President Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon dear colleagues!
Issues that you will discuss today have a key strategic value for our country and society. I am referring to the most important demographic problems whose resolution will, without any undue exaggeration, determine Russia’s future. And it is obvious that the executive and legislative authorities – in this case the authorities in the Russian regions – play a major role here.
You are aware that, unfortunately, over the past 13 years the Russian population has steadily decreased. Over these years the number of people that passed away exceeded the number of people who were born by 11,2 million people. And one other disturbing demographic indicator is the speed at which the country is ageing. The share of people over 65 amounts to 13,7 percent of the population. This number is almost two times more than the international standard which classifies a given society as old.
In Russia today for every 1,000 workers there are 276 children and 323 retirees. Therefore you can count who works: about 600 people – 599 people. Along with this I would point out that the overall reduction in the workforce is also caused by the high death rate.
We must break out of these negative tendencies and do so based on a systematic and well-designed policy in this sphere.
As you know, certain urgent measures have already been taken in this sphere and today Dmitrii Anatolevich Medvedev, the person responsible for the national projects, will tell us about how they are being implemented. I will comment on the major areas in which teamwork should take place.
First – we must create the necessary conditions for increasing the birth rate. And I am not only referring to the population’s reproduction levels but also to comprehensive support for the family and increasing the family’s authority in Russian society.
I will tell you downright that in this respect a great deal depends not only on material factors but also on moral beliefs, on the status that family values hold among values as a whole. And our task is to support and elevate the family institution in every possible way, to increase the prestige of parenthood. Every level of authority must pay critical attention to these issues. It is obvious that these problems can be resolved more effectively on location. Since it is precisely here where people live, resolve their social problems and create families.
I also consider that the system of grants and privileges which will already start operating in 2007 is certainly a powerful one, but it is only a supplement to family incomes. We must go further and create all necessary conditions so that parents can receive worthy salaries. In Russia there should not only be more children – they also need to be healthier, both morally and physically. They must receive the necessary education, upbringing and, in the future, worthy jobs.
I shall emphasise once again that to a large degree the tasks of creating new work places, the development of small businesses, the creation of a free business climate and improving citizens’ quality of life as a whole, lie with the regional and municipal authorities. Resolving all these problems has a direct relationship with establishing the conditions for demographic development.
The next issue that we will discuss today is how to reduce the high death rate. As we have already said, and said more than once, the death of people of working age remains a difficult problem. And 90 percent of these people are men. And what is especially disturbing is that the group at risk is essentially composed of youth. The reasons for these so-called superfluous deaths are well-known. The most common is problems with the cardiovascular system. The second group of reasons are the so-called unnatural or external factors: road and transport accidents, alcohol poisoning, crimes.
It is obvious that the conditions people live in and their way of life acts as a key factor in the death rate. And, for that reason, when developing regional demographic programmes one must not only consider improving the level of health care but also developing a system of leisure, promoting physical education, sport and improving working conditions.
Alcoholism has a special place among these problems. Experts consider that a significant number of deaths that could be prevented are connected with alcohol abuse.
I believe that we will discuss all these themes today in a very detailed way.
The third area within our demographic policy must be the competent management of migration flows. I would like to say at once that the need Russia has for inflows of people from other countries remains very high. It is precisely these people that we can count on to accomplish the short-term task of renewing the population. Along with this one must consider that while in 1992 migration practically replaced the decline in Russia’s population, it only did so by 12,7 percent in 2005.
Therefore attracting our compatriots abroad to Russia remains one of our important tasks. You are aware that in June we adopted the corresponding programme that concerns the voluntary resettlement of compatriots to Russia and that in 2007 twelve Russian regions will give those who wish to return to their historic Motherland the possibility to do so. And the further destiny of this programme directly depends on how this work will be accomplished.
I consider that the pilot programmes in the Russian regions and the municipalities will provide immigrants with all-around support. This includes with respect to their initial living arrangements, with work permits, pension and medical security, as well as providing children with preschool and school education.
I would like to emphasise the value of competent and delicate work designed to integrate immigrants into their environments. Along with this is it is important to ensure a balance between the rights and legitimate interests of Russian citizens and those of immigrants.
And finally several words about labour migration that is not helping resolve the demographic problem but rather using up external labour to resolve the problem of shortages in labour resources. I shall remind you that as of the 15th of January the regime by which people can receive work permits for Russia will be significantly simplified, especially for citizens from CIS countries. It is well-known that excessive administrative procedures promoted the growth of illegal migration and the development of corruption. But nevertheless I would like to emphasise that along with the regime being simplified the responsibility of employers will be significantly increased, both with respect to the legal status of their foreign employees and the conditions in which they work.
I should also note that since 1 January 2007 the major functions with respect to employment and also concerning putting forward proposals on labour migration will be transferred to the regions. Of course the responsibility for executing these powers goes along with this.
I should admit that we tried to determine how many immigrants, migrants, and temporary residents we need on Russian territory. And it is with regret that I must say that we cannot even determine this figure. And it is revealing that there are still no well-developed contacts between regions, municipal authorities, federal authorities, employers, business and national enterprises, in this sphere.
Dear colleagues! The task of the federal authorities in resolving demographic problems consists in establishing common rules and norms as well as providing guarantees and supporting the measures that have been taken with the necessary financial resources. And you and your colleagues from the local government bodies should inform people about the content of the documents that have been accepted and supplement them with your own supportive measures – not by merely adding red tape to this process.
Moreover, you should develop your own regional strategy for resolving demographic problems – a strategy that takes into account regional specifics, traditions and particularities. You probably already have proposals concerning the methodological, personnel, and organisational support required for demographic programmes. I very much expect that today you will be able to fruitfully discuss all these issues and also formulate your proposals in such a way that they reach the federal level and are studied by the federal authorities. And thereby we will finally have a uniform state policy in this important area in which we cooperate.
Thank you for your attention.
Thank you very much.