03.10.22 Review

For the first time since 1975, Russia has a negative migration balance, and by the end of the year, the population will decrease by more than a million

The "partial mobilisation" announced on September 21 provoked an unprecedented mass and intensive flow of citizens from the country, which became the second wave of anti-war emigration since late February. The data on the first wave is approximate. Still, the negative balance of migration in the first half of the year reached about 100 thousand people, according to a demographic survey of the Institute of Demography of the Higher School of Economics, "Demoscope Weekly". As a result, in the first half of 2022, Russia's population decreased by almost half a million due to migration and natural decline. The total reduction will reach more than a million people at the end of the year.

According to "The Bell" calculations based on data from the border services of neighboring countries, at least 230,000 Russians left for the Baltic countries, Finland, Poland, Israel, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Mongolia after the announcement of "partial mobilization". The scale of the first wave of anti-war emigration, which peaked in March, is difficult to estimate. 

Data from the Federal State Statistics Service ("Rosstat") for the first half of 2022 shows that 419 thousand people have left Russia since the beginning of the year — twice as many as in the same period last year, when 202 thousand people left the country. At the same time, as the experts of the Institute of Demography of the Higher School of Economics, who regularly analyse "Rosstat" data, the number of migrants leaving the country in the first half of 2022 for the first time since 1975 exceeds the number of migrants who arrived here for permanent residence. The net migration outflow of the Russian population from January to June 2022 was 96.7 thousand people.

Components of population change in Russia, 1974–2021, thousand people

 In previous years, despite the pandemic and the closure of borders, the migration balance has remained positive: in 2019, the migration gain was 285 thousand people (269 thousand, excluding Crimea); in 2020, the increase dropped to 125 thousand people, and in 2021 the positive balance of migration has grown by 3.5 times, to about 430 thousand people.

Migration growth is the most important mechanism of compensating for the systematic loss of the Russian population due to natural decrease, that is, excess mortality over birth rate. However, this year the negative migration balance, on the contrary, exacerbated losses due to natural decline, making up more than 20% of the total population decrease number.

After moderate growth in 2010-2017, the downward trend in the Russian population resumed for the sixth year in a row (the migration inflow does not cover the natural decline). Compared to 2018, by the beginning of 2022, Russia's population had decreased by more than 1 million 300 thousand people to 145.6 million. In January-June 2022, the Russian population fell by almost 481 thousand people, one and a half times ( 56%) more than the decline in the first half of 2021.

The tendency towards natural decrease is typical for most Russian regions (75 out of 85), and only in nine is it compensated by migration growth; in January-June 2022, an increase in the natural growth rate is observed only in Chechnya (by 0.7 p.p.). In other regions, usually known for population growth, such as the republics of Ingushetia, Buryatia, Dagestan, Altai, etc., the intensity of natural growth has decreased over these six months. Migration outflow of the population also turned out to be a feature of most regions: from January to June 2022, migration outflow was observed in 73 regions, compared to 47 subjects of the Russian Federation in the same period of 2021.

Given the current wave of outflow and natural decrease in the year's second half, the total population reduction will likely be more than a million people by the end of the year. In this case, unlike in previous years, when pensioners were accounted for the loss and migration growth was provided by the working generations, this time, the population will be largely reduced by people with high social capital and above-average income.