I am sure that you are all aware (since we covered it on this blog quite a number of times) that there was a Demographic Summit in Moscow at the end of June. If not, have a look through our archives (search “Moscow”). It was appropriate that the summit was held in Russia, as that county is struggling to cope with a demographic crisis that is seeing its population steadily fall thanks to a low birth rate (and the highest abortion rate in the world) and a low life expectancy.
This video from the Population Research Institute was shot during the summit and provides an interesting insight into the demographic problems besetting Russia. Of especial interest was the mortgage lender that has a policy of cutting its interest rates by 0.5% per year for every child that its customers have. This is a novel way of incentivising people to have more children and to relieve the economic hardship of raising them. Measures such as these in the private sector (as well as governmental measures instituted in the last few years under Putin) are helpful but, as stated in the video, are by themselves not enough to arrest the demographic decline. Although policies may make it easier financially to have children, they cannot lift the economic burden of children completely. Furthermore, they do nothing to alleviate the never-ending responsibility that children bring with them. If people in Russia and elsewhere are not prepared to have more children then a cheaper mortgage will not change that.
What is necessary instead is an acceptance of the burden of having children but also a recognition that it is the sweetest burden in the world. Children are a burden that cannot be topped by any material possession that you may have to forsake for them. That requires a change of heart and mentality. In the video young people at the summit are questioned as to how many children they would like to have. The young men answer 3 (one says eleven, somewhat facetiously) and the young women say two or even one. They are hardly planning to have large families and, as the presenter says, those interviewed are all Catholics and Russian Orthodox and at the summit (and therefore concerned about demographic issues one would assume). Yet even those who would be likely to have the larger families in Russia are still only planning on 1-3 children. Is it any surprise then that Russia (as well as other countries around the world – in Europe, China, Japan) is looking down the barrel of a shortage of babies in the coming decades?