A Russian region best known as the birthplace of Vladimir Lenin has found a novel way to fight the nation's birthrate crisis: It has declared Sept. 12 the Day of Conception and for the third year running is giving couples time off from work to procreate.
The hope is for a brood of babies exactly nine months later on Russia's national day. Couples who ``give birth to a patriot'' during the June 12 festivities win money, cars, refrigerators and other prizes.
Ulyanovsk, a region on the Volga River about 550 miles east of Moscow, has held similar contests since 2005. Since then, the number of competitors, and the number of babies born to them, has been on the rise.
See the article for the full details on the promising results.
In his 7th state-of-the-nation address to the Russian Federal Assembly on May 10, 2006 President Vladimir Putin called Russia's declining birth rate the biggest problem facing Russia.
But the bulk of Putin's speech focused mainly on domestic issues. Chief among them was what Putin called "the main issue," to which he devoted one-fourth of his speech -- Russia's demographic crisis.
The Russian president decried the country's annual decline of nearly 700,000 people a year, and presented a detailed plan for improving child-care benefits in order to encourage women to have at least the two children needed to maintain a stable population.
"When planning to have a child, a woman is faced with the choice whether to have a child but lose her job, or not to have a child," Putin said. "This is a very difficult choice. The encouragement of childbirth should include a whole range of measures of administrative, financial, and social support for young families."
According to the most recent forecasts, Russia's population of 143 million people is expected to decrease by 22 percent between now and the year 2050. If the figures are borne out, Russia could lose up to 42 percent of its active working population.
The decline is being fueled primarily by two things: low birth rates, with Russian women increasingly choosing work over motherhood, and increased death rates among a rapidly aging population.
Some see the Russian state's pension system as removing an incentive to have kids who Russians used to have to depend on for retirement support.
The Russian president also rejected calls to abolish Russia's state pension fund and return to a more Soviet-style system, whereby the elderly would rely on their children, rather than the state, for essential support.
Modest proposal that would make a substantial difference: Make the state pension fund pay-outs bigger for people who have more kids. Make the act of procreation something that connects the tax revenues generated by offspring to how well off the parents will be. A number of variations on this are possible. For example, parents could get more government payments in their old age if their kids make more money and pay more in taxes.
The local leader, "Ataman" Viktor Vasilyevich, received me with open arms. He was dressed in traditional Cossack costume, which includes a full-length black coat, a sheepskin hat and a sword. He oozed authority, and it was immediately clear that he was held in deep respect by his family and the other villagers.
Cossack family life is a rigid, hierarchical system in which the eldest man's word is law. Unashamedly, the Ataman explained that Cossack families should be as large as possible. He introduced me to one of his own sons, already the father of seven children.
Will the Cossacks save Russia from demographic oblivion? I am reminded of Tolstoy's short story The Cossacks.
|Share |||Randall Parker, 2007 August 16 09:33 PM Trends Demographic|