Media Review

17 february, 2012 13:51

Rossiyskaya Gazeta: To save and multiply

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin explained how families will receive allowances for a third child.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin explained how families will receive allowances for a third child. Demographic indicators in Russia are generally good but not quite stable. During his visit to Naberezhnye Chelny, Putin discussed how to preserve the population and boost the birth rate as he talked to the governors, officials and medical workers.

Before switching to such a complicated and vital national issue, Putin visited a production event at the KamAZ plant – a two millionth lorry built. Putin autographed the interior of the vehicle. “Not long ago the skeptics and doomsayers were predicting the collapse of our auto industry, including giants like KamAZ. This didn’t happen. Not only that, KamAZ managed to keep its domestic lead in its segment,” Putin said.

However, this trip to the famous plant was not the main goal of Putin’s visit to Tatarstan. He left the plant for a high-tech emergency care hospital to attend a meeting on demography. Prior to the meeting he answered a question from laboratory technician, Leisan Salnikova. She had read one of Putin’s articles and found something that concerned her. “I have two daughters and my husband is dreaming about a son. Will my family get an allowance for a third child?” she asked Putin. The young woman had reason to worry – the government has promised benefits to regions with low birth rates, but her home republic was not one of them.    

Putin explained: all ethnic groups in the country have equal rights and none of the programmes is ethnicity-based. Regional selectivity is a different matter. In Russia, there are 1.6 children per woman on average. The figure for Tatarstan is slightly higher. There are regions in the European part of the country, the northwest, the Volga area and the Far East with very low birth rates. We are planning assistance for people of any ethnicity who live in demographically stagnant areas,” Putin said. “In general, we are almost all related. We are first in the world in the number of mixed marriages,” he added.

During his visit to the hospital, Putin elaborated on the same subject. He announced on Monday that the benefit would be equivalent to the subsistence level for one child, or about 7,000 roubles. This programme must be tailored to support families with low income in regions with poor demography. Initially, the contribution could reach 90% and by 2018 the government plans to reach parity with the regions, fifty-fifty.

The prime minister quoted some optimistic figures – from 2005 to 2011 life expectancy jumped five years. The increase in the population is not simply a result of immigration – it’s due primarily to a falling mortality rate and an increasing birthrate in Russia. Putin emphasized that the rate of natural population decline is at its lowest level in 20 years, and almost a third of Russia’s regions have recorded a natural population increase.

In the last six years more than 10 million children have been born in Russia. Our birthrate has already overtaken that of many European countries.  In just six years we have managed to reduce infant mortality by one third. “What this statistics means is that 11,000 children have been saved,” Putin counted. In 2011, the infant mortality rate was 33.6% lower than in 2005, and we need at least 20 to 25 more perinatal centres across the country.

Despite these successes the demographic situation is still unstable. The country experienced a drastic drop in the birthrate between 1992 and 2002-2003. It was almost a demographic chasm. Now this generation is at its reproductive age.

Putin recalled his theses on this issue – if we don’t take any measures to address the demographic problem, the population will shrink to 107 million people by 2050. If our new programmes are a success, it will grow to 154 million by that time.

What we need to do is not only to continue these programmes but expand them and put forward additional measures to boost the birthrate.

Support for families with children must become a top priority. “Families with many children should be our most important value,” Putin said. We must make sure that the birth of a child does not put a family into a financial predicament or push it to the edge of poverty. Putin emphasized that each region must have clear-cut measures of support for women who give birth to a second and subsequent children.

“The resolution of demographic issues largely depends on regional management,” he went on. “Russian Empress Catherine II considered population growth to be a priority for the governors. She was absolutely right.”

The prime minister suggested that the governors again scrutinize their demographic statistics for 2009-2011. He believes it is necessary to develop a standard procedure to evaluate the performance of regional administrations in this field.

Putin promised to reward a region for tangible success in upgrading healthcare with additional funds. “We have five billion roubles worth of reserves,” he said.


Before leaving for Tatarstan, Putin asked Defence Minister Anatoly Serdyukov to brief him on the implementation of the state defence order. Serdyukov reported that his ministry has contracts on aircraft and naval equipment up to 2020. The ministry hopes to review a new version of the T-72 tank by 2013 and to launch production by 2015.

 Kira Latukhina