Putin Has Made Russia’s Demographic Destiny a Priority for his Government

On Tuesday, Vladimir Putin announced the reset of the demographic development policy and proposed a state program for the ‘Decade of Childhood’ initiative which will begin in Russia on January 1. The goal of the program consisting of six Putin's points is to prevent a decline in the Russian population, even though we are entering a so-called double demographic hole, when the human losses of the Great Patriotic War backfire, coupled with low birth rates after the collapse of the USSR.

However, fortunately, Russians are increasingly having children. When asked by VTsIOM whether now is a good time for having children, 42% of respondents answered "yes". Whereas in 2008 this answer was given only by 25% of Russians. It is curious that 35% think that now is "neither the best nor the worst time" for having children. That is, these people do not refer to a certain time at all. Only 17% of the respondents consider the current time bad for having children vs 28% in 2008. That is, a psychological shift is in favor of giving birth to children. And six of Putin's points meet the public demand.

Alexander Balitsky has the details.

 

The winners of the All-Russian Family Competition, who came to the Kremlin to meet the president, didn't know that the issue which directly concerned them was being discussed in the next room: How else can the state support parents with young children? At that time the children themselves were walking on their hands in the Kremlin, drawing.

A child: "Here I have a meadow with flowers".

The adults of the Savchenko family from Sevastopol were thinking of topics to discuss with the president.

Svetlana Savchenko: "Now we are considering options to apply maternity capital". 

Later on, over tea, Putin will tell them in detail about maternity capital.

President Putin: "The candy is so tasty-looking. Children are looking at it, thinking: "Can I finally eat it?" Yes, you can!"

The President said that the Year of Childhood was followed by a whole Decade of Childhood. It's not about the official name, but the government's priorities. There were many multi-child families present, for example, the Fetisovs from Saratov. They said that many had already felt this support.

Mrs. Fetisova: "Thanks to the projects that are successfully implemented in Russia with your support multi-child and single-child families can afford to have two or three children, and families no longer feel insecure to give birth to children".

President Putin: "You know, after all, we still have a lot of families with very low income. And it's a real obstacle to demographic development, the birth of the first child. Therefore, one of the measures is support for the first birth, especially for families with low income. The state will monthly pay them an additional 10.5 thousand rubles. I think, for such families, this will be a serious assistance".

Money for a firstborn will be paid monthly starting from January until the baby turns 18 months. These payments will be indexed annually. They are intended for families where the average income per person is under 1.5 living wages. It varies as per region. For example, in Moscow a family of three people with a total income under 85,000 rubles will have the right to such benefit. In the Leningrad region, eligible families will have an income of under 46,000 rubles.

Ekaterina Maksimova: "When I asked my husband how we'd live further, he said we'd live perfectly. Well, then I can safely give birth to my child".

Ekaterina has been a nurse in a maternity hospital, for 5 years, but decided to have a child only now. The Maksimovs' income is 40 thousand. The firstborn is expected in March, so, they will be eligible for new support measures. But payments for the firstborn are only the first of six points of the president's big demographic initiative.

Another support measure that proved effective is the maternity capital, and the president proposed to extend this program. Today, the maternity capital is 453 thousand rubles. For the 11 years of this program, the state has already paid the families almost 2 trillion. The president's new proposal is not just to extend the program, but also to provide more opportunities to apply the money. For example, spend it not only on housing or education, but also on a private kindergarten, or even a nanny. Those in particular need will receive monthly payments from their maternity capital.

President Putin: "Parents, families certainly count on this money. The same targeted approach will be applied here as with the first child payments. In addition, it will be possible to use maternity capital to pay for pre-school education services, to be more precise, for the child care after they turn 2 months. I know that this measure is highly in demand".

However, so far, 9 out of 10 maternity capital certificates are applied to improving housing.

Svetlana Savchenko: "You know, a young family faces some difficulties saving enough money. Is it possible to develop the existing programs or create new ones?"

President Putin: "I talked about a set of proposals aimed at supporting motherhood and childhood, and the family, including housing. It was suggested to subsidize the mortgage rate. That's what you have just asked. What is over 6% will be paid by the state".

This right will be given to those who expect another child next year. When the second child is born, the state will subsidize the mortgage within 3 years from the date when the loan was issued, and within 5 years, if they decide on the third child. The Ministry of Construction says the program can cover over half a million Russian families.

Pavel and Marina Khramylov from Bashkiria and two of their children live in a studio bought with a mortgage. It's 28 sq. m. Now they are considering their options.

Pavel Khramylov: "If the rate is lowered to 6%, it will be very good. We could afford more space, and go for a third child. It's good to have many children".

In the Far East, where the population density is one person per square kilometer, the demographic issue is particularly acute. Primorye, the Altai Territory, and Kamchatka. Over the past 5 years families in need with 3 children have been paid a special allowance.

A woman from Amursky Region: “It's hard to live on the salary only. Of course, the financial assistance is very useful”.

From the next year onwards, families in 60 regions will get the monthly allowance not only for the third, but also for the second child. These programs will require hundreds of billions. The Ministry of Finance says there's enough money. The budget embraces all the president’s demographic initiatives. It includes educational costs: Putin has decided to create at least 300,000 nursery places in the next 2 years which equals the current number of parents' applications. It also includes children's medicine. Polyclinics are to be reconstructed and re-equipped for mothers with babies not to wait in line for hours. Polyclinics are to be equipped like modern perinatal centers. There have been created more than 80 of them over the past several years.

Valentina Matvienko: "It's a unique program, I don't know any country where so many modern hospitals with cutting-edge equipment have been created within such a short period. This epic program will be successfully completed".

The Gagiev-Kodzoyevs told Putin in detail about what had already been built in Ingushetia. It was their boys who were doing somersaults on the Kremlin floor. Akramat and Batyr turn out to have long dreamt of visiting the Kremlin.

Mrs. Gagieva: "They wrote letters to Father Frost, they wanted to shake hands with Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin. It's not a child's dream. But dreams come true".

President Putin: "Now we will do it, everything will be fine. Batyr, what a serious name".

Batyr's dream came true when the winners of the "Family of the Year" contest were photographed.

It won’t just be this picture which will remain in their memory. The Savchenko family are already unpacking a large box at home. Together with the tea service, they also brought confidence to Sevastopol. Government support for motherhood and childhood is not just words. They even made a promise to the Kremlin.

Svetlana Savchenko: "I think next year you'll hear some good news".

Alexander Balitsky, Konstantin Ronin, Salima Zarid, and Yulia Brilleva for Vesti Weekly

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