Created: 9/1/1968

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Intelligence Memorandum

Soviet Concern over Falling Birth Rate



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CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY Directorate of Intelligence8


Soviet Concern over Falling 3irth Rate


ime when most of the world is worried about the population explosion, Soviet demographers increasingly are expressing concern over thebirth rate in the USSR. After changing relatively little ins, the birth rate in the USSR fell sharply9 per04 per thousand 0 the Soviet birth rate exceeded that of the United States and was substantially higher than theforuropean countries.* owever, both the Soviet and US birth rates had fallenand the Soviet rate was below the US level and only slightly above the European average.

The decline in birth rate in the USSR was caused both by the decrease in the number of women in the prime child-bearing agesoears) and by the decrease in the average number of children per family. These trends are likely to continue, so that no reversal in the declining birth rate is likely in the near future. In the United States, however, the number of women in the prime child-bearing ages will rise sharply during the coming decade, tending to increase the birth rate. The downward trend in the Soviet Union is reinforcedumber of interrelated factors such asthe high participation rate of women in the

ncludingestern European countriesastern European countries (including Yugoslavia) but excluding the USSB.

Note: This memorandum vas produced solely by CIA, It aaa prepared by the Office of Economic Research.

labor force, the housing shortage, and more generally the shortage of consumer goods. The government's population policy/ moreover/ although it advocates population growth/ freely permits abortions at state clinics/ivorce is now quite easy to obtain.

The downward trend in the birth rate provides the Soviet Union with some short-term economic gains but portends long-run difficulties if iteclining proportion of children in themeans less strain on child-care and educational facilities and less pressure on the notoriouslyhousing facilities. owever, the number of persons reaching fiiorking age will tend to decrease each year. Moreover, entries into thesupply will be increasingly offset by persons reaching retirement age,arked slowdown0 in the annual net increases in the number of persons of working age. Thus an increasing share of the population will be outside the working ages, raising the prospectotential manpower pinch.

However, the USSR had an even more seriousproblem in thes, when there was an absolute reduction in the number of persons of working age. At that time the Soviet Unionthe supply of persons available for work by reducing the size of the armed forces, reducing the number of work-age youths attending full-time schools, and inducing housewives to take jobs. Although the Soviet Union might find it difficult to use these means in the future, there are still opportunities to transfer part of the large pool of rural manpower to nonagricultural jobs by expanding investments in labor-saving devices on the farm. If the decline in the birth rateomprehensive review of policies affecting marriage, birth control, and the employment of women may ensue.


Trend in the Birth Rate

1. ime when most of the world is worried about the population explosion, Soviet demographers increasingly are expressing concern over thebirth rate of the USSR. The Soviet birth rate fell by almost one-third. This sharp decline, combinedmall increase in the death rate, led to the lowest rate of natural increase of the total population recorded in the post-World War II period (see After remaining more or less stable durings, the birth rate fell sharply9 per04 per thousand In thes the Soviet birth rate was slightly lower than the rate in the United States and slightly higher than the average rate foruropeanbut was falling faster than the rates in either the United States or Europe (see the chart).

Table 1

USSR: Indicators of Population0 and

3 4

Thousand Persons


2 6


of natural

0 7

Born dm

Women in the Reproductive Aqes



o 34

3 2

of age

IS toearo.


sharp drop in the Soviets due in part to an absolutethe number of women in theoears)esult of the lowduring World War II. The number of womengroup declined2 millionillion The most importantin explaining the decline in theis the pronounced trend toward fewerfamily. onsequence,he number of daughters born per huhdredthe reproductive ages declinedo

hat is, at current rates, each woman has on the6 daughters when child bearing is completed. This trend is attributable to several inter-related factors, including urbanization, greater employment among women, shortage of social amenities (particularly housing and child-careermissive attitude by society and government toward birth control. 0 the urban population has grown by one-quarter, while the rural population has declined slightly. Urban birth rates are aboutercent of rural rates, reflecting the influence of the chronic shortage of housing in the cities and the greater participation of urban women in the labor force.

Soviet Union has always reliedthe use of women in the labor force, inmoreover, efforts to facilitate femalehave been intensified, and thewomen who work has been rising. Wages insector, where women workersbeen raised substantially, part-time jobshave been authorized, and child-carebeen expanded. esult,

the share of women in the labor force rose fromoercent. In urban areas, moreover, aboutercent of women of working ageoears) currently are either employed or attending full-time school* This contrasts with aboutercent in the United States. The trend toward greater

* This measure, called the maternal grossduction rate, indicates the replacement potential of the population in the reproductive ages. In the United States the rate3 or aboutercent higher than the rate in the USSR,


employment of women in tho USSR has tended tothe birth rate. Soviet sources estimate that the birth rate is approximatelyercent lower for working women than for nonworkers and that the abortion rate for working women is more than twice that of nonworking women.

urbanization and low rates ofin new housing have combined to create ashortage and, thereby, to depress the At the ender capita living space

in the USSR wasquare meters (aboutquare foet)far less than tho officiallyminimum normquare meters and loss than half tho available space per capita in Austria or West Germany. Soviet couples often share ono or two room apartments with their children and relatives and frequently must use contnunal kitchens and bath-rooms. In theurvey conducted among Soviet women requesting abortion revealed thatercent of the respondents living in urban areas listed inadequate housing as the reason forthe abortion.

