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12 Sep, 2007 18:37

Have a baby and win a car!

In an attempt to battle Russia's declining population, authorities in the Ulyanovsk Region have come up with an unusual way to boost the birth rate. The Governor of the region has given people a holiday to encourage them to try for a baby.

Officially the new holiday is called the 'Family Unity Day', but unofficially people refer to it as the 'Day of Conception'.
The Governor of the region, Sergey Morozov, intends to give awards to couples whose children are born nine months later, on June 12 – the Day of Russia.

“The birth rate in our region is critical. We realised we wouldn’t have any future if we didn’t run new social programmes, didn’t contact people and didn’t persuade them that giving birth is important,” Mr Morozov said.

The prizes will range from about $US 10,000 in cash to cars, fridges and TV-sets.
A serious demographic problem lies behind the initiative.  The population of Russia has been falling steadily for the past 17 years. It currently stands at about 142 million people.  But Russia occupies around one seventh of the world’s surface, making it one of the most sparsely populated countries.
According to some analysts, by 2050 Russia’s population will have dropped to 100 million.

But in Ulyanovsk Region, the birth rate has risen every year since the scheme began.

Andrey Malykh, the Chief Physician of the regional clinic, says, “The success of this programme is shown in simple numbers. Tweny-eight children were born in 2005, and 78 were born since the beginning of this year.  Earlier the birth rate in the region was falling, this year it has increased by 6 %”.