Sunday, May 14, 2006

Russia's Birth Rate Declining as well - for some reason they think it's a problem.

Putin Urges Plan to Reverse Slide in the Birth Rate

President Vladimir V. Putin directed Parliament on Wednesday to adopt a 10-year program to stop the sharp decline in Russia's population, principally by offering financial incentives and subsidies to encourage women to have children.
. . .
Mr. Putin has raised the issue in the past, but never with such a clear set of instructions aimed at increasing the low birthrate, or at such length in a prominent speech. Among his proposals were one-time cash grants to mothers upon the birth of a second child, extended maternity leave benefits and a graduating scale of cash and day-care subsidies as a woman has more children. "The situation is critical in that sphere," he said.
. . .
His attention to this issue brought a rare moment of levity when Mr. Putin said, "Now, the main thing, what we see as the main thing" and he was interrupted by a call from the floor.

"Love!" the voice said.

"Right," Mr. Putin answered. "The Defense Ministry knows what the main thing is. Really, I am going to speak about love, women, children" there was applause from the assembled officials "family, and Russia's most acute problem today: demography."

The subject, however, was not light. Mr. Putin then warned that Russia's population had been declining by almost 700,000 people a year, and that the state must stop this fall. The shrinking birthrate could undermine the economy and tax the pension system, among other effects.

A number of other countries facing declining birthrates have offered similar incentives. Australia offers a $4,000 bonus for every baby, and recently proposed to pay all child care costs for women who want to work. Many European countries, including France, Italy and Poland, have offered some combination of bonuses and monthly payments to families.

Some Japanese localities, facing near catastrophic population loss, are offering rich incentives. Yamatsuri, a town of 7,000 just north of Tokyo, offers parents $4,600 for the birth of a child and $460 a year for 10 years. Singapore has a particularly lavish plan: $3,000 for the first child, $9,000 in cash and savings for the second; and up to $18,000 each for the third and fourth."

Many industrialized countries are crying a dearth of people, while other countries have an excess population, many of whom would love to live in an industrialized nation. Are they simply that obtuse, or is there an undercurrent of ethnocentrism, perhaps even racism under the insistence that more Russians (Germans, Japanese, etc) are the only possible solution?

The ironic thing is how America is also paying people to have children, albeit slightly less directly (and denied to the poor) through tax credits. We have no such population crisis here.

See also a related article on CNN.

No comments: