2013/12/13 - Gaidar Readings: Political Demography and Social Macro-Dynamics

13 December was the first day of the International Conference on Political Demography and Social Macro-Dynamics, held at the Gaidar Instutute in the framework of the Gaidar Readings.

The participants were welcomed by Jack A. Goldstone, Director of the International Research Laboratory on Political Demography and Social Macro-Dynamics (PDSM) at the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration (RANEPA).

Daria Khaltourina and Yevgeny Yuriev from the Institute for Scientific Public Expertise presented their report "Will It Be Too Late Ten Years fr om Now?' on the political demography challenges and scenarios in the Russian Federation, prepared in collaboration with specialists from the Institute for Scientific Public Expertise, the International Research Laboratory on Political Demography and Social Macro-Dynamics of the RANEPA, and the Family Policy and Childhood Task Force set up by the Expert Council under the RF Government.

The report dealt with the issues typical of the current demographic situation in Russia: the inadequately low birth rate which, in spite of its positive trend, may push the country into a demographic pit; the persistently high (according to world standards) mortality rate; the migration inflow that is higher than the emigration outflow, etc.

The experts from the Open Government's Task Force on Family and Childhood prepared estimations for the basic scenarios of Russia's demographic development, including the inertia scenario and optimistic scenario, as well as the scenario based on the Demographic Policy Concept. Their calculations demonstrate that under the inertia scenario, if no new measures designed to boost the birth rate and prevent mortality are undertaken, Russia's population over the next few decades will shrink radically – from 143m in 2010 to 140m by 2020, and 113m by 2050.

Russia, in view of the limited time span available to her (the looming demographic pit), must be provided with a 'focused' demographic policy, its priority goals for the next two decades being replacement level fertility (approximately 2.1 children per woman) and mortality decline, especially elimination of the currently super-high rate of preventable deaths among men belonging to able-bodies age groups. Russia must undertake effective measures aimed at supporting families with children (increased social benefits, easy access to child care services, provision of housing, opportunities for mothers to work under flexible schedules), bringing down the mortality rate (modernization of the medical care system, anti-alcohol and anti-tobacco policies, etc.), and optimizing migration growth.

Michael S. Teitelbaum from Harvard Law School and Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, USA, delivered the keynote lecture 'Demography as if Politics Matters, and Politics as if Demography Matters', which addressed the politically significant demographic challenges that modern states are currently faced with. These are, first of all, the low birth rates resulting in nations' ageing (a problem typical for the European countries and the USA). Secondly, high birth rates in other parts of the world breed aggression among the proportionally increasing younger age groups in society (these problems are particularly typical of Africa and the Middle East) and boost crime growth. Thirdly, there is the issue of international migration that gives rise to conflicts between migrants and the native population. Professor Teitelbaum gave as examples some recently coined neologisms in the vocabularies of Europeans, like Eurabia or Islamophobia, noting that the increasingly widespread use of these highly emotive neologisms is a sign of the locals' negative attitude towards immigrants.
All these demographic challenges urge national governments and the world community alike to seek appropriate political mechanisms capable of controlling such issues because, if we look at each individual country taken separately, the existence of demographic challenges becomes a factor that can determine the distribution of economic resources and power; if we take the international level, demographic policy failures occurring in each individual country can indeed alter the world order.

Hannes Weberfrom the University of Stuttgart, Germany in his lecture 'Age Structure, Political Violence and Liberal Democracy: A Causal Analysis'  presented the results of an analysis of the cause and effect relationships existing between society's age structure, lack of political stability, and democracy. His conclusion is that a high birth rate, later on, results in an extreme growth of the share of younger population aged between 15 and 29 years. That factor significantly influences the type of society's response to existing political and economic disproportions. Thus, in particular, social protest is expressed more aggressively and at a higher emotional note, thus prompting the authorities to resort to tougher control measures. So, the levels of political freedoms in countries with high birth rates are much lower than in those struggling with the opposite problem of low fertility. This is why social protests in the developed European countries (wh ere political stability is also a prominent factor) are relatively peaceful.

Brian Grim(PEW Research Center, USA) spoke of the sociological and demographic trends in global religious outlooks; Richard Cincotta (Stimson Center, USA) outlined the population change among religious groups and the future of democracy in Israel.

The theme of the second plenary session was the past and the future of political demography in Russia. The demographic demise of the Soviet Union was the topic addressed by Monica Duffy Toftfrom Oxford University (UK). Julia Zinkina (RANEPA) spoke of the causes of Russia’s recent fertility increase and the existing possibilities for sustaining that phenomenon. Georgi Derluguian, Professor at New York University Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) and the RANEPA, focused his presentation on history and demography in the Caucasus as a political minefield, illustrated by the 'case' of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. Jennifer Dabs Sciubba(Rhodes College, USA) discussed the dependence of Russia's population decline on international politics. Deputy Director of the Institute of Demography at the National Research University – Higher School of Economics, Sergei V. Zakharov described the challenges facing political demography in Russia. 


Personal presentations:


  • Daria Khaltourina >>>
  • Yevgeny Yuriev >>>
  • Michael Teitelbaum >>>
  • Hannes Weber >>>
  • Brian Grim >>>
  • Richard Cincotta >>>
  • Monica Duffy Toft >>> 
  • Julia Zinkina >>>
  • Sergei V. Zakharov >>>


Watch videos:

Plenary Session 1 >>>
Plenary Session 2 >>>