MOSCOW, April 28 (Reuters) - Russia is doing too little to reverse a critical decline in its population driven by increasing alcohol abuse, poor diet and social change, a U.N. report said on Monday. Karl Kulessa, U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA) chief in Russia, said in presenting the report that Russia's population could fall from 142 million as low as 100 million in 40-50 years.
President Vladimir Putin has made fighting a falling population a priority and unveiled policies to strengthen mothers' rights, promote the family and encourage healthy living. An expanding economy needs a youthful workforce, especially in outlying areas such as the Far East and Siberia.
The U.N report, "Demographic Policy in Russia: From Reflection to Action" (it is not uploaded yet to Russian UNFPA wevsite) , said preliminary data showed the birth rate rose 8.3 percent in 2007 in Russia and the mortality rate decreased by 4 percent; but the overall downward trend remained. "Efforts are being made to increase birth rates and reduce death rates and both are showing some good results, but more can still be done," Kulessa said.
Russia lost between 400,000 and 650,000 people per year in 1992-2006, following the chaotic collapse of the Soviet Union and its social welfare net. Life expectancy for men among the 142 million population was 55 years in the 1990s, nearly 20 years less than in Western Europe, and fewer children are born.
NO REASON FOR OPTIMISM
"There is no reason to assume that Russia can recover from the crisis and stabilise its population," the U.N. report said.
"The authors of this publication do not share the optimism of government officials who claim that Russia will succeed in halting the population decline by 2015 and increase the population to 145 million by 2025."
The old Soviet Union encouraged motherhood by offering medals -- the Hero Mother award -- and financial incentives for women who produced large families to meet the demands of industrial expansion. A booming energy and commodity prices have enriched Russia during Putin's eight years in power and it has billions of dollars saved to buffer economic shocks and improve infrastructure and people's quality of life.
But while both Putin and Medvedev promote a healthy lifestyle by drinking only occasionally in public and sticking to a strict regime of judo and swimming, sportsmen promote vodka in adverts on the metro and single-child families are common.