Russian woman with babyI’ve blogged before about Russia’s preoccupation with its falling birth rate (see here and here) and now I need to talk about it again.

I’ve already said that Russia has many other reasons for its falling population than the low birth rate – such as disease, alcoholism, infant and childhood mortality and low life expectancy. I’ve already said that, aside from fixing those problems so that existing lives can be better and healthier, Russia could consider welcoming immigrants from overpopulated parts of the world. I’ve already raged at the principle of seeking to solve a population crisis by calling on indigenous women to step up baby production.

Now I want to say a few words about the practice. Because Putin has launched a new scheme. He will pay women who have more than one baby. Every woman who has a second child will get money for that child, something over $9,000. Which goes a long way in Russia.

Sounds good? A little bit good? At least, not so bad?

The thing is – the mother cannot actually use that money to help her raise the child. It must be used for the child’s benefit once it reaches adulthood (to buy a home or pay for university fees), or it can be put into the mother’s pension. The mother cannot use it to buy food or clothes. She cannot use it to pay nursery fees. She cannot use it to pay for school uniforms, or bus fares, or books, or toys. She does not even qualify for it unless and until her child reaches its third birthday. And not many people trust the Government to actually pay out anyway.

Sorry, Mr Putin, but it would take a lot more than this to get me into babymaking action.

Read this article, which pretty much summarises a radio story I just heard this evening. There’s a video clip too, if you’d rather get your news that way.

To me, it seems there are two things underlying the restrictions on how mothers will be “rewarded” for doing their duty to the nation.

Firstly, the fact that the woman cannot choose how best to use the money shows a lack of trust in women, a lack of faith that they know best what their families need. From what I can gather, most Russian women would much prefer that benefit be paid in the form of a “mother’s pension” or child-benefit-style regular payment to improve their incomes, so that they can afford to buy food and clothes and other necessaries. Yet they are given no choice. They must accept poverty now, in exchange for a lump sum that is accessible only in the remote future. Small wonder that they prefer childlessness.

Secondly, the fact that the government is trying to compensate a woman for bringing a child into the world by giving her money that is primarily for the child’s benefit, and not her own, says a lot. The rent is paid, not to the owner of the womb, but to its temporary tenant, after it has sucked the womb-owner dry over a period of two decades. What does this say?

That the child is what matters to Russia: not the mother, not her body, not her labour, not her poverty – the child. That even the child does not matter much until it has suriveved to adulthood, because poverty during childhood is to be tolerated and help is only to be given in a form that can be used by the grown up child. That mothers, are expected to echo this attitude, that they should accept that they are secondary. That women must not only give their bodies to Russia, but that they should be glad of it and that they should ask nothing for themselves, but only a little help for the future of these children that Russia has asked them to create.

Turkey baster, anyone?