Putin unveils package to boost Russian birth rate 

Putin unveils package to boost Russian birth rate 

Russian President Vladimir Putin has revealed a package to increase birth rates from an average of under 1.5 per woman to 1.7 by 2024.

He promised tax breaks for larger families in 2019 and yesterday (Wednesday) told MPs that the birth rate was “falling again”. 

Putin, 67, admitted during his parliamentary speech that Russians wanted change and unveiled attempts to help the poorest citizens, including child-benefit payments up to 11,000 roubles (€160).

“Maternity capital” was previously only paid to families with at least two children.

Putin’s ruling United Russia party has seen a slump in popularity over a five-year increase to the national pension age. Increasing poverty levels affect approximately 12 per cent of the population or around 17.5 million people.

Welfare benefits are due to be paid to low-income families for children aged three to seven. Free school meals would be made available for the first four years at school.

Mothers with four children are already offered tax breaks in Russia. 

Russia’s birth rate is 1.48 per woman, compared with the EU average of 1.59. Spain, Italy, Greece and Malta are significantly below the Russian rate.

“We are entering a very difficult demographic period,” he said, as the country felt the fallout of the 1990s population slump.

By 1999, the Russian birth rate had dropped to 1.16, lower than during the Second World War.

The announcement came amid political upheaval as Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and his cabinet resigned to apparently allow constitutional changes to further extend Putin’s presidency. 

Ministers will continue in their roles until replacements are appointed at an undeclared date.

Putin yesterday called a referendum on constitutional amendments that offered an increase in parliamentary and state council powers.

“These amendments, when they are adopted, will make significant changes not only to a number of articles of the constitution but also to the balance of power,” the 54-year-old Medvedev said. “In this context, it is obvious that we, as the government, should provide the president of our country with the ability to make all the necessary decisions for this.”

The public were not told how the cabinet’s resignation would help make the reforms happen. Putin also nominated Mikhail Mishustin, the current tax chief, as prime minister. The 53-year-old has almost no public profile. 

Medvedev is due to be appointed as deputy chief of the Putin-led security council. 

Opposition leader Alexei Navalny condemned Putin’s plans to address poverty and other social issues. He said the strongman leader’s only goal was to “remain the sole leader for life, make the entire country his personal property and appropriate wealth to himself and his friends”.

 

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his loyal premier, Dmitry Medvedev. Picture credit: Wikimedia  

 

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