Russia's economic growth led to baby boom - 2007

Russia's economic growth led to baby boom

One could hardly meet women with newly-borns in Moscow in the 1990s. But today women with small children can be increasingly seen in the streets. Experts say that a baby boom has begun in Russia. New shops for newly-borns are opening. According to head of the Moscow Health Department Andrei Seltsovsky, last year 87,600 babies were born in the Russian capital, or 8% more than in 2002. Since 1999 the birth rate has been on the rise in Russia. Experts attribute this growth to economic recovery and the increase of real incomes of the population. According to data of the State Statistics Committee, last year the birth rate increased by 6.1% on 2002 to 1,359,800 babies, or 76,700 more than in the previous year. Today there are 10.4 newly-borns per thousand of the population. Middle-aged rather than young women living in Moscow account for the largest number of births. "This is the realization of the first and second births postponed in the economically difficult 1990s," head of the laboratory for reproduction analysis and forecasting with the Center of Demography and Human Ecology of the Russian Academy of Sciences Sergei Zakharov says. Last year women above 30 years of age accounted for 45% of births. "Today female Muscovites venture to give birth at the age of 40, 45 and even 50," chief gynecologist-obstetrician of the Moscow Health Department Mark Kurtser says. In the 1990s, when alternative medicine prospered in Russia, it was popular among women to give birth at home and in the water. Now, according to Mark Kurtser, Russian women insist "on the continuity of traditional in-patient and out-patient clinics, individual approaches, anaesthesia during birth-giving, comfort and the availability of the intensive care baby therapy."

Today I have reached a certain level of prosperity and can give my child everything he needs," says 29-year old Moscow female journalist Olga Sokolova who gave birth to her first baby two months ago. This example is illustrative: a fashion for late "planned babies" is spreading in Russian megalopolises. During the Soviet period, young people used to begin their labour and family life simultaneously, at the age of just over 20. Now young people start a family much later. "At the dawn of the 1990s, a crisis of the family as an institution broke out in Russia; the number of unregistered marriages is on the rise; women first try to make a career, reach financial stability and only then give birth to children," renowned demography expert Yevgeny Andreyev says. To stimulate birth rate growth, it is necessary "to raise the prestige of families with many children and stipulate various benefits for families with children," head of the chair of the family sociology at the sociology department of Moscow State University Anatoly Antonov says. His opinion is shared by deputy chairman of the State Duma committee for public associations and religious organizations Alexander Chuyev: "We shall ask the new government to raise child allowances, grant housing credits to young families, increase benefits for families with many children and promote family values." Representatives of public organizations, the church, scientists and doctors proposed at a recent round table discussion in the State Duma entitled 'Demography and the Protection of the Woman's Reproductive Health' to create a Council for Demographic Policy under the President of Russia.

Some Central, Volga Area and Siberian regions are trying to stimulate births by economic methods. In addition to federal one-time allowances for newly-borns (4,500 rubles at the place of work, 2,000 rubles at the place of residence plus a 500-ruble monthly child care allowance; 1 US dollar equals 28.5 rubles), they pay bonuses to young families for heirs. In Moscow parents under 30 get an extra payment for the first baby in the amount of 16,000 rubles. The payment for the third baby equals 32,000 rubles. "In St. Petersburg a family where a baby is born gets 8,000 rubles as a one-off payment and 1,500 rubles monthly for baby food and baby attendance articles," head of the city's health committee department for medical and preventive treatment assistance to mothers and children Anatoly Simakhodsky says. As a result, such a family gets 26,000 rubles per year. Money is first remitted to the personal credit card. Then parents can go to any of the 54 Healthy Baby shops to purchase what their newly-born needs." As in Moscow, St. Petersburg authorities help young parents find jobs. Some regions, for example, Bashkiria and Udmurtia, issue loans to young families for the purchase of housing with the possibility of loan amortization in the event more babies are born, stipulate tax privileges and benefits for the payment of housing and utilities services. "As a result of these measures, the birth rate exceeds the number of deaths in 22 regions of the country now," first deputy health and social development minister Galina Karelova says.


Baby boom the answer for Russia?

President Vladimir Putin of Russia drew from the Soviet past last week when he championed the role of motherhood in preventing Russia from becoming a state short of citizens. The Russian population is shrinking, and demographers warn that it is within a generation of plummeting. If the most pessimistic models hold, the decline could make the country a vast, underpopulated state within four or five decades, a country with too few healthy people for a competitive work force or a capable army. Russian life, for the peasantry and the proletariat alike, has always been unforgiving. And in a speech reminiscent of Soviet pledges of the state helping the masses so that the masses might help the state, Putin chose the familiar Soviet solution of encouraging stalwart reproduction, telling the obedient Russian Parliament to enact programs of financial incentives to women to have more children. The Kremlin-friendly news media here - a place that often feels like the land of the single-child family - crowed in approval. The president had spoken: Here is the money, he had essentially said. Russian mothers, fulfill your role. Beneath the enthusiasm was a question Putin did not address. Will cash incentives work? The data would say: not quite. There is little doubt that for Russia to be a power through the 21st century its demographic trends must be reversed. There also seems to be no question that Russian mothers, short of feats of fertility unseen in the industrialized world, cannot save Russia alone.

