The Worker

Declining Population Stirs Governments to Action 

by Dr Robert Daly 

China, Russia, Norway, and Italy have each launched emergency programs to encourage families to have more children and increase their birth rates.  

In Russia, presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists that population decline is “one of the major issues [Russia] has to face now,” reported RT May 19.1 According to the Russian state statistics agency Rosstat, the nation’s total population decreased by some 555,000 people in 2022 from 146.9 million to 146.4 million. Peskov emphasized that existing measures to encourage people to have children “have not produced the desired effect” and so “new measures are required.” Already, a mother receives a grant amounting to 587,000 rubles ($7,346) when her first child is born and an additional 775,600 rubles ($9,706) if she gives birth a second time, according to the Russian State Duma. Low-income families with children receive additional financial aid from the state. The current fertility rate for Russia in 2023 is 1.825 births per woman.2 In 2021 Russia launched a program to reduce abortions by 50%/3 Russian politicians compete over who can offer the best proposal to raise the birth rate. Speaking to the news agency ‘Moscow,’ Tamara Pletnyova, a Communist Party MP and the chair of the parliamentary Committee on Family, Women, and Children, argued that “those who don’t want to have children should be taxed. This was the case in Soviet times,” she explained.4She added that those medically unable to do so and those no longer of reproductive age should be exempted. In 2020, nationalist politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky proposed that the state pay money to pregnant women to prevent them having abortions, an idea which he claims could solve the country’s demographic crisis.5 

In China, the National Bureau of Statistics reported a population drop of 850,000 in 2022, the first decrease since 1962, reported RT March 316. The data showed a record-low birth rate and the highest death rate since 1976. Last October, President Xi Jinping pledged to “boost birth rates, and bring down the costs of pregnancy and childbirth, child rearing, and schooling.The Chinese National Health Authority is introducing support measures to try to reduce the number of abortions and raise one of the lowest birth rates in the world, reported RT Aug. 18, 2022. Quite a U-turn from the one child policy! The government has announced a huge variety of mechanisms, from taxation and insurance benefits – to family friendly workplaces and infant care services. China’s fertility rate (number of live births per woman of childbearing age), which stood at 1.16 in 2021, is well below the OECD standard of 2.1.7 “The pace and scale of China’s demographic crisis are faster and bigger than we imagined,” said Beijing-based researcher Huang Wenzheng. “That could have a disastrous impact on the country,” he said, according to RT Apr 27, 2021. 

In Norway, the Minister for Children and Families, Kjersti Toppe, said that the birth rate must grow from the current rate of 1.41 children per woman of childbearing age to 2.1 – a rate unseen since the 1970s, reported Sputnik May 23.8 The Norwegian fertility rate has fallen every single year since 2009, except for 2021, breaking several annual records in a row – despite a record low number of abortions. There have never been fewer children born per woman than now, reported Sputnik. Toppe said that newborn children are “a sign of how successful a society is.” In order to speed up the birth rate, the minister has put forward the following measures: “strengthening the finances of students and others who receive one-off benefits, offering tax relief to families with more than two children, increasing child benefits and expanding the right to a nursery place.” 

Finally, Italy’s Economy and Finance Minister Giancarlo Giorgetti is considering exempting parents from income tax to encourage people to have children and reverse Italy’s declining birth rate, local newspaper Il Foglio reported.9 Earlier, Italy’s Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said the government was looking for ways to spur people to have children after the national statistics agency Istat reported that the country’s birth rate dropped to a new record low in 2022. Last year, the birth rate fell below 400,000 for the first time since the 19th century Risorgimento, standing at 393,000, Istat said. 

Explaining the need for population, Russian President Vladimir Putin said of Russia that “From both a humanitarian and geopolitical perspective…146 million for such a vast territory [Russia] is absolutely insufficient.”10 Putin also said that this figure is also a disadvantage economically as the country does not have enough manpower for its labor force. We now have around 81 million people of working age,” he noted. “We have to seriously increase that by 2024 and 2030. It’s one of the factors of economic growth.” 

All in all, the neo-Malthusians of the Club of Rome and the World Economic Forum seem to have misled us.11 

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