Russia's Answer For A Declining Population

Russian baby infant generic pacifier
CBS
Another Russian baby safely delivered into the world is a joyful event for everyone, even Russia's government, which believes more of these babies are the answer to the country's acute population crisis. CBS News correspondent Elizabeth Palmer reports.

This year, Russia's population stands at just under 143 million, but it's been shrinking since 1991, and is still dropping — by about 800,000 people a year.

Russian women's life expectancy is 74 years, but Russian men, many heavy smokers and drinkers, have an average life expectancy of only 60 years — on a par with Pakistan, or Bolivia.

The declining population has got Russia's government so worried that it's offering a $10,000 bonus to any Russian woman who is willing to have a second child.

The first bonus certificates were awarded early this year in an elaborate ceremony staged for the media to help publicize the program.

Three years from now, mothers like Ekaterina Sisova will be able to trade in the certificate for $10,000 worth of services for their babies, including education and housing.

But most couples who decide on a second child say the baby bonus isn't a factor.

Masha Makienko had Alexandra 4 years ago, then she had Arseny last winter, for the simple reason that she and her husband Maxim wanted a bigger family.

But they are the exceptions.

Their friends — they say — have other priorities than more kids.

"A lot of things we should manage before. We should do this, we should do that, we should establish a business, build a house. Ok we should wait for better times," said Maxim.

Russia's government has built a booming economy in the last decade. But — so far anyway — it hasn't managed to stimulate the baby boom needed to keep it growing.