"You have to do this in a variety of ways," said Murray Feshbach, a demographer at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, in Washington, who studies the Russian population and its health. The problems can be found in the numbers. Russia has roughly 143 million people, and the population drops an average of 700,000 each year, largely because of the wide gap between the number of those born and the number who die. More babies will help. But as the population shrinks, Feshbach said, it risks an accelerating collapse that fertility itself cannot reverse. This is in part because the low birthrate is more than two decades old, and the number of women ages 20 to 29, the most fecund segment of the population, has already fallen to 12 million, he said. In the next several years, women that age will fall to 8 million or fewer - a small contingent to bear the next generation. And as analysts at the World Bank and the United Nations have pointed out, the threat to the population is not just low birthrates, but high death rates.

The Russian people are deeply unhealthy, so much so that there is no demographic group in the industrial world as ailing and prone to fatal injury as the Russian male, whose average age at death is about 59. Abysmal mortality trends separate Russia from other industrial countries that offer incentives to stimulate population growth, including Japan and Australia. Moreover, pernicious infections have entered the Russian population since Soviet times, making the country a growing reservoir of people recently infected with tuberculosis, HIV and hepatitis C. Many of these infections have not yet turned into high rates of disease, but the public health authorities say that as the incubation periods run their course over the next several years, their effects on national health will be evident. Tuberculosis is already at epidemic levels, and an expected surge in AIDS cases and hepatitis complications could, by the most dire models, kill more than half a million people a year in a generation or two. There are signs that Russia is waking to the problems. Last month, the Kremlin pushed through a roughly twentyfold increase in its paltry financing for AIDS prevention, diagnosis and treatment - a sign of an understanding of the severity of the problem, said Dmitry Rechnov, a deputy director of AIDS Foundation East-West, a private organization here. "If we keep on this track, there can be a number of positive developments," he said.

Still, the Kremlin's attention to public health has been uneven, and expected increases in mortality related to infectious disease would push up a death rate already driven above norms in industrial countries by high rates of heart disease, cancer, alcoholism, accidents, violence and suicide. The potential consequences are clear. In a report released last year, the World Bank warned that if Russia did not adopt comprehensive public health programs, it risked a shrinking work force, destabilized families, strains on national security and a drain on its gross domestic product. And not everyone agrees that cash incentives, which are not part of a comprehensive health program, will even achieve what the Kremlin hopes - more healthy and productive children. If Putin's proposals pass, as they almost certainly will, then next year, mothers will receive bonuses worth about $9,000 for giving birth, as well as a graduating scale of monthly cash allowances for infants and subsidies for day care. Putin did not go as far as past Kremlin leaders, like Stalin, who encouraged women to give birth by offering Medals of Maternal Glory to repopulate a country thinned by repression and war. Even were Putin to do so, the numbers suggest, without shifts in attitudes and widespread improvements, the traffic at maternity wards would remain slower than the Russians' rush to the grave.


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Arevordi will be taking a sabbatical to tend to personal matters. New blog commentaries will henceforth be posted on an irregular basis. The comments board however will continue to be moderated on a regular basis.

The last 20 years or so has also helped me see Russia as the last front against scourges of Westernization, Globalism, American expansionism, Zionism, Islamic extremism and pan-Turkism. I have also come to see Russia as the last hope humanity has for the preservation of classical western civilization, Apostolic Christianity and the traditional nation-state. This realization compelled me to create this blog in 2010. Immediately, this blog became one of the very few voices in the vastness of cyberia that dared to preach about the dangers of Globalism and the Anglo-American-Jewish alliance, and the only voice preaching the strategic importance of Armenia remaining within Russia's orbit. From about 2010 to 2015 I did monthly, at times weekly, commentaries about Russian-Armenian relations and Eurasian geopolitics in general. It was very difficult as I had no assistance in this endeavor. The time I put into this blog therefore came at the expense of work and family. But a powerful feeling inside me urged me to keep going; and I did.

When Armenia finally joined the EEU and integrated its armed forces into Russia's military structures a couple of years ago, I finally felt a deep sense of satisfaction and relaxation, as if a very heavy burden was lifted off my shoulders. I finally felt that my personal mission was accomplished. I therefore felt I could take a step back, as I really needed the rest. Simply put: I have lived to see the institutionalization of Russian-Armenian alliance. Also, I feel more confident now that Armenians are collectively recognizing the strategic importance of Armenia's ties with Russia. Moreover, I feel satisfied knowing that, at least on a subatomic level, I had a hand in the outcome. As a result, I feel a strong sense of mission accomplished. I therefore no longer have the urge to continue as in the past. In other words, the motivational force that had propelled me in previous years has been gradually dissipating because I feel that this blog has lived to see the realization of its stated goal. Going forward, I do not want to write merely for the sake of writing. Also, I do not want to say something if I have nothing important to say. I feel like I have said everything I needed to say. Henceforth, I will post seasonal commentaries about topics I find important. I will however continue moderating the blog's comments section on a regular basis; ultimately because I'm interested in what my readers have to say and also because it's through readers here that I am at times made aware of interesting developments.

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