May 10th 2008

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY: Labor abandons small business

EDITORIAL: Overhaul Australia's quarantine system!

HOUSING: How to make the Australian dream come true

CANBERRA OBSERVED: Daunting challenges for Swan's first Budget

AGRICULTURE: Behind the world's food shortage

NATIONAL SECURITY: Is it ever too early to foil a terrorist plot?

STRAWS IN THE WIND: Dial an anti-climax / Carrying a torch for China / Economic gobbledegook / Adolescent roulette... and culture shock / Zimbabwe

CHINA: Beijing spying apparatus gears up for Olympics

HIGHER EDUCATION: The high cost of free love

POPULATION: Russian life expectancy worse than Bangladesh's

MEDIA: ABC program's Castro whitewash

Point overlooked (letter)

Competition policy review (letter)

China's jackboot diplomacy (letter)

No voice for unborn at Rudd summit (letter)

Our next Governor-General (letter)

It's time to help boys (letter)

BOOKS: RISING '44: The Battle for Warsaw, by Norman Davies.

BOOKS: SILENT MOVIES: The Birth of Film and the Triumph of Movie Culture, by Peter Kobel

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Russian life expectancy worse than Bangladesh's

News Weekly, May 10, 2008
Russia's dwindling and debilitated workforce will be a formidable obstacle to Russian productivity and development.

Russia's health and mortality situation is vastly worse than Western Europe's. Life expectancy for Russian men is astonishingly low, well below current levels in either Pakistan or Bangladesh. And trends have been moving in the wrong direction for decades. In 2005, male and female life expectancy at birth in Russia were both lower than they had been 40 years earlier...

Russia's working-age population is set for an even steeper decline. Between 2005 and 2030, Western Europe's working-age population - aged 15-64 - is projected to shrink by about 7%. In Russia, that figure is 19%....

But the problem is even more acute than these raw numbers might suggest. For Russia's mortality problem is concentrated in its working-age population. For over 40 years, Russia has been witness to a truly terrifying upsurge of illness and death precisely among those who ordinarily form the backbone of a modern economy. In 2005, for men between the ages of 27-57, death rates were typically 100% higher than they had been in 1965....

Russia's "excess mortality" threatens to straitjacket Russian productivity and development. It is true that Russia has enjoyed robust economic growth rates over the past several years, but this has primarily been generated by oil and gas exports.

In the modern world economy, a country's health profile is an essential element of its sustainable economic potential - quite arguably, the key element. How can Russia hope to be a vibrant modern economy with a dwindling and debilitated workforce and a life expectancy which is a full 12 years shorter than in Western Europe?

No modern society can expect to enjoy an Irish standard of living on an Indian survival schedule.

- from Nicholas Eberstadt and Hans Groth, "Dying Russia", The Wall Street Journal, April 25, 2008.

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