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Page last updated at 15:05 GMT, Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Russia sees first population increase in 15 years

A mother tends her baby in St Petersburg as Prime Minister Vladimir Putin speaks on TV
Vladimir Putin made stemming population decline a priority

Russia has bucked a long-term trend of population decline by recording its first annual increase in 15 years, its health minister has announced.

The population grew in 2009 by between 15,000 and 25,000 to more than 141.9 million, Tatyana Golikova said, quoting preliminary figures.

Much of the growth is due to a falling death rate and increasing migration.

But births also rose, with 2.8% more babies born last year than in 2008, the Russian health minister said.

Slow growth

The rise in population was predicted last month by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin who, as president, brought in policies to stem population decline.

The decline has traditionally been blamed on emigration, alcoholism, poor healthcare and poverty.

Low population predictions have been a key factor in economic forecasts which see Russia growing much more slowly over the next 20 years than China, Brazil and India.

US bank Goldman Sachs has said that a change in population forecasts could significantly change the long-term growth projections for Russia, whose economy contracted by at least 8.5% in 2009, its biggest annual decline in 15 years, Reuters news agency reported.

"Russia is perhaps the least predictable and possibly the one with the scope to surprise the most," Goldman economist Jim O'Neill wrote, in a report last month, adding that Russia's economy could overtake Germany's in 2029 and Japan's in 2037.



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