Commentary on Statistics

Viktor Perevedentsev, We Are Growing From Year To Year. October 3, 1979


Original Source: Literaturnaia gazeta, 3 October 1979, p. 12.

The USSR Central Statistical Administration’s report “On the Preliminary Results of the 1979 All-Union Population Census” contains important information on the growth and distribution of the country’s population, urbanization, the population of all large cities and the population’s composition by sex, These results enable us to make judgments about the most important tendencies in the growth and development of our population and about certain national, economic and social achievements and problems.

Increase. -During the nine years between the 1970 and 1979 censuses, the Soviet Union’s population grew by 20.7 million persons, reaching a total of 262.4 million.

The absolute increase, as we see, was quite substantial …

However, there is another aspect as well. What are the tendencies in this population increase? Let us take three periods-the 1950s, the 1960s and the 1970s-and compare the average annual figures for absolute and relative increase.

Increase per year

Years Millions of persons %
1951-1958 3.4 1.8
1959-1969 3.0 1.3
1970-1978 2.3 0.9

The dynamics of increase are clear and expressive. However, what lies behind them? …

In the 1950s the number of births increased steadily and rapidly, reaching 5.3 million by 1960. The number of deaths decreased continually and rapidly …

The 1960s were a time of rapid decrease in the number of births: to a low of 4. 1 million per year in 1967-1969. This decrease had two components-the relatively small number of persons born during the war years, and a decline in the average number of children per family. At tile same time, the absolute number of deaths began to grow, since the population was aging and the total number of people was increasing…

The number of births has been increasing steadily since 1970. This is a result of the sharp increase in the number of young women. The sizable generation that was born in the 1950s has entered the age of greatest fecundity. The “inflow” increased to 4.8 million in 1978. But the “outflow” also grew. Thus, the population increase fell off in the 1970s in comparison with the previous periods …

The decrease in the number of births in the 1960s will be one cause of a sharp decline in the growth of labor resources in the 1980s (the other cause is the large number of persons born in the 1920s who are now reaching retirement age). The substantial increase in the number of births during the 1970s is a very positive phenomenon, from both a demographic and an economic viewpoint. The labor resources situation will be substantially better during the 13th Five-Year Plan (1991-1995), when persons born in the 1970s begin to work, than during the 12th Five-Year Plan.

What will happen to the population increase in the 1980s?

The relatively small generation born in the 1960s will begin to enter the age of greatest fecundity. This means that, if the present birthrate level is maintained, the number of children will decrease. It will be necessary to substantially increase the average number of children per family if “inflow” is to be maintained at the present level.

As far as the “outflow” curve is concerned, it will undoubtedly begin to go up again since the population itself will increase and so will the overall death rate-because the percentage of elderly people is growing.

It is necessary to increase the birthrate. This must be done in order to prevent the formation of a new demographic “wave”- i.e., sharp successive drops in the size of adjacent age groups. Such waves have an extremely unfavorable effect both on demographic processes themselves (disproportions arise between the numbers of unmarried men and women, etc.) and on economic processes (drastic fluctuations take place in the growth of labor resources).

From a demographic point of view, it would be preferable to talk not about the increase of the population but about its reproduction- i.e., about the process of replacing the parent generation with children. However, for this we need census data on the structure of the population by sex and age, which have not yet been published. Therefore, we shall limit ourselves to turning to the latest demographic handbook, which shows that the net coefficient of reproduction of the USSR’s population was 1.10 in 1975-1976, whereas it was 1.13 in 1969-1970 and 1.26 in 1958-1959 … The maintenance of this reproduction situation for a long period would ensure a population growth for the country of 10% per generation – i.e., a period of 28 to 30 years. The only possibility of raising the indices of the population’s reproduction and increase is to raise the birthrate. Effective steps must be taken to stimulate it.

The Shift to the South.-Looking at the Union republics as a whole for the nine years between censuses, seven of them had a low figure for population increase and six had a high figure.

Russia, the Ukraine and Belorussia were “distinguished” by the lowest relative growth-6%; growth was a bit higher in Georgia and Latvia, 7%, while in Estonia it was 8% and in Lithuania 9%. Two republics, Moldavia and Kazakhstan, held an intermediate position: Their populations increased by 11% and 13%, respectively. There were large increases in Azerbaijan- 18%, Kirghizia-20%, Armenia22%, Turkmenia-28%, Uzbekistan 30% and Tadzhikistan- 31%.

