Russia Tries Incentives to Stem Underpopulation, Women Not Interested

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   May 18, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Russia Tries Incentives to Stem Underpopulation, Women Not Interested

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by Steven Ertelt Editor
May 18, 2006

Moscow, Russia ( — Russia is trying financial incentives to try to stem the tide of massive underpopulation brought on by decades of abnormally high abortion rates. President Vladimir Putin last week defined the crisis as the nation’s biggest problem and the government is offering hefty bonuses to women who have a second child.

But they’re not interested, it appears.

The financial offers from the Russian government are definitely enticing.

Putin ordered the Russian parliament to more than double the monthly child support payments to about $55 US monthly. Women who choose to have a second child can qualify for as much as $9,200 — a huge sum of money in a country where the average monthly salary is $330.

Yet, the Christian Science Monitor newspaper talked with women at a local family planning center who said the money isn’t incentive to them to have more children.

Svetlana Romanicheva, a student who said she’s not thinking of having children for at least five years, says the offer shows the Russian government doesn’t understand the lives of young adult women.

"A child is not an easy project, and in this world a woman is expected to get an education, find a job and make a career," she told CSM. "It won’t change anything [to have more money]."

"This problem began long ago, and even if we were to have more babies it wouldn’t mean the situation … would improve," said Irina Isayeva, a medical student who volunteers at the family planning center. "Women may want fewer children but be able to give them better chances in life."

Other women, like Istomina, a student, tell the Christian Science Monitor that finding a quality husband is becoming a problem and many women choose to remain single or go to another country in search of a relationship.

Russia’s birthrate has been on the decline for decades and, in 2004, was just 1.17 babies per woman. It was twice as much in 1990, according to the Federal State Statistics Service. Population demographers say that 2.4 children born per woman is necessary for any nation to sustain its population.

The numbers are exacerbated by the nation’s high abortion rates, as abortion is considered a primary means of birth control, and an aging population. Russia’s death rate rose to 16.3 in 2002 from 10.7 per thousand people in 1988 — high peacetime numbers.

The result of these dynamics put together is seen in a recent UN report, CSM says, which shows the Russian population shrinking by one-third by 2050. That could leave the nation unable to field an army to defend itself, man factories and other labor-intensive businesses and provide for older Russians in their retirement years.

Putin has also focused on adoption to promote the population and foreign adoptions of Russian children are on the decline. He has asked parliament to increase to $166 per month the stipend given to families that adopt children.