Author: ArishaUl
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The birth rate of Murmansk Oblast may decrease by 43.8 percent in the next fifteen years, the Russian Federal State Statistics Service predicts. According to the population projection published by Murmanskstat, the number of newborns in the region will gradually decrease from almost nine thousand in 2016 to five thousand by 2031.

In 2014, more than nine thousand babies were born in Murmansk Oblast. Comparatively, in 1990, the region registered over thirteen thousand newborns, shows data from Patchwork Barents.

The decline predicted by Murmanskstat may not only affect newborns, but the whole population of the region.

As preliminary figures show, in 2016, the population of Murmansk Oblast will total 757,419 (among these, 362,879 males and 394,540 females). From 2017, the number of people will start to decrease, and by 2031, it will reach 638,764 (309,954 males and 328,810 females). The overall decline is thereby expected to be 15.7 percent.

At the same time, various population groups will most likely be affected by the decline. While the number of people below the working age is expected to grow between 2016 and 2019 – from 137,555 to 139,899 – it will then begin to decrease dramatically, and reach 116,251 by 2031 (-17 percent).

For people above the working age, the prediction is similar. According to Murmanskstat, their number might grow by 2.8 percent (from 160,974 to 165,703 people) in the period between 2016 and 2020. However, this population group will later face a drop to 151,802 people by 2031.

It is also worth noting that the number of elderly women is likely to exceed the number of elderly men almost three times in the nearest future. For example, in 2016, there will be 41,093 men and 119,881 women above working age in Murmansk Oblast.

Also the working age population will face a gradual decline in the nearest fifteen years, statistics show. If in 2016 Murmansk Oblast is expected to have 458,890 employable people, by 2031, their number might decline to 370,711 (19.2 percent).

A significant drop will primarily hit the urban population, which makes nearly 92 percent of the total population in Murmansk Oblast. In the period between 2016 and 2031, the number of people in towns and cities will decrease from 700,646 to 585,081. In contrast, the rural population will only decrease by three thousand (respectively, from 56,773 in 2016 to 53,683 in 2031).

The most dramatic population drop in the Barents Region
The four Barents countries have experienced different population developments in the last twenty years. For example, in the period between 1990 and 2015, all three counties in Barents Norway registered a population growth – the most significant one in Troms (11.5 percent). In general, the number of people living in Barents Norway has increased by 4.45 percent over the last twenty-five years, which is the highest growth registered in the Barents Region, shows statistics of Patchwork Barents.

The overall population of Barents Finland has increased by 3.5 percent over the past two and a half decades (from 643,932 in 1990 to 666,202 in 2015). However, this figure is mainly explained by a growth in Northern Ostrobothnia (17.5 percent). Lapland, in contrast, faced a ten-percent drop, while the population of Kainuu has decreased by nearly twenty percent.

Barents Sweden experienced a relatively small population change in the same period, a decrease of 0.65 percent. In particular, the population of Norrbotten fell by five percent, while the population of Västerbotten increased by four percent.

The most dramatic population drop in the Barents Region was registered in Russia, where the number of inhabitants has fallen by roughly thirty percent in the last twenty-five years. Only in Murmansk Oblast, the population decreased by thirty-six percent between 1990 and 2015. Other regions in Northwestern Russia also experienced considerable decreases, shows data from Patchwork Barents.

Summing up, the Barents Region is currently facing a demographic challenge. The Russian Barents, which makes seventy percent of the entire population in the Barents Region, is under a serious demographic decline. A shrinking population, accompanied by a declining birth rate and a regional brain drain, could potentially result in considerable implications for future development of the Barents Region.