At the end of last year, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the government to draw up a package of measures to increase Russia’s birth rates and life expectancy. He also expressed bewilderment at the falling birth rates in a number of regions.

Just a few days later, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu proposed upping the age from which Russian men are required to perform their military service from 18 to 21 and increasing the upper age limit for conscription from 27 to 30. These proposals mean young men would be called up after earning their college degrees, and trained specialists would be pulled out of the job market to have their skills voided by military service. 

There is a major discrepancy between these two objectives. If men go to war or emigrate en masse instead of fathering children, where will the children come from? The effect on the labor market will also be severe: conscription at such a productive age leeches the labor force out of an economy that is already expected to lose 3–4 million people aged 20–40 between 2020 and 2030 due to demographic trends.

The working population is also losing those who have already left or will leave the country in response to the intense militarization of life, not to mention those who are mobilized, killed, or maimed in combat if the so-called “special operation” continues. 

Combined, this will create a significant labor force deficit and a plethora of demographic problems, further exacerbating the negative dynamics in birth rates that have been observed in Russia since 2017. The decrease in the working-age population will become chronic, and the “preservation of the people” that Putin has spoken about for many years will not be achieved. 

Some of the objective reasons for Russia’s demographic problems reflect historical dynamics: the number of women of childbearing age is falling, and the average age at which women are having children is rising steadily among urban, well-educated populations.