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Demographic SOS: how will we save?

To reduce the outflow of the population in the national program of development of the Far East proposed new measures. But will they work?

Demographic SOS: how will we save?
Photo: Population votes with their feet. Photo
Another reason to talk about the outflow of the population from the Far East appeared just recently. In March, a seminar of the FANU “Vostokgosplan” was held in Khabarovsk, at which proposals were made to the National Program for the Development of the Far East concerning changes in the demographic situation. The tasks were formulated as follows:
- Stop the outflow of the resident population from the Far East, reducing the migratory mood of the Far East, especially among young people.
- To ensure maximum preservation of the population due to a radical reduction in mortality from preventable causes, especially in childhood and working age.
- Stimulate the influx of population from the European part of the country to temporary and / or permanent residence, with a focus mainly on the young population and those with a high level of education and skills.

To solve these problems, the following measures were proposed:
- Introduction of “Far East status” - a system of benefits for people living in the Far East (earlier retirement, tax deduction, mortgage subsidies, extended medical insurance, ticket subsidies, etc.). Benefits are proposed to be charged depending on the time of residence in the Far East, the amount of taxes paid, the number of children and other factors.
- It is planned to keep young people by means of measures "stimulating vocational education, employment and housing in the Far East." Does this mean that young people need to be stimulated to study, find a job and buy apartments in the region, or someone else is not explained.
- Each subject of the FEFD should analyze the reasons for the migration outflow of the population and the decrease in its number, and then develop a “program of people-saving”.
- It is proposed to form in the region a system for monitoring and analyzing the demographic processes of the Far East, as well as the authorized structures responsible for demography.
- To develop and introduce in Far Eastern districts, secondary schools, schools and kindergartens of the Far Eastern Federal District a “Far Eastern component” of educational content with a regional component.
- To build in schools a career guidance system focused on the “priority development of the Far East”.
- Encourage Far Eastern youth to receive vocational education in universities in the Far East.
- Support the construction and operation of rental housing (apartment buildings) to provide young people with housing in the Far East.

A set of ideas turned out quite solid, many initiatives in this form sound for the first time. Nevertheless, in order to give them an assessment, two factors must be taken into account: first, the demography in the Far East is not a new problem, the authorities have been quite systematically involved for many years. Secondly, in spite of the fact that the problem is known and dealt with, the outflow continues. And this means that at some stage there is a failure, and the initiatives being implemented do not give proper results.

So, the authorities have been paying attention to the issues of improving the DFO demography for many years. The corresponding section is in the program of development of the Far East and Transbaikalia up to 2025. At VEF 2015, President of Russia V.V. Putin said that the population of the region must be brought to 8,5 million people. At the same time, a special Agency for the Development of Human Capital was created. In 2016, VCIOM published the results of a study of the demography of the Far East, which set the benchmark: by 2030, reach an indicator of 8 million people. To this end, it was recommended to use the “Far Eastern hectare” program, to develop low-rise suburban construction, to increase the accessibility of medical services and the quality of general education to the average Russian indicators, and to develop a program “to encourage youth’s return intentions”.

In 2017, the year D.A. Medvedev approved the Concept of the demographic policy of the Far East for the period up to 2025 of the year, which indicates more restrained guidelines - 6,5 million people. The Concept proposed the same measures: reduce mortality, increase fertility, reduce outflow, increase inflow, and retain young people. To increase the birth rate, it was recommended to support families with children, index regional benefits, strengthen the role of maternity capital, increase housing affordability for young and large families, and also provide benefits to the latter (travel to a place of rest, tax deductions and others); stimulate individual housing construction on a “hectare”, involve large families in entrepreneurial and farming activities, strengthen the spiritual and moral foundations of the family, discourage abortion, and promote the values ​​of a large family. To reduce mortality, it is necessary to strengthen the health care system, including the maternal and child welfare system, and to promote a healthy lifestyle. Reducing the outflow involves finding out its causes, as well as the development of transport, communications and the education system. Attracting migrants, according to the Concept, will be possible if you provide education and jobs for visitors, give self-realization opportunities to visitors from other regions - students of local universities, adapt foreign migrants to local society and culture. Young people are supposed to be attracted by housing and affordable social services, and to conduct periodic opinion polls in order to understand how these people can be attracted to the region.

At the first stage of the implementation of the Concept, it was planned to organize councils on demographic and family policy in government bodies, to develop and implement pilot programs of advanced demographic development in several regions of the Far East, as well as projects for the protection of the reproductive health of the population. Also planned were the preparation and approval of regional plans for demographic development, monitoring and analysis of demographic processes in the subjects, and a number of other steps. 

