| JRL Home | JRL Simple/Mobile | RSS | Newswire | Archives | JRL Newsletter | Support | About
Old Saint Basil's Cathedral in MoscowJohnson's Russia List title and scenes of Saint Petersburg
Excerpts from the JRL E-Mail Community :: Founded and Edited by David Johnson

Go forth and multiply

Russian Children at Computer - from state.govThe task of grappling with Russia's shrinking population, and the need to improve the lives of children and young people, were top of President Dmitry Medvedev's agenda in his address to the Federal Assembly.

Although the demographic crisis has long been a government priority, Medvedev devoted more time in his address to it than any other issue.

After praising the fact that the country's birth rate is finally increasing, Medvedev said that free land and tax benefits would help to boost child births, and promised an extra 100 billion roubles ($3.3 billion) for children's health care.

"Task No. 1 is that 26 million children and teenagers should develop, grow up healthy and happy and become full members of society," Medvedev told the assembled parliamentarians and officials.

Among the methods being considered to boost the birth rate are ones already wiedly used around the world, where Russia is very much playing catch-up.

On artificial insemination, Medvedev pledged that the federal budget allocation for making test-tube babies would be doubled in 2011 to 1.2 billion roubles ($40 million), but the figure is still small compared to many advanced economies.

"This is aimed at tackling the problem that the number of women of reproductive age is falling rapidly due to the 1990s demographic gap, so they want to encourage them to give birth to more than one child," said Yevgenia Soroka, senior scientist at the Higher School of Economics' demography centre.

According to Medvedev's proposals, starting from 2011 families having three children or more will be given free land and other financial benefits, as in a pilot project in the Ivanovsky region.

But experts claim this is not enough to help people have more children, and such measures often target the wrong social groups.

"Not only one-off payments for having a child should be offered," said Olga Kuzina, general director of the National Agency of Financial Research. "The whole system of children's services, such as kindergartens and health centres, should be improved to help young families to have kids more easily."

Often it is lower-income families that are most attracted to the state subsidies, she added. To make the stimulus more efficient, the results of financial aid and other steps should be analysed, she said.

"This problem has been faced by European countries for a long time, and they have already partly worked out a system to tackle it," said Soroka. "In Russia there is no organisation that has studied the methods and the results."

In another development that is hurting Russia's demographic gap, young Russians are now joining their Western counterparts in marrying, and having children, later.

High death rate

Poor health and low levels of sporting activity are other reasons for the country's depopulation. Russia has one of the highest death rates in the world, but recently it has started to fall, experts say.

"Over the past two years the death rate has started to decline; there are fewer violent deaths and fewer cases of alcohol poisoning. That's even though the death rate of men from 20 to 50 in Russia is three or four times higher than in Europe, and half of the country's men don't reach pension age," says Soroka.

Apart from high death rates on the roads and in industrial and other accidents, preventable deaths due to alcohol poisoning alone account for 30,000 to 40,000 deaths a year in Russia.

The Health and Social Development Ministry is currently working out social programmes to reduce the death rate and general improve health.

"Russians' health is heavily ruined by poor medicine, bad ecology and disregarding simple hygiene rules," said Kuzina. "The promotion of a healthy lifestyle and sports is very important and luckily the government is addressing this issue."

Migration as an answer

Plans to attract more migrants to the country may also help to boost the working population, and thus the economy. Recently, small business lobby Opora proposed attracting 20 million migrants to move to Russia over the next 15 years.

Experts say there's already a net inflow of 200,000 migrants coming into Russia every year, but insist that migrants can only partly solve the problem. "We are struggling to revive the ethnic Russian population. We all know that foreigners make up a large part of the population in other countries, but they are working hard to assimilate them," said Soroka.

High abortion rate

Russia's abortion rate remains stubbornly high, and anti-abortion groups are actively campaigning on the issue ­ using demographics as one of their main arguments.

One St. Petersburg NGO, Zhizn, or Life, fights against abortion by convincing pregnant women to go ahead with the birth by offering charitable aid, including clothes, food and medicine. "Pregnant women are often talked into abortions by their boyfriends or families, while employers sack them to avoid paying maternity leave," said Valentina Yatmanova, the head of Zhizn. "We are trying to show that these situations can be resolved."

Keyword Tags:

Russia, Law, Corruption, Crime - Russia News - Russia - Johnson's Russia List

Bookmark and Share - Back to the Top -        


Bookmark and Share

- Back to the Top -        

  Follow Johnson's Russia List on Twitter Tweet