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Reaction per hectare and not only

Sergei Rybalchenko: measures to develop the Far East are beginning to influence the demographic processes in the region

The 18 of October in Khabarovsk will host the second All-Russian Conference “The demographic development of the Far East”. On the eve of the event, one of the developers of the Concept for the demographic development of the Far East before 2030, the well-known Russian expert on demography, Director General of the Autonomous non-profit organization “Institute for Scientific and Public Examination” Sergey Rybalchenko answered questions from EastRussia.

Reaction per hectare and not only
Photo: Yury Stroykin,

- Sergey Igorevich, the demographic situation in the Far East since the beginning of the year demonstrates quite good dynamics. The natural increase is strengthened, the outflow of the population has significantly decreased. In your opinion, what played a key role in this issue?

- Demography is, in many respects, nothing more than managing the expectations of the population. From in what direction they will change, in many respects depends, this or that its processes will improve, or not. As for the current expectations of the Far East, then, in my opinion, residents of the Far East positively perceive measures taken at the state level. The priority of the development of the Far East, designated by the President, is reflected in more or less clear mechanisms - these are TOSEDs, free ports, and, of course, the program of free provision of land plots, the so-called “Far Eastern hectare”. All these measures are still only at the initial stage, but in practice it happens that even the information component causes a positive reaction from people. Often, the first demographic results appear before the actual effect of any support measures. A vivid example of this is the birth rate growth that took place in our country immediately after the announcement of the “maternity capital” program in 2007. A jump in the birth rate was also observed after the announcement of support measures for the third child in 2012. Although in the first and in the second case, the parent capital came into the family much later.

However, the real reasons for today's demographic trends for the Far East can be judged after research. Unfortunately, there are no detailed studies based on opinion polls and calculations yet. But, they will definitely appear in the near future. Then we can speak thoroughly.

- If we talk about state policy in relation to the Far East, what are the measures that are being taken in the Far East on behalf of the Government that are so attractive to people today?

"For investors, entrepreneurs and the general population, whether it is the Far Eastern hectare, the TOSER system and the Free Ports, the support of investment projects is all a sign of interest from the state to them, to the territory where they live or are going to live. This is especially important now, in a crisis. Do not forget that the aspect of demographic development is present in the rationale for each of these measures. The authorities at the same time do not forget to designate that everything is done to ensure that there are more residents in the Far East and that they live better. Although there are many skeptics regarding innovations. They can be understood, because the problems that have accumulated can not be solved by several projects. But in principle, all Russians attach great importance to such attention. Do they react badly to the attention of the center in other regions? 

Opinion polls show that many people want to leave the Far East because, in their opinion, the Government does not pay enough attention to them - the one they actually deserve.

The topic of demography is relevant in general for the Far Eastern direction. At the Eastern Economic Forum held in September, the aging of the population and the small number of young people as the main problem in the development of the country were designated by Prime Minister Abe of Japan. China will also face accelerated aging of the population in the coming years, and the policy of "one family - one child" is already changing. The same problems in South Korea.

- A year ago in Khabarovsk at a conference on the demographic development of the Far East, there were very contradictory, often skeptical opinions of experts. Do you think there will be another degree of discussion this year?

- I am sure that within the framework of the upcoming conference, experts will also express different opinions on the draft Concept and measures of demographic development. But I want to emphasize that the draft Concept is based not only on the calculations and recommendations of leading experts, departments, regions, but also on the recommendations of the resolution of the first conference. Most importantly, most experts consider it important and necessary to adopt this document and introduce additional measures of demographic policy in the Far East. Many promising proposals were received during the development of the draft Concept, including at a meeting of the Interdepartmental Working Group of the Ministry for the Development of the Russian Far East. Proposals are also contained in the conclusion of the Expert Council under the Government of Russia. I hope that all constructive suggestions will be taken into account.

- How is the Russian Far East perceived today by our compatriots?

- According to the research carried out by the All-Russian Public Opinion Research Center (VTsIOM), the views in Russia about the Far East today are completely different. The Far East is perceived in different ways directly by the Far Easterners and residents of other Russian territories. So, people living outside the Far East regard it as a region with high wages, high quality of life and many other positive characteristics. What can not be said about the perception of the Far East by its local residents. Their perception is influenced by known facts - the logistical and information remoteness of regions from the European part of Russia, limited by the estimation of the inhabitants of the possibility of employment, health, education.

"Who is right?"

- Everyone decides for himself, but the assessments of the region by external audiences are encouraging. Here it is important to create the same preferences for migrants as for investors, to form realistic, but promising expectations of potential migrants. And for the indigenous population - to improve the level and quality of life, including jobs and employment.

- If we talk about potential migrants to the Far East - what phenomenon in the region can cause them the desire to move here?

- Improving the quality of life. This is what can cause a corresponding reaction among migrants. It should be noted that, in turn, improving the quality of life mainly stops people from wanting to leave the Far East. But it is precisely a real improvement in the quality of life, and not demonstrated in words. Today, during the crisis in Russia in general and in the Far East in particular, the quality of life is falling. Therefore, the measures taken by the state for the development of the macroregion and their tangible results are very significant.

- Can you somehow announce the main content of the prepared Concept of demographic development for the period up to 2030-th year? What practical steps will be taken to implement it?

- At present, this concept has practically passed the stage of coordination with the federal authorities. It is based on the model of the advanced demographic development of the Far East. In other words, the targets for the total fertility rate, and after 2025 - and life expectancy, should be higher than the average for Russia. But the main thing is to change the vector of migration from outflow to inflow. First of all, to the border regions. Link migration with new economic projects. For this, additional measures must be taken at the federal level. They are now being developed in accordance with the instructions of the President of Russia V. Putin.

I will note that, in my opinion, it must necessarily be reflected in additional measures. The first is to introduce the necessary changes to increase life expectancy and reduce mortality, as well as to improve health protection. Moreover, with regard to reducing mortality, the priority here is to reduce the mortality of the male population from external causes at working age. It's about reducing homicides, suicides, accidents, injuries and drowning. The second direction - measures to improve the standard of living and incomes of the population of the Far East, support working parents, housing programs. Such measures are simultaneously associated with family support and fertility, and with the consolidation of the population.

I would like to note: according to the research, at the present time in the Far East there really is a potential for outstripping growth.

- And in support of migration? Will there be any innovations announced?

- Today, the Program for Increasing Labor Mobility (the Ministry of Labor of Russia) and the Program for Resettlement of Compatriots Living Abroad are being implemented. But the Program data in the case of the Far East can not be called effective. It is quite natural - the Far East is distinguished by a rather expensive life, and it is much less attractive for potential migrants than the same Moscow, and in general Central Russia. To attract people to the Far East, it is necessary to develop much more significant support measures than those envisaged for other Russian territories. In particular, assistance in moving to a much larger volume than in other macroregions.

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