These differences in growth are related basically to differences in the natural movement of the population. However, in a number of cases the influence of inter-republic migration is substantial. Thus, migration accounted for most of the growth in Latvia and Estonia, and population outflow was appreciable in Georgia and Azerbaijan. On the whole, there was a very substantial increase in the percentage of the country’s population held by the Soviet Union’s southern republics.

The population of the six republics with the highest relative growth increased over the nine-year period from 27.4 million to 34.5 million – i.e., by 7.1 million.

In 1970 11.3% of the country’s population lived in these republics, which had relatively small total populations, but in 1979 their share was 13.2%. That’s a vast change; after all, one percent is 2.6 million people! These republics accounted for 34.4%-more than one-third-of the country’s total population increase over the nine-year period.

The “shift” of population to the South, primarily to Central Asia, is of great importance for the national economy. These republics are providing a larger and larger percentage of the growth in labor resources. However, Central Asia’s population has a low migration mobility. Its rural residents move to cities relatively seldom, and indigenous residents rarely move to other parts of

the country. The percentage of urban residents in the Central Asian republics is growing very slowly, and in Tadzhikistan it actually decreased during the past nine years. Central Asia as a whole, and Tadzhikistan in particular, is now the country’s most “rural” region.

There is also no doubt that most of the increase in Central Asia’s labor resources should be employed in that region’s economy. Central Asia must be ensured preferential rates of economic development. Fortunately, this region is one of the country’s richest in natural resources, which have been undergoing vigorous development recently. This creates prerequisites for a sharp increase in employment in the economy. irrigated farming is expanding rapidly; also, large and efficient hydroelectric stations are being built, on the basis of which territorial production complexes are being created. The best-known example is the South Tadzhik Territorial -Production Complex, which consists of the unique Nurek Hydroelectric Station, a large aluminum plant and an electrochemical combine. However, these efficient, large-capacity enterprises cannot themselves employ many workers. Accelerated development of labor-intensive branches of industry-light industry and the food, machinery and instrument industries-is necessary here.

Accelerated urbanization on this basis will, in our view, be an important prerequisite for an increase in the emigrational mobility of Central Asia’s population. Urban residents with job skills are incomparably more mobile than villagers; they adapt more easily to living conditions in new places and are more likely to remain where they have resettled. The movement of labor resources to other regions will be more successful as people become better prepared for industrial and basically urban types of work and for life in cities.

The Shift to the North.-The absolute size of the population shift to the North is much less than that of the shift to the South- relatively speaking, however, it’s very great. This shift was a result not of higher natural increase but of migration-the settlement of formerly sparsely populated regions that are rich in natural resources.

The settlement of the Tiumen North is a characteristic example of this development. The population of the Khanty-Mansi and Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Regions grew from 351,000 to 727,000 in only nine years – i.e., it more than doubled. This was a consequence of the creation and rapid development there of the country’s main fuel base, which now provides half of the petroleum and a large part of the natural gas extracted in the USSR.

During the same period, the population of the Yakut Autonomous Republic grew from 664, 000 to 839,000-i.e., by 26%-while the population of Kamchatka Province grew by 31% and that of Magadan Province by 32%. The relative increase in these areas matched that of Central Asia. This was a result of the rapid development of industry, chiefly the extracting industry.

The size of the population along the route of the Baikal-Amur Main Line, which runs through the northern parts of Irkutsk Province, Buryatia and Chita and Amur Provinces and across Khabarovsk Territory, grew many times over…

City and Countryside. The rapid urbanization of the country continued throughout the 1970s. The size of the urban population increased from 136 million to 163.6 million during the nine-year period, or by 20%. The number of rural residents decreased from 105. 7 million to 98. 8 million, or by 6. 5%. The percentage of urban residents in the population as a whole rose from 56% to 62% over these nine years. In comparison with prewar times, the urban-to-rural population ratio has “turned upside down”: In 1940 urban residents made up 33%, and rural residents 67%, of the total population.

Moreover, the cities’ growth was primarily at the expense of the rural population: Out-migration from the countryside and the transformation of rural communities into urban ones gave the cities 15.6 million people-57% of

the total increase. The natural increase of the urban population during this period totaled 12 million. We must, however, keep in mind that migrants from the countryside also provided a substantial share of this increase. It is primarily young, single people who come to the cities, where they quickly acquire families and children.

At present, the most urbanized republics are Estonia, where urban residents make up 70% of the total population, Russia-69%, Latvia-68%, Armenia-66% and the Ukraine and Lithuania-61% each. The least urbanized republics are Tadzhikistan- 35%, Kirghizia and MoIdavia-39% each and Turkmenia48%.

