Russia to lose 20 million people by 2050: study

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Russia's ageing population could plummet by more than 20 million in the next 40 years, the Standard & Poor's ratings agency predicted in a survey of global demographic trends Friday.

The population is projected to fall to 116 million by 2050, from 140 million in 2010, due to a low birth rate, the agency said, warning that an increasing proportion of older people would put huge pressure on government spending.

"S&P promises Russia a poverty-stricken old age," news website headlined a story on the report.

President Dmitry Medvedev in December called Russia's falling population a "serious threat." He has tried to tempt Russians to give birth with cash payments to mothers and tax allowances for large families.

In its report, S&P predicted that the working-age population, calculated as those under 65, would fall to 60 percent of the total by 2050, down from last year's 72 percent.

By the end of the period studied, the government will have to spend 25.5 percent of Gross Domestic Product on age-related expenses unless it carries out reforms, it said, with debt levels possibly rising to 585 percent of GDP.

"Further reforms are needed to put Russian public finances on a more sustainable path," the report said.

The country's population fell 6.4 million between 1991 and 2009. The federal statistics agency has predicted that the population could fall to less than 127 million by 2031, in a worst-case scenario.

At the moment, Russia has a low retirement age of 60 for men and 55 for women, but many continue to work because of the small size of state pensions, which the S&P report said average around $100 per month.

Russian men have a life expectancy of just 63, with women on 75.

© 2011 AFP

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