Russian women are afraid to bear children. The demographic crisis has become one of the most acute problems in present-day Russia. Recent financial incentives i.e. a bonus certificate to be paid for a second child and an increased child benefit have failed to impress every Russian woman of childbearing age. Perhaps the incentives fall short of the target because the cost of child support is being calculated by wealthy men in the capacity of government officials. It would be fair to suggest that any woman is able to bear a child thanks to the latest advances in healthcare. The issue boils down to money. The question is: Why are the majority of Russian women still reluctant to fulfill their duty of motherhood?
A second-child bonus certificate is awarded only once. The mothers can use it only for paying the cost of education and health services for their children. In other words, the value of the certificate will be severely lowered by inflation in the coming years. There is no bonus whatsoever for the birth of a first child. The government must be under the impression that a first-born child needs no money for healthcare and education. The government proudly announced an increase in the single-time maternity benefit – up to 7,000 rubles (about $300). Do those officials have any idea how much a maternity hospital charges for delivering a baby?
Delivering a baby in a hospital that provides services on commercial principles usually costs a minimum of 25,000 rubles (about $1,000). The amount of a monthly child benefit paid for 18 months has now increased more than twice, up to 1,500 rubles (about $40) – a sum big enough for buying two packages of good-quality throwaway diapers for a baby. The state would cough up a bit more for you to buy 4 packages a month in case you are willing to have a second child.
The government estimated that 8,000 rubles (about $350) paid as a single-time maternity benefit could cover all the expenses related to a child’s future. Mikhail Zurabov, an “extremely popular” government minister, is confident that the funds are more than enough for placing 600,000 orphans in families. Judging by measures outlined in the state program on demographic policy to be implemented in Russia up to the year 2025, the government hopes that the incentives could help increase the birth rate from the present 1.3 child a year to 1.7 child a year.
Both teachers and pediatricians are appalled by numerous reports on mothers leaving their newborn babies in custody of grandmothers and nursemaids in order to get back to work just a week after the childbirth. Any authority on child health can tell you that an early postnatal separation between the mother and the newborn is arguably the worst thing that can happen to the child. However, young mother have to leave their babies at home and resume working. Earlier this year there was a glimpse of hope for those women who were paid decent salaries prior to taking a maternity leave. Their salaries could have remained intact for at least the period of a maternity leave. A woman from the city of Sarov won a case in court to prove that the existing salary cap (16,125 rubles) was a humiliation. However, the cap was not canceled. Starting this September, a single-time maternity benefit will be increased by one third only, to the amount of 23,400 rubles. Meanwhile, the government will also take steps to “encourage employment of women with children.” The government apparently fears that a woman may use her entire three-year maternity leave to which she is currently entitled. At the end of the day, Russian males will have to tackle the problem. All the potential fathers have to be rich these days so that the Russian government may carry out its program to resolve the country’s acute population crisis.
Translated by Guerman Grachev