Have a Baby, Get a Financial Bonus - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

7/22/06-ST. PETERSBURG, Russia,

Have a Baby, Get a Financial Bonus

Russian President Vladimir Putin is considering offering as much as $10,000 to mothers who have a second child as a strategy to combat his nation's current population decline.  (ABC News) Russian President Vladimir Putin is considering offering as much as $10,000 to mothers who have a second child as a strategy to combat his nation's current population decline. (ABC News)
   Whatever shortages have plagued the Russian nation, babies have always been in reliable abundance.

During the Soviet era, large families were heralded and women who produced 10 or more children were considered heroes.

Now, the average birth rate is less than one child per woman and the population decline is stunning.

"The country has been in recent years losing about 700,000 people a year," said Julie DaVanzo of the non-profit research organization Rand Corp.

Russia's population is expected to fall from 140 million to 100 million by the middle of the century, leaving the largest country in the world - in terms of physical size - with a population approaching that of Vietnam.

Davanzo said this is an "unprecedented population decline."

Russia has a unique problem because the low birth rate, which is common in developed, educated societies, is paired with a mortality rate as high as the poorest countries in the world. The life expectancy for Russian men is around 59 years, as compared to 75 years for men in the United States.

In Russia's case, the shorter life span is due to a combination of poor health care, unhealthy diets and pervasive alcoholism.

"Yes, alcohol plays a role," DaVanzo said. "You can see this when you look at ... the geographic distribution of deaths, because death rates are lower in the Muslim parts of the country where they do not consume alcohol."

She said the death rate is higher for most health conditions in Russia, as compared to the United States.

"You have high rates of death due to cardiovascular disease, both due to poorer health habits, and also due to the stress that followed the breakup of the Soviet Union when people could no longer depend on the State to take care of them," DaVanzo said.

Paying Moms for Their Efforts

The population decline is of great concern to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is considering a new plan to encourage larger families.

He may give as much as $10,000 to mothers who have a second child.

"It's quite ambitious," DaVanzo said.

But one woman we spoke with was not impressed with the amount being offered for her to have a second child.

"Ten thousand dollars is not so much, really," the mother of one said.

Another woman, Nina, said she wants at least two children but is intimidated by the financial burden of having a family.

"The main problem is money ... real estate is too expensive," she said.

For Marina and Dennis, it's their small apartment and a sense of uncertainty that are keeping the couple from giving a sibling to their 14-month-old son Sasha.

"We're going to wait a while to have another child," Marina said.

Even if other families were to take advantage of the potential government bonus for having children, DaVanzo points out that the benefits to society would not be immediate as it would be 15 years before this new generation would enter the work force.

"One wonders whether this is the best use of the money, or rather it would be better spent on improving health care and reducing the death rate to people in the prime ages," she said.

And, given the attitudes of the families we spoke with, for now this is one valuable natural resource that may stay in short supply.

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