President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, colleagues,
Today, we will have a comprehensive discussion of demographic policy. As you know, for the subject came up during the Direct Line too, our people are concerned about this situation, and with good reason, and we should be concerned too, because this is something we come back to regularly, and because what is at stake here is our country’s future and our people’s future.
What makes a country? A country is above all its people. Demography is an integral and in many respects key indicator of the economic and social sector situation and a good measure too of changes taking place in the state and society.
By and large, demography reflects our success in addressing today’s problems and challenges, including the problems related to the internal demographic processes themselves.
We have been working actively on demographic issues right from the start of the 2000s. As you know, we have accomplished quite a lot and have achieved real, good results and even breakthroughs, even though it seemed at that time that it would be simply impossible to overcome the mass of serious demographic problems that had built up.
But, through taking a comprehensive and carefully planned approach with what proved to be effective measures such as child birth support and measures to reduce mortality, we have been up to this challenge.
Efforts to develop healthcare, implement preventive programmes and increase access to high-tech medical assistance have enabled us to reduce infant mortality and deaths from road accidents, cardiovascular disease and tuberculosis, and increase the average life expectancy.
Today, however, we again see a falling birth rate. The number of births dropped by 68,700 over January-April this year compared with the same period last year.
Demographers foresaw this trend, and we were well aware of the situation. We know that it is precisely now, over 2015–2020, that we see the effects of several negative demographic waves that come to the fore every 25 years. I spoke about this during the Direct Line too, I think.
The sharp and catastrophic drop in the birth rate during the Great Patriotic War period led to a drop in the number of births at the start of the 1970s. This generation in turn had fewer children during the difficult years of the 1990s. The less numerous generation born during those years is now just starting to found families.
The support measures we have taken made it possible over the course of several years to hold off the inevitable drop in the number of births and considerably mitigate the effects. This was and is an important achievement for our long-term demographic development.
I want to stress that we must take comprehensive and consistent efforts to address the problems that come up, take additional measures and preserve and build on the mechanisms that have already been tested and have proven their effectiveness.
I have held separate discussions with many of you here and I know that various proposals are currently being drafted.
First, an analysis is currently underway of the maternity capital programme and its future possibilities.
Second, there are discussions on enhancing and improving the effectiveness of the system of support benefits for families with children.
Third, I agree that we need to resolve the problem with ensuring enough daycare nurseries for children under the age of three, just as we did with kindergartens.
We need to propose additional measures regarding housing provision for families with children.
Of course, along with support for the birth rate, we should continue our comprehensive and consistent effort to bring down mortality.
Let me say again that demography is a vital issue that will influence our country’s development for decades to come. We will and can carry out an active policy here and back it up with the necessary resources.
We know that resources are never as great as we would like, and we must allocate them carefully, but we must set and define our priorities too. Preserving our people and supporting child birth are among the greatest priorities for our work.
Let’s begin the discussion.