Staunton, Dec. 15 – As he has repeatedly since 2012, Vladimir Putin has again called for giving more money to Russian women who have more children; but experts say that approach won’t work because the number of children people have reflects not just incomes but their confidence in the future of the country.
Now that confidence is low, they say; and along with consumerist values that lead young people to pursue careers and purchase apartments before having children, it is keeping the birthrate low and will do so no matter how much money the Kremlin offers to women to have more children (nakanune.ru/articles/120033/).
According to Yevgeny Chernyshov of the Nakanune news agency, there is widespread agreement among the Russian expert community that “expecting that payments will increase the birthrate is crazy” and that the only way to increase it is to address general social conditions and social values and expectations.
Nina Ostanina, head of the Duma committee on the family, women and children, says that she is concerned by the government’s plan to focus aid to families to promote the birthrate only on the poorest Russians. That is a double mistake as it ignores the others and ignore the need to change attitudes and expectations.
Yury Obolonsky, director of the National Parents Committee, agrees. He says that the main cause of the country’s demographic problems is that “there is no faith in the future.” Polls he has taken show that to have children, people have to have confidence in tomorrow; and right now they don’t.
Rinat Abdulkhakov, head of the Fathers of the Country social movement, says surveys his group have conducted say that as a result of this lack of faith, young people feel they have to devote their 20s to making a career and buying an apartment rather than having children in the prime child-bearing age group.
Further, he suggests, the spread of consumerist values, a spread that the state and its media do everything they can to promote, is undercutting commitments of Russians to family values including the importance of having and raising children. It is making people selfish rather than committed to something larger than themselves.
“All of this does not give the slightest reason for optimism,” Chernyshov says. “No one is seriously concerned” about what is going on and the country is rapidly dying out.” Money is needed to address this problem, but money alone won’t solve it. Only a change in direction and a sense that things are getting better will do that.