and Kamchatka Krai.

The Russian North, having a negative migration balance with almost all regions of Russia, began to have a positive migration increase with countries near and far abroad (in total) since 2005. A special place in migration growth occupy the countries of Central Asia and the Caucasus. With them, the Russian North has a positive growth since 2004. The situation began to change in 2012. So if the migration gain in 2011 was 17503 persons, in 2012 already - 13077 persons. This is partly explained by the fact that as a result of economic growth in Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, in which the levels of wage payment are the highest among the countries of origin of migrants, there is a decrease of migration flows to Russia from these countries. In this growing economy of Kazakhstan has become a serious competitor to Russia for labor migrants from Central Asia (primarily immigrants from Uzbekistan). A migration increase with Uzbekistan in 2011 was 4558 persons and in 2012 - 3267 persons (Table 5).

Formation age structure of the population in the northern territories is different from other regions of the country because of the specificity of population. In the north the share of children and persons in working-age is higher and the share of persons of advanced ages is lower. However, this advantage is gradually reduced to nothing. Objective and subjective factors of life of the population of northern areas create difficulties in their adaptation, stipulate conditions for the conservation of migratory high turnover and low survival rate. High migration mobility of the population supports the existence of a young age structure. If Russia's average share of persons of retirement age in 2010 was 22,2%, according to the Census of 2010, in the Far North - only 15,9%.

In relatively populated areas of the North, where gradually formed a stable population in terms of migration, we see a tendency to approach the Russian age proportions. Thus, in the Arkhangelsk Oblast and the Republic of Karelia the proportion of the elderly population exceeds 20%. Higher proportion of older people than the average for the regions of the Far North, in such regiobs as: Magadan Oblast, Murmansk Oblast and Sakhalin Oblas, Kamchatka Krai and the Republic of Komi. The proportion of persons of retirement age varies here from 16,7 to 19,6%.

Among the youngest regions in the Asian North are Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Area (7,8%), Chukotka Autonomous Area (10.3%), Khanty-Mansiysk Autonomous Area (10,6%) and the Republic of Tuva (9,8%). In these regions the age structure of the population, until recently, the most depended on migration, which maintains a constant growth in the number and proportion of young age contingents.

In recent years, along with a negative natural growth, migration brings contribute to the decline in population. However, the structure of migration still contributes young age structure in the North. So among the arrivals from 2005 to 2012 there were the decrease of older persons and the increase of young people. The structure of migration increase (decrease) by age also shows a positive impact on the age structure of the population.

However, despite the positive migration in the northern regions there is the increasing the share of older people, and as a result, the growth of middle age. Here are some examples of the most common on the Northern territories. For the period 1979-2010 significantly increased the average age of the population: in Yakutia from 27,2 to 33,0 years, in the Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Area from 26,4 to 33,7 years and in the Komi Republic from 29,2 to 37,2 years. It should be noted that the preservation of the marked negative phenomena may create some problems for the innovative development of the economy of the North.

In the northern regions of Russia there are much higher proportion of the working population level – 64,9% versus 61,6% of Russia as a whole. The maximum proportion of the working population is in the Asian regions of the North (66,4%), where the hardest working and living conditions. Among the areas where the proportion of the labor force is above average, there are Magadan Oblast, Khanty-Mansiysk, Chukchi and the Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Areas.

Between 1989 and 2010 the children population of the northern territories decreased from 29,3 to 19,2%. According to Russia, the share of children decreased from 24,5 to 16,2%. It should also be noted that in 2010 the proportion of children in the European North was up 4,5 percentage points lower than in the Asian north.

In the Russia North from 1979 to 2010 was marked the increased proportion of men than in the country as a whole. On the Asian North was marked higher proportion of men than in the European North. This situation can be explained by the intensity of migration flows, because in the North it is higher than in Russia as a whole, and on the Asian part the population is more mobile than on the European. In 1979 9 regions had more men than women: the Republic of Komi, the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia), Kamchatka Oblast, Magadan Oblast and Sakhalin Oblast, Nenets, Khanty-Mansiysk, Chukchi and Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Areas.

In the world other situation is traced. Though in 2013, women comprised only 48% of all international migrants worldwide, in the North, women constituted 52% of all migrants, while in the South they accounted for 43% [2].

The forecast of population presented by Rosstat till 2031 (high option) shows that population on the North of Russia will be reduced from 7 million 885 thousand (by 01.01.2014) to 7 million 801 thousand people, including on the European North from 3 million 469 thousand to 2 million 855 thousand people. As for the Asian North, here the population will increase from 4 million 416 thousand to 4 million 946 thousand people.

In the Russian North in demographic development and providing branches of a national economy with a manpower there is the extremely adverse situation and if for its correction not to make every effort, first of all from the state, consequences can be the most deplorable. This applies to the population of the strategically and geopolitically important lands, filling the budget, preserve the unique northern peoples. Acute problem is the reproduction of the population, maintaining and increasing demographic potential. They are formed, strengthened and pose a threat to sustainable development of the country.

Today it isn't possible to explore the North by former methods. Demographic crisis has pushed the organization to look for other ways and, above all, through the development of human resources, their education. According to the Census of 2010 education level of the population aged 15 years and over in northern regions was slightly higher than the all-Russian level: 996 against 994 counting on 1000 people. However, if we look at the levels of training, we can see that the Russian North loses population having postgraduate, higher and incomplete higher education: 257 against 280 counting on 1000 people, also wins on secondary and primary professional education: respectively 406 and 368.

5. Conclusion

The analysis of the dynamics of population and socio-demographic characteristics allows a number of conclusions and proposals.

In modern conditions need a fundamentally new socio-economic mechanism to attract and retain the population in newly developed areas of the North and the Arctic. Need to find a point of contact for coordinating the interests of the state, corporations, society, family and individual in this matter.

To attract and retain the population and, above all, young people in the newly developed areas of the North and the Arctic is necessary to propose a set of economic incentives and social safeguards designed to make the Arctic and North Russia attractive and competitive in determining their life strategies of the country's population. As a working tool could become the «Concept of youth migration policy», «Economic mechanism lending demographic and migration measures to attract and retain the population in newly developed areas of the North and the Arctic» and several others. Currently, no such documents.

Given the fact that for over two decades, is the decrease in population due to both natural population decline of migration, it is necessary to take urgent measures to improve the situation. Change the situation with fertility is unlikely she will remain at a low level, does not even provide a simple reproduction of the population. Reduce mortality is quite real. To do this, you must concentrate on the areas of health mortality, which claim more lives and to work with the causes of disease, which lead to disability and disability. It is necessary to conduct a planned outreach for a healthy lifestyle, which actually reduce mortality, reduce disability.

To hope for positive migratory balance with regions of Russia, without having changed a state policy in relation to northern territories, not really. The countries of Central Asia and Transcaucasia also reduced intensity of migration to Russia and to the north, respectively. The program for use of a shift method can become a way out. But not as today when it is used spontaneously, at the level of large corporations; the shift method as the instrument of providing the organizations with human resources has to be regulated by the state and the regional governments.


*This article was prepared with financial support of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Ural Branch (project № 12-7-5-001-Arctic «Theoretical and methodological approaches to the assessment of demographic and migration assessment of the northern territories, taking into account the elements of ecological safety for the needs of economic development in the Arctic» (2012-2014).


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