preference of many couples for is supported by Soviet abortion and Even though the government advocatesgrowth and provides free medicalfacilities, paid maternity leave,allowance payments. Its policy withabortion is liberal,ivorce isto obtain. Any woman may havetate clinicominalsources estimate that the number ofthe USSR may even exceed tho number of livedivorce law was liberalized in Decemberof the old law required petitionersto publish their intentions, appear before

a people's court,cooling off" period, pay throe separate fees, and finally appearigher court for adjudication. The procedure was not only lengthy but also costly and hampered by bureaucratic delays. 5 amendment vested power in the lower courts to dissolve marriages at their own discretion, fees were reduced, and the timo

involved in proceedings was cutew weeks. The effect of the new lawharp increase in thu divorceer thousand persons5er thousand

6 - No reversal in the downward trend of the Soviet birth rate is expected in the near future. Until thes the number of women in the prime child-bearing ages will remain at about the current level but willmaller share of the total population. eversal of the trend in the birth rate wouldharp increase in fertility. Yet the influences that have caused fertility toesireigher standard ofousing shortage,igh rate of employment among womenare likely to continue and perhaps even to intensify in the near future. For example, Soviet economists currently believeationwide labor shortage exists andurther expansion in the use of women in the labor force will be required.

7* In contrast, the United States shoulda reversal in the downward trend of the birth rate in the near future. In the United States the number of women in the prime child-bearing ages will increase by almostercent by thes and will become an increasing share of total Even if fertility declines, the very rapid growth in the number of young women is likely to cause the birth rate to increase.

Expressions of Concern

The first recent expression of publicover the falling birth rate came6 when V.eading Soviet demographer, stated that the birth rate was below optimum and calledrogram of demographic research. Sinceumber of other demographers haveconcern about the impact of the decline in birth rate on the future supply of manpower and about the decrease in the Soviethare in world population.

As yet, however, publicly expressed concern over the sharp decline in the birth rate has been confined to professionals. Indeed, other writers have recently reemphasized the regime's policy of permitting easy means of restricting family size. For example, in an article opposing Pope Paul's encyclical on birthoviet journalist stated that "to deprive the present-day family of


tho right to determine itseans encroaching on tho most important prerogatives." Moreover, the Soviet Union has begun clinical testing of birth-control pills of Soviot manufacture, suggesting that the regime will continue to make means of birth control available.

failure to pay attention to theis the latest example of the lowdemography hold by the Soviet government. according to Perevedentsev, is thatregard questions of population asa stewed turnip." Demography fell intoin the Soviet Union in thesthe unpublished population census ofdemographic institutes were closed. Alland training of demographers was halted

3 with the abolition of the last of theinstitutes. 9 population census represents the only tffOrt sinotja gathu nationwide demographic data. Moreover, officials refused to include in9 census the questions related to fertility that had been requested by demographers in ordor to improve their population forecaats.

official overestlmationgrowth dramatized the need fordata,mall effort has beenimprove the data base. 0 theAdministration estimated that thewouldillion0hereas the populationboillion below tho estimate forperhapsillion below that Central Statistical Administrationstimateillion, Perevedentsevthis to bo only "current repairs, toajor overhaul." To that end, theAdministration has recentlysurveys" to collect informationchild bearing (such as age of mother at birth

of eachmployment, income, and housing. One such surveyrban families innd another0 farm families in One Soviet demographer, however, claimsurvey among two and one-half to threo million women is required to get adequate

data on fertility. Nevertheless, these steps may indicate the beginning of official concern over the birth rate andore respected position for demography in the USSR.

Economic Implications

decline in the birth rate providesUnion with some short-term gains butlong-run problems. To themaller share of thedemands on the nation's resourcesfacilitiesf schools, and someare lessened. ersonsge made upercent of the population. the share of youths will fallvon if the current level of fertility isthe share will decline toercent by

Fewer children also mean less strain on the supply of housing and facilitate the regime's efforts to get women into the labor force.

In the long run, however, the declining birth rate moans that fewer persons will be coming of age for work and for military service. hen those born0 roach the legal minimum working agehe number of persons reaching working age will increase sccnewhat each year. owevor, the number will drop until atarked slowdown0 in the annual net increase in thu number of persons of working ago {see If the present fertilityontinues, the decline eventually will be replacedlow upward trend.

Thus the declining birth rates of recent years may portend seme difficulties in meeting civilian and military requirements for manpower. In particular, the Soviet Union will likely find it more difficult to carry out its current program of rapidly expanding the consumer services sector (retail trade, public dining, repair centers, and thehich are labor-intensive operations with few opportunities for labor saving innovations. However, the USSRuch worse manpower problem in the* ands when the smaller numbers of persons born during World war II were reaching working age. At that time the Soviet Union


Table 2

Comparison of Soviet and US Labor Supply a, Selected

Million Persons

I960 5 0 5 0 5

New entrants b/


Total population of working age


United States

Average annual change duringear period



ears of age,

o ears of age, females 16 to

16 to ears of age.

augmented the supply of persons available for work by reducing the size of the armed forceseries of demobilizations that freed militaryfor work in the civilian sector of theand reduced the military draft of youths; the USSR also decreased the number of work-age youths attending full-time schools and, via enforcement of "anti-parasite" laws, induced more housewives to take jobs. Today,maller army, increased emphasis on education,igher proportion of women already employed, the Soviet Union would find it more costly to mobilize supplementary sources of manpower for the labor force. However, the supply of agricultural population,eady source of manpower for industry and other urban needs, is still greatand it could be tapped in the future if investment in labor saving devices on the farm is stepped up.


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