Tricky demographic issues
Europe is steadily getting ‘older’; in around three decades, half of its residents will be aged over 50, while 10 percent will be aged 80 or over. In future, Europe will have at least 60 million pensioners: a record. Belarus is following the same trend, with fewer youngsters than we’d like.
However, demographers have reason to be cheerful, with the birth rate up against mortality for the first time in two decades. Belarus sounded the alarm regarding its low birth rate earlier than its neighbours, adopting a law ‘On Demographic Security’ in 2002. So far, a third of its objectives have been realised, thanks to support for families with children, fewer social orphans and improved public health. Last year, the situation changed significantly, with the demographic jaws unclamping: the level of infant mortality halved (in comparison to 2005) and fell by 25 percent against 1995.
In 2013, the Belarusian coefficient of infant mortality stood at 3.5 per capita: the lowest in the CIS and neighbouring states and rivalling Germany, France, Belgium and the Netherlands. Birth rates are rising, with 118,000 babies born in Belarus last year: against 108,000 in 2010 and 115,900 in 2012. For the first time since a natural population decline was registered (in 1993) a small margin has been achieved, with 7,300 fewer mortalities than births; 2002 saw the greatest figure registered, with a difference of almost 58,000.
Another positive trend is the rise in the number of families with more than one child. In 2010, 52 percent of all babies born were first children for their families (12 percent were a second or third child). In 2013, the proportion stood at 47 and 14 percent respectively. Meanwhile, average life expectancy in Belarus has risen to 72.6: 67.3 for men and 77.9 for women. Over the past 15 years, Belarusians have begun living around 3.6 years longer.
By Mikhail Svetlov