August 16, 2007
Baby Making Contest In Ulyanovsk Russia

Women who give birth on September 12th in the Ulyanovsk province in Russia get entered into a contest with an assortment of prizes.

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."

The Russian population looks set to shrink big time.

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.

Update: The Cossacks are embracing a way of life conducive to baby-making.

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

Ned said at August 17, 2007 7:21 AM:

Although right now Putin is talking big due to all the oil and gas revenues, Russia is truly the sick man of Europe. Back in the bad old Soviet days, families were effectively discouraged from having children. Abortion was free and readily available, food was often scarce, living conditions were poor, and women were needed in the workforce - all conditions which led many to forego childbearing. Russia is one of the few non-African countries with a rising death rate, and many deaths occur in fairly young people and result from drug, alcohol or tobacco use, AIDS and TB. None of this bodes well for Russia's long-term prospects, with burgeoning Islamic states to the south and a hungry dragon on the eastern border.

Kralizec said at August 18, 2007 9:36 AM:
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.
The new understanding of what's urgent in human affairs is slowly sinking in, although seemingly too late. From accounts, Israel seems hopelessly screwed, as do Russia and many of the European countries. God only knows what will happen in China, given their reported unique combination of low total fertility and high imbalance between the sexes. The Americans are reportedly hanging on. However, they seem also to be realizing that the sum over their individual choices of the past forty years is to be an aging populace, nipped by young Mexicans swimming up from the south, as they swat young muslims flying in from the east. What will they do now, I wonder? Their women could stay home to be mothers of more children, but what would companies do without their docile middle managers?
e. goodman said at September 12, 2007 4:42 PM:

this is terrible! do you know how many children are in russian orphanages! do you know how many homeless children live on the streets of russia? millions! do you know how many times american men and women would like to adopt russian children and it is nearly impossible to do so- so much RED(literally)tape you have to go through to adopt. they make it very difficult and frustrating!
before they start encouraging these females to hatch more children, maybe they could try to adopt a few of them.

Josh said at February 12, 2009 5:55 PM:

The problem is, Russia has an AIDS epidemic as bad as any in Africa, without the high birth rate the Africans have (which is partly because some of the children die from AIDS). So I don't really see how Russia can survive the next century.

As an aside, if Russia's population declined severely, who do you think would take over the ownership of their nuclear arsenal? I think Muslim extremists would seize it, which would lead to a second Cold War, this time between the Western world and the Muslim world.

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