"Careers and wellbeing are important, but we need to drive home the message that the happiness and the joy of fatherhood and motherhood are more important than the financial wellbeing you may enjoy today. . ."
President Putin, during his annual Q+A with journalists from across Russia, took a question from one of the more popular hosts from the main Christian government TV channel, Spas (Salvation). She asked him why so many young married couples opt not to have children, or have very few, and what might be done to change these attitudes, pointing out that it doesn't seem to be connected to material wellbeing, because even middle and upper class families often have few children.
He expressed his conviction about the priority position that fatherhood should be in the life of families and about the spiritual aspect of the demographic problem in Russia and other countries in Europe. He also reiterated his government's commitment to material support - from birth to schooling - for families that make a decision in favor of raising many children, support that is to be further developed over the next 2 years.
Veronika Ivashchenko: Good afternoon. My name is Veronika Ivashchenko, Spas TV channel. Here is my question. Mr President, you started talking about demographics today, specifically, about large families.
The question is, we all know that demographics are the biggest unsolved problem with Russians. Why? Because at this point Russia no longer wants to have children. Living standards are going up, everything is fine, things are good outwardly, but for some reason, people decide against having children, and if we look at divorce statistics, we can see they have also forgotten how to build relationships.
What do you think the reasons are? These ailments, one might say, are not of economic, but of spiritual nature. This is something we used to be proud of, my great-grandparents had seven to ten children, I mean, in my family, we have always had many children and we have always respected the traditions of a strong family. What measures could be taken, apart from economic ones, such as the maternity capital and other benefits – what measures do you think could help change this situation? Thank you.
Vladimir Putin: You mentioned the Russian tradition of having large families. I can tell you that both my parents also come from large families, and their parents' families had many children, nine to ten, both boys and girls. Incidentally, almost all of them – not all, but nearly all – perished during the Great Patriotic War. That was a huge tragedy and a crushing blow to our demographics.
As a reminder, Russia suffered one demographic gap in 1943–1944 and another in 1991, after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Why? Because the planning horizon narrowed dramatically, and oddly enough, in 1991, after the collapse of the USSR, people apparently had the same sentiment as during the Great Patriotic War. The family planning horizon narrowed to a few days, and this is what happened.
As for Russia no longer wanting to have children or not knowing how, we recorded far more births in 2004 and 2006 than in 1991, and later too, the birth rate began to grow. And, prosaic as this might sound, that had to do with an improvement of the economic situation and the expansion of the planning horizon.
Getting children on their feet is no easy business and quite a challenge from a financial standpoint. It is for this reason that in everything we do, including during the pandemic, we seek to support families with children. I already mentioned this at the beginning, and I would like to say it one more time. I will not repeat everything, because there is even more to it: our objective is to develop an entire motherhood and childhood support framework for accompanying children from the moment they are born right until they graduate from school. This must be done soon, next year and the following years.
We will enact the relevant support measures at every stage. They already exist, but there are certain age gaps. We will bridge them within the next 18 months. I do hope that this will play a positive role in terms of improving the demographic situation.
Of course, there are also delicate issues that lie far below the surface and are hard to understand at first sight. In fact, all post-industrial nations face the same demographic problem. Just look at Europe: it is the same everywhere. What is causing this? It is not that people are not interested, but they, including women of childbearing age, have other priorities: education, post-graduate education, careers, and only then kids, but by then they are already 30 years old. There is hardly any time left for the second child. This is a general trend, and quite a delicate issue. Demographers study this professionally and have been working on this subject their entire lives, but even they lack definitive and clear answers to these questions. This is how things stand, more or less.
As for the spiritual side of the question, you are right of course that careers and wellbeing are important, but we need to drive home the message that the happiness and the joy of fatherhood and motherhood are more important than the financial wellbeing you may enjoy today. We need to impress this on the people gradually and calmly, without imposing anything on anyone.
Let me reiterate that we must refrain from imposing anything on anyone, but we still need to give positive publicity to the idea of a large, friendly, good-spirited, and beautiful family, and show that happiness is about having children, in order to convince people that there is nothing in the world or in life that can bring more happiness. However, this requires a creative, talented approach that must also be eye-catching and sophisticated. This effort must include the mass media, artists and NGOs. We need to offer financial support to people who decide to have children. Let us all come together and move in this direction.
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