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Russians Dying from Alcohol, Tobacco and Accidents at Far Higher Rates than in Other Countries


Paul Goble


Staunton,November 6 – One of Russia’s greatest demographic problems is super-highmortality among working age males. Far too many of them are dying far too young;and among the most significant contributors to this problem are overconsumptionof alcohol and tobacco and accidents related to that and in the workplace.


Inthe last few days, there have been two important reports on this tragedy.In the first, Deputy Health Minister OlegSalagay says that worldwide, alcohol is behind about a fifth of all deaths andtobacco behind about a tenth, but that the figures for Russia are much worse (tass.ru/obschestvo/5750589).


And in the second, experts say thatRosstat’s claims of a reduction in the number of deaths by accident areincorrect, that the number is rising, and that as a result, Russians are nowdying from accidents far more often than are people in other countries (russian.eurasianet.org/россия-в-числе-лидеров-по-количеству-смертей-на-рабочем-месте).


Vasily Vlasov, a specialist onpublic health at the Higher School of Economics, says that it is a good thingthat Salagay is acknowledging the problem but that unfortunately, thegovernment has not taken the necessary steps to reduce the consumption ofalcohol and especially that of the most dangerous kinds (polit.ru/article/2018/11/06/smokendrink/).


Vodka needs to be more heavily taxedand the rate of taxation must exceed the rate of inflation, Vlasov says; butdespite much talk, the government hasn’t taken the necessary steps – and so all claims to the contrary, too manyRussians are still drinking too much and dying as a result.


As far as accidents in the workplaceand more generally are concerned, officials claim real progress in reducingmortality; but Russian experts say there are many reasons why such claims shouldbe treated with skepticism or even rejected outright (russian.eurasianet.org/россия-в-числе-лидеров-по-количеству-смертей-на-рабочем-месте).


On the one hand, even with the progressMoscow claims, Russia still has the highest rate of workplace deaths of anycountry in the post-Soviet space and a higher rate than in other countries aswell. Official figures show that last year, six out of every 100,000 Russiansdied at the workplace, far higher than in the UK where the figure was less thanone per 100,000.


And on the other, experts point out,there are problems with the official statistics. The number of factoryinspections the government has made has fallen from 37,400 in 2010 to 9,200 in2016. Workers in the shadow economy are not accounted for at all. And firmshave numerous incentives to avoid reporting workplace accidents.


If they can present themselves asaccident free, their social insurance rates drop; if they do report an accidentand especially a death, their rates skyrocket. Not surprisingly, specialists onthe Russian economy say, firms do what they can to avoid reporting accidentsand deaths, thus making official figures laughable.

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