At the same time, despite the powerful set of declaratively proposed tools, no reference to the implementation of this Concept in the subjects of the FEFD in one or another part could be found. 

From the editors of EastRussia: In 2018, there was a "reset" of the Ministry for the Development of the Russian Far East and the Agency for the Development of Human Capital, and apparently they forgot about the document. And at the end of last year, two subjects of the Federation were added to the Far Eastern Federal District - the Trans-Baikal Territory and Buryatia. Due to the annexation of the two regions, all statistical calculations for the federal district have changed - and the notorious Concept has generally lost its relevance.

As you can see, an attempt to solve the problem of depopulation has already been made. In the meantime, the region continues to lose population, both for natural reasons (excess of death rate over birth rate), and migratory (leaves more than arrives).

A brief comment on the well-known Far Eastern expert in the field of demography - Ph.D., a leading researcher at the Pacific Institute of Geography of the Far Eastern Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences Yu.A. Avdeeva:
"In our recent work, prepared jointly with Nikolai Matvienko, we built a forecast of the demographic potential of Primorsky Krai before 2025 and beyond. It noted that the demographic structure of the region differs from the ideal model - by which we understand the abstract model of population distribution by age and sex groups, which hypothetically could exist in a stable economic and socio-political situation in the region, for an infinitely large number of generations (there are for example, in India.) With such a pyramid, the authorities require minimal managerial efforts to ensure stable socio-economic development of the territory, it becomes attractive for investors. The ideal model on the chart (Fig. 1) looks like a pyramid, whereas in Primorye it is " spruce "with a leg - which means a relatively low number of children up to 14 years. According to our calculations, in the absence of external influences, the coastal demographic structure will approach the ideal one by about 2075. But if the current population outflow rates are maintained and the gender and age structure changes in the region, the situation will drastically change for the worse after 25 years - instead of 6, not 4 million people will remain, but 2 million in total. be an absolute priority for the actions of the authorities.

Fig. 1. Age and Sex Composition of the Population of India (2000)

Fig. 2. Age and sex composition of the population of Primorsky Krai as of January 1, 2012 Source: Avdeev Yu.A., Matvienko N.N. Modeling of demographic processes in Primorsky Krai for the period 2017-2025. - Applied demographic research. - M .: MSU. M. V. Lomonosov, 2018.
But there is another important question that needs to be answered, speaking of the changing demographic situation: what is the state going to do with the Far East? Judging by the resource orientation of the local economy, even those who live here are superfluous people, 6 million people are not needed to service the ESPO. Investors do not go here because they do not understand what we ourselves want to do here. Obviously, if you do not change the economic specialization, you are not luring people here. "

In other words, the problem of reducing the population in the region has two dimensions: the actual demographic and economic. Which of the two factors — population size or economic growth — is primary?

It may seem that the increase in population itself guarantees an increase in economic activity in the territory, as it was during the Stolypin reforms: the peasants who came from behind the Urals plowed up the land and began to produce grain, thus creating the basis of the local economy. But in the modern industrial (or post-industrial) situation, the situation is the opposite: the need to expand on the territory of any economic activity leads to an influx of labor resources. Such activity, as a rule, becomes a consequence of the inclusion of resources of the territory (land, minerals, etc.) into production cycles, which are operated by business entities (companies, corporations and government agencies - for example, the Ministry of Defense). The objectives of the subjects can be either economic (related to making a profit) or non-economic (establishing sovereignty over the territory).

It can be assumed that the migration from the region occurs, first of all, for economic reasons - due to the lack of jobs with conditions and income that would satisfy the needs of existing workers. In economic goal setting this is a natural process, which can only be reversed by creating such jobs on the territory. Existing plans for the development of the economy of the Far East are based mainly on the implementation of large investment projects, for the operators of which the main task is not to create high-yielding jobs, but to pay back investments. Therefore, in projects there is a regular replacement of more expensive local workers with cheaper migrant workers. The economic development of the territory thus occurs, but without the involvement of local labor resources, which in this model are unnecessary. Thus, in the used economic model, an increase in the number of the resident population is not a necessary condition for the economic growth of the region, and the population in the territory ends up as much as the local labor market requires.