While the share of urban residents in the population rose by six percentage points-from 56% to 62%for the country as a whole, in Belorussia it rose by more than twice as much-from 42% to 55%. The increase was also above the average in Lithuania (11 percentage points) and in Russia, Armenia and Moldavia (7 points). The share of urban residents decreased in Tadzhikistan, did not change in Turkmenia, and rose by only two percentage points-from 37% to 39%-in Kirghizia and by three points in Azerbaijan …

Over the nine-year period, the number of rural residents in the country decreased by 6.9 million, whereas it decreased by only 3. 1 million during the 11 years between the 1959 and 1970 censuses. The largest absolute decreases in the rural population were in Russia-6.7 million-and in the Ukraine2.2 million.

However, the Russian Republic is very large and diverse. In some parts of it, the number of rural residents grew. But the rural population decreased by more than 20% in 24 provinces. The largest decreases were in Orel and Kostroma Provinces-30% and 28%, respectively.

On the other hand, the rural population of Tadzhikistan grew by 36%, of Turkmenia by 28%, of Uzbekistan by 21%, of Kirghizia by 18% and of Azerbaijan by 11%.

One frequently reads about the need to reduce the out-migration of the rural population to the cities. However, the crux of the problem is by no means the fact that too many people are leaving the countryside but that they are mainly leaving areas that have a shortage of agricultural manpower and, just as frequently, are leaving areas that have labor surpluses. Unfortunately, the methods that are being used to “hold” rural young people have produced no substantial results.

In present conditions, a better, more effective measure for reducing out-migration from areas with shortages of labor resources would be the all-out encouragement of out-migration from areas that have surplus rural population.

From the standpoint of population migration, the country’s regions, taken as a whole, constitute a system of “communicating vessels.” If, say, a young female weaver moves from Kalinin Province to the city of Dushanbe and takes a job at a textile combine, then a rural Tadzhik woman cannot be hired for this job. And the following moves take place in Kalinin Province: A young woman from a vocational technical school takes the job of the departed worker, and a rural girl from a nearby district who has completed the eighth grade of school takes the young woman’s place. When a young man who is the girl’s age returns to his native village from the Army, he will have no one to marry, and he too will leave for the city.

The Concentration of Urban Residents.-It has long been well known that the population is increasingly clustering in large cities and agglomerations. The new census not only confirmed this but also revealed something new: For the first time in the country’s history, the absolute increase in the number of large city residents was greater than the increase for the population as a whole. The number of large-city residents had reached 96.6 million persons at the time the census was taken, a figure 21 million greater than that recorded in the 1970 census (remember, the entire population increased by just 20. 7 million).

In 1970 the country had 222 large cities (with more than 100,000 residents). Their total population increased by 20% over the nine-year period. Cities that had 200,000 to 300,000 residents in 1970 (there were 39 of them) grew at the fastest rate-their populations increased by 27%. However, the largest cities also continued to grow at a very rapid pace.

During the nine-year period, 50 new large cities appeared – i.e., there are now 272 large cities in the country. Our country has long held first place in the world in the number of large cities. Indeed, the USSR is a country of large cities.

The greatest absolute population increases took place in the country’s largest cities: Moscow, Leningrad, Kiev, Tashkent, Minsk, etc. The number of cities with a million or more people increased from 10 to 18, and there are now 20 of them, since two more rapidly growing cities-Kazan and Perm-were close to the million mark (993, 000 and 999, 000, respectively) at the time the census was taken.

During the nine-year period, Minsk, Dnepropetrovsk, Tbilisi, Odessa, Cheliabinsk, Donetsk, Erevan and Omsk all passed the one million mark…

Togliatti was one of the country’s most dynamic cities: It doubled its population-from 251,000 to 502,000-over the nine years.

Naberezhnie Chelny on the Kama, where a complex of plants for producing heavy-duty KamAZ trucks was created, grew even faster. Only 38,000 people lived there at the beginning of 1970, but the 1979 figure was 301,000. That’s a growth of almost 700%!

Let us note that the rapidly growing young cities have, as a rule, excellent prerequisites for further expansion. Among other things, they are distinguished by a particularly “youthful” population makeup, thanks to which a high natural increase in number of residents is very typical of such cities …

The census confirmed once again that unfavorable changes are taking place in the processes of population increase and reproduction; it gave further evidence of the worsening of the demographic situation that was discussed at the 25th CPSU Congress; and it confirmed the need to provide decisive measures to stimulate the birthrate. Another reason that this matter demands attention is the fact that the relatively small generation born in the 1960s is approaching marriage age …

Source: Current Digest of the Soviet Press. Vol. XXXI, No. 41 (1979)

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