Vladimir Putin recently held a meeting about economic issues at the Kremlin in which national demographic policy were reported to be the main items on the agenda.  He argues that “preserving our people and supporting child birth are among the greatest priorities for our work”.  Here are some of the more interesting reported excerpts from the Russian president:

 “What makes a country? A country is above all its people. Demography is an integral and in many respects key indicator of the economic and social sector situation and a good measure too of changes taking place in the state and society…

Today, we will have a comprehensive discussion of demographic policy… because what is at stake here is our country’s future and our people’s future… We have been working actively on demographic issues right from the start of the 2000s. Today, however, we again see a falling birth rate.   

The number of births dropped by 68,700 over January-April this year compared with the same period last year.  …The sharp and catastrophic drop in the birth rate during the Great Patriotic War period led to a drop in the number of births at the start of the 1970s. This generation in turn had fewer children during the difficult years of the 1990s. The less numerous generation born during those years is now just starting to found families.

First, an analysis is currently underway of the maternity capital programme and its future possibilities. Second, there are discussions on enhancing and improving the effectiveness of the system of support benefits for families with children. Third, I agree that we need to resolve the problem with ensuring enough daycare nurseries for children under the age of three, just as we did with kindergartens. We need to propose additional measures regarding housing provision for families with children.

Of course, along with support for the birth rate, we should continue our comprehensive and consistent effort to bring down mortality. Let me say again that demography is a vital issue that will influence our country’s development for decades to come. We will and can carry out an active policy here and back it up with the necessary resources.

We know that resources are never as great as we would like, and we must allocate them carefully, but we must set and define our priorities too. Preserving our people and supporting child birth are among the greatest priorities for our work.

Let’s begin the discussion.”

Historically Russia’s low birth rate has also been caused by a huge number of abortions. According to the UN’s World Abortion Policies Chart for 2013, the Russian abortion rate was 37.4 per 1000 women aged between 15-44, the highest rate for countries for which data was available. Yet this is still much lower than the country’s historic rates.  

President Putin has chosen to champion conservative family values; perhaps in part because he realises the importance of the contribution the family unit makes to building a strong society.  As a result the Russian Orthodox Church has expanded its influence in Russia.  Yet, will an empowered Church serve God or Putin’s agenda as he attempts to make Russia more powerful?  The West must also think about building strong family units as the fabric of a strong society.  

Shannon Roberts

Shannon Roberts is co-editor of MercatorNet's blog on population issues, Demography is Destiny. While she has a background as a barrister, writing has been a life-long passion and she has contributed...