In another, non-economic framework (which can be called political), the main stakeholder of the situation is no longer investors, but a state interested not in making a profit from a given territory, but in keeping it (developing, developing), for which it needs the local population . In this model, the state, as the main customer, must determine how much and what kind of population it needs in a given territory: whether it should be only young and active people, as is the case with the military, or is it ready to maintain retirees, children and other categories of citizens, for the provision of which proportionally requires significantly more funds than in other parts of the country. In the latter case, apply the experience of Alaska and other undeveloped territories, the population of which the authorities pay territorial rent and provide tax preferences just for the fact of living in the area.

The situation of the Far East is that a purely economic model of its development as a whole is impossible due to the presence of a number of unfavorable factors that impede profit from projects (poor logistics, insufficient infrastructure, remoteness, etc.). The population in this list is not the main factor. The political model is not feasible in the current conditions due to the lack of a stated goal for this approach and the high cost of this model for the budget.

The way out is seen in the division of the territory of the FEFD into different zones, in which either an economic or political model of development or some kind of mixed options is applicable. In fact, this separation occurs naturally: for example, the southern Primorye, in which trade, transport and logistics develop, is currently the recipient of a large number of migrants. The population is growing in southern Yakutia, despite the climate and distance. These and other territories of the FEFD can be assigned to the zones of application of the “economic model”. The entire Far East North, Kamchatka, the Magadan Region, the northern part of the Khabarovsk Territory and the Kuril Islands can be attributed to the zones of the “political model” of development on the move. For different zones, different packages of support measures, benefits and preferences will be relevant. Other models - including shift - require special discussion.

Now back to the actual demographics. As Mr. Avdeev, quoted above, rightly noted, the decline in the population for the Far East in the medium term is one of the significant risks. Judging by the lack of visible results of the implementation of the demographic concept of 2017 of the year, the measures laid down in it are either not taken or are insufficient (and it is possible that both are combined). If we take a step back and turn to the grounds for building demographic plans, we immediately see two important aspects that need clarification. The first concerns the preservation of the local population: why do people leave the Far East, and under what conditions would they stay here? Serious sociological studies on this topic have not been conducted for a long time, and today a number of fundamental questions cannot be answered unambiguously. For example, it is not known what is the main condition for young people to make a decision to stay in the region: the presence of highly profitable jobs, affordable housing, a comfortable environment, all of this at once, or some other factors.

The second aspect: under what conditions would residents of other regions want to move to the Far East? The conclusions of the 5-old prescription of the VTsIOM survey on the 20% of the country's population that are ready to move beyond the Urals, provided they receive a hectare of land in the region, cannot be taken seriously. More modern data about it is not. I believe that it would be advisable to conduct a sociological study on these two aspects. In 2013, my colleagues and I carried out something similar under the presidential grants program, and the cost of such a project with a scale of several thousand respondents and coverage of several subjects of the Russian Federation, with proper organization of work, turns out to be low.

Through the prism of what has been said, let us return to the consideration of the experts' proposals. The idea of ​​introducing the “status of the Far East” in the form in which it was formulated could lead to a stratification of the population into privileged and rights-restricted categories, about which many observers have already written. In addition, this status will appeal to older age groups more, but it is unlikely that it will be a reason to stay for the most active and demanded (as officials say) category of the population, ranging in age from 20 to 40 years.

The idea of ​​creating a “department on demography” and a monitoring service so far looks like an attempt to solve a complex problem in a purely administrative way. It is unlikely that anyone will object to the proposal to strengthen the health care system and the development of low-rise construction in the region (as in Russia as a whole), and the concrete ways to implement them are not clear. The same goes for rental housing, which must be built and used both in the region and throughout the country, not only for young people, but also as a factor in increasing the mobility of labor resources. In the Far East, this practice exists only on Sakhalin. It would be advisable to develop a regional program to support such projects in the subjects of the FEFD.

Career guidance in schools is always useful, but the introduction of the “Far Eastern component in education” does not look very effective: if young people have nowhere to earn a living, they will leave, despite any propaganda of local identity, and tell their peers about the beauty of the Ussuri taiga somewhere anything in boston.

It is necessary to improve the quality of the living environment (primarily in the cities of the region), but municipalities, as a rule, do not have the means to do so. There is a joke that the mayor of the city can receive funds from the federal budget for the city infrastructure only for the conduct of some major international event. An alternative is to change the existing pattern of distribution of tax payments in favor of municipalities (which seems unlikely), and increasing the attractiveness of the Far Eastern regions for tax residents who are leaving the region today. But this, as they say, is another story.
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