Igor Efremov, a researcher at the International Research Department of Political Demography and Macrodynamics of the Gaidar Institute, gave an interview to RBC on the reasons for the current decline in the birth rate, and on the demographic prospects to be expected by Russia against the backdrop of the sanctions-triggered crisis.
In H1 2022, the birth rate in Russia fell by 6.3%, according to Rosstat’s reports. Previously, the rate of decline in the absolute number of births had been slowing down since 2019, when in H1, the reduction amounted to 8.1%; in H1 2020, the number of newborns plunged by 5.4%; and in January-June 2021, by 0.4%. The number of people born in Russia has been decreasing since 2014, as follows from Rosstat data. At the year-end 2021, it amounted to slightly less than 1.4 million, which is 2.7% less than in 2020. In 2020, the number of newborns decreased by 3%.
Experts believe that the deepening decline in the birth rate in H1 2022 could be influenced by the uncertain situation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021. However, the government is implementing a proactive policy of stimulating fertility, including, for example, monthly payments for women who register in the early stages of their pregnancy, payments for the first and second child for families with an income below a certain level, and so on. The largest of the stimulus measures is the maternity capital program, which has been in effect since 2007. Initially, it applied to families with a second child and subsequent children, but in 2020 it was extended to include families with first-born children.
Igor Efremov pointed out, as the essential shortcoming of the government fertility support measures, their temporary nature. As a result, the people, once they realize that the stimulus program will soon end, or hear the discussions, say, about the feasibility of maternity capital, change their “parenting schedules”.
“For example, a family have planned to have a second child in three years, but then, expecting the program to disappear, they can have that child within a year. This is why the birth rate jumps and falls all the time,” the expert notes.

Moreover, Igor Efremov gives a rather gloomy forecast of the demographic situation in the near future. In his opinion, about 1.3 million children will be born in 2022, which is approximately 8% less than in the previous year, but this drop will by no means be catastrophic or record-breaking (for example, in 2017, the number of births fell by 10.5%). He believes that the decrease in the number of births due to the sanctions-triggered crisis will happen a little later, in early 2023.
“The sanctions triggered an income decline and a shrinkage of employment. At the same time, there is a correlation between the personal income dynamics and the birth rate, with a 9-month lag. As a result, the situation in 2023 will be much worse than in 2022,” the expert said.
Igor Efremov is confident that in order to support the birth rate, the government should focus on measures designed to boost personal income by better pay and social benefits. The positive upshot of such measures was observed in 2009, when there was a severe crisis and economic downturn, but due to the increased social security payments, the government was able to prevent a shrinkage in incomes (the year-end index of real disposable income showed an increase by 3%), and, as a result, a shrinkage in the birth rate (the number of births also increased by 3%).