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Population Decline in Western Europe and Russia

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In both Western Europe and the Russian Federation, indigenous populations have decreased steadily. Both the Western Europe and the Russian federations have experienced steady decline of the dominant indigenous population. The Russian case is more serious than the European case, hence the need for immediate intervention. Statistically, both the Western Europe and the European Union have almost similar demographic trends. However, the regions have independent causes or factors of population decline. Change of social values has been cited as the leading cause of population decline in both regions. Compounded with an aging population, Western Europe has continued to experience the worst cases of population decline. On the other hand, Russian natives are more susceptible to destructive social behaviors than immigrants are. This essay will explore factors that have led to population decline in either of the cases and possible intervention measures.

The Russian Federation

In a speech delivered by the Russian president Vladimir Putin, population decline was identified as an acute problem. Putin termed the dramatic decline of native Russian communities as the most significant issue of the twenty first century. Indigenous population reached its peak at the height of the Soviet Union. In the 1990s, Russia had a population of 143 million people of which 75% were natives. Extrapolations of the Russian population indicate that the decline will reach 111 million by the year 2030. This shows that by the year 2030, Russia will have lost nearly 20% of its dominant indigenous population (Blum & Monnier, 2009). Population analyst points to the increased death rates and shrinking birth rate as the leading cause of this population decline.

High death rate is the leading cause of population decline. Currently, Russia has the highest death rate in the world. Analysts put the value at 15 deaths per 1000 people annually. This value is by far much higher than the average global death rate, which stands at 9 deaths per 1000 people. Most of these deaths are caused by alcohol related complications such as kidney and heart failure. Russia also has the highest number of tobacco smokers in the world. Tobacco related deaths are also common in the federation. Indeed, the native communities are more susceptible to these destructive behaviors than non-natives are.

Russian population is also characterized by low birthrates. The country has a low fertility rate hence the decline. Russia’s fertility rate stands at 1.3 births, compared to the expected 2.1 births per woman (Baiduzhy, 1994). Ideally, the alcoholism problem and economic strains have caused this decline. Russian women are unwilling to have babies. Moreover, most women chose to terminate pregnancies before they reach maturity. During the Soviet era, abortion was utilized as a birth control method. Since then, abortion has remained popular among Russians. According to a BBC report released in 2003, Russia has more abortions than births. Indeed, this behavior is common among the native population.

Immigration is the other cause of population decline. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia has thrived under political turbulence. This has been a major cause of immigration from former republics. Native communities often leave the federation in search of better opportunities. Brain drain is also rampant in the federation and a major cause of the decline. Native Russians are immigrating to the US, China and Western Europe in search of economic opportunities. This has been contributed by low wages, increased cost of living, and lack economic freedom.

Intervention Measures

President Putin has been very critical to the issue of population decline. This has pushed the government to search for suitable solutions. Although the situation cannot be overturned, the Russian government is responsibility population sustainability as well as prosperity. Indeed, the government needs to establish social support systems to check into the problems of alcoholism and tobacco smoking (Barr, & Field, 1996). This will ensure that Russians do not die from preventable diseases such as heart attack and lung cancer. In addition, the social support system will strengthen family value, which is in verge collapse. The federation also needs to look into economical problems that have led to these economic strains (Barr, & Field, 1996). Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, former republics have suffered economic drawbacks. This has promoted immigration and preference of childlessness among women.

Western European Case

Western European countries have experienced the worst forms of economic devastations since the establishment of the European Union. Population decline is the principal threat to the existence of the European Union and, the prosperity of Western Europe. In the second half of the twentieth century, Western Europe has experienced a sharp decline of its dominant native population. Establishment of export-oriented economies in wealthy western European countries has been considered as a major cause of population decline. Unlike the Russian federation, Western Europe continues to attract economic immigrants and asylum seekers from all over the world. Consequently, the population of native western European has continued to decline as the population of the immigrants continues to rise. This indicates the need for a twofold solution while dealing with the issue.

Like in the Russian case, change of social values has been a major cause of this decline. In most west European countries, value mfor families have, continued to decline. People seem to have lost value for family life, children, and marriage. Indeed, western European countries such as Germany, Spain Britain, and Portugal have the highest rates of divorce. Increased cases of abortion and use of contraceptives have also caused the population decline. Modernization has also led to population decline.

Women are major determinants of social and demographic trends within a country. A change in the role of women within the European society has reduced fertility among women. Changing lifestyle, thirst for education and employment have made women to abandoned the childbearing responsibilities. Most European women opt to further their education or pursue their careers instead of bearing children. Coupled with advanced birth control methods, European women have abandoned their role as mothers.

Besides lifestyle changes, western Europe has had a declining fertility rate. Low fertility rates have been promoted by economic as well as social factors. The post-war generation has not been cautious with social prosperity as their predecessors were. This generation has also lived through the age of academic prosperity and economic growth. These factors have caused a shift in childbearing age and fertility among women. Coupled with the question of an aging population, Western Europe continues to experience the worst forms of fertility decline. A report published by Futuribles international concluded that by the year 2025, 25% of western European would be above 65 years of age (Council of Europe, 2005). This will have significant impacts on population growth. Moreover, an aging population exerts pressure of the productive generation making them avoid family responsibilities. Indeed, most young people are overwhelmed by the need to take care of the elderly people (Gould, & Lawton, 2006). This continuously affects their desires to have children or families. Increased life expectancy has resulted from economic stability, improved healthcare and social amenities. Unlike in the US and Japan, Europe will continue to have an increasing aging population. In order to maintain their economies, most western European countries have relaxed their policies on immigration (Blum & Monnier, 2009). Relaxation of these policies has created a wave of immigrants particularly from developing countries. The immigration problem also threatens the existence of native Europeans. Ideally, immigrants, have better fertility rates than native communities. If given a chance the immigrants would soon replace the natives. Moreover, native cultures might not survive the current rate of immigration.

Intervention Measures

Affected countries have undertaken swift measures to counter these threats. Firstly, policy makers in affected countries have come up with pro-birth policies to check into the fertility question. Policies meant to promote child bearing and establishment of families have been setup to address the fertility issue. Moreover, the government has given incentives to people willing to raise children (Blum & Monnier, 2009). Fertility policies include child benefit programs and family support programs. For instance, most European countries have free or subsidized health care and education systems. Alternatively, citizens are entitled child support benefits, which include financial support/ benefits. Besides the family policies, affected governments are using media campaigns to popularize the family unit (Council of Europe, 2005). Alternatively, affected countries can relax their immigration policies to allow immigrants from developing countries. However, this option interferes with the rights of the native population.

Conclusion

Both Western Europe and the Russian federation have experienced acute decline of native population. The Russian case is more wanting, as the country continues to experience a shrinking population. Population decline has resulted from different social or organizational factors. Thus, factors leading to population decline in Western Europe are different from those in the Russian federation. In the European case, people are constantly losing value for children and family due to lifestyles changes. Coupled with economic strains, education explosion, and aging population, Western Europe is facing a population decline. On the other hand, native populations from the Russian federation have continued to perish from destructive social behaviors such as alcoholism and smoking. Indeed the behavior has lowered fertility rate among Russian women. While family polices seem to work in the European case, Russians need a more radical approach to deal with the problem.

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