Denis Pinchuk and Maria Kiselyova –
A dearth of young people joining Russia’s workforce because of a low birth rate will shave several per cent off potential economic growth in the next five to six years, Economy Minister Maxim Oreshkin said.
In an interview at the Russian Investment summit, he said the labour shortage made it hard for technology companies, among others, to recruit staff they need — hurting a sector the government has identified as vital to reviving economic growth.
Russia’s birth rate hit a low in 1999 after living standards fell following the Soviet Union’s collapse. The impact is being felt now as people born at that time reach school-leaving age.
“In countries with a normal demographic pyramid, a new generation comes in with modern skills and takes up jobs in a modern economy and modern industries, and with their arrival the labour market changes in favour of new sectors,” he said.
In Russia’s case, Oreshkin said, this was not happening.
“This is a very serious thing. The process is going to continue for five to six years,” he said. Asked if he could measure the downward effect on growth in Russia’s gross domestic product, one of the main gauges of economic health, Oreshkin said: “Compared to the 2000s, it will be several per cent.”
He said that forecasts showed the situation would improve from around 2022.
Until then, he said, Russia’s only solution was to retrain people now in their 30s, 40s and 50s in the new skills required for a modern economy.
“To a large extent economic growth depends on how things proceed with the processes of changing people in these middle generations,” Oreshkin said.
He did not spell out any other solutions to the problem.
The Russian economy grew annually by nearly 7 per cent on average between 2000 and 2008 before the global financial crisis caused a slowdown.
A slump in global oil prices and Western sanctions imposed over Russia’s role in the Ukraine crisis in 2014 contributed to a new contraction before the economy returned to growth in 2016.
The official forecast for GDP growth this year is 2.2 per cent.
The finance ministry predicts a 4 per cent decline in the working population by 2035.
Others forecast even tougher times ahead.
The Institute for Social Analysis and Forecasting at the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration (RANEPA) sees the work force shrinking by about 0.8-0.9 million people a year until 2025.— Reuters