"Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has unveiled plans to reverse Russia's declining population. The government will spend 1.5tn roubles ($53bn; £33bn) on raising the birth rate and extending life expectancy."
Not only that, this summer they'll be hosting in Moscow what's described as the first world pro-life and pro-family demography conference. Ironic, considering that Russia is still the world's abortion capital. Maybe Mr Putin needs to consider figures like these :
"In 2001, 1,320,000 children were born in Russia, while 1,800,000 abortions were performed. The abortion rate in the USSR peaked in 1964, when 5.6 million abortions were performed, the highest number in Russia’s history."
Makes the UK, where about 25% of pregnancies are aborted, look a model of restraint.
Russia also shares with the UK the demographic feature that some ethnic groups have a lot more babies than others. Encouraging more Russians may, for example, encourage even more Chechens.
Quite how you encourage people to have more babies is an interesting point. I'm generally inclined towards Steve Sailer's theories on Affordable Family Formation, but there are a host of other cultural factors. AFF is IMHO generally valid as a pointer to relative fertility within a given group - say working and middle-class white Americans or Britons. But that wouldn't, for example, explain why those of Pakistani or Bangladeshi heritage have so many more babies than white Brits - my guess would be that rearing five children on housing benefit in East London compares most favourably with raising them in Sylhet or Mirpur. 'Affordable' means different things to different cultural groups.
The Japanese are from 2010 paying parents £175 per month per child, something this father of four would have loved (and although UK child benefit stops when they leave school, strangely the student grant people consider them to be dependent up to the age of 25). Be interesting to see if it works, although remembering the insane house prices in Japan family formation still isn't exactly affordable.
But there's more to having children than affordability. What sort of country will they grow up in? When I look at a possible UK future, I often wonder what possessed us - and I encourage my children to have an exit strategy. Over the last week, I read two books on Russia - Roderic Braithwaite's 'Moscow 1941' and the late Anna Politkovskaya's 'Putin's Russia'. In many respects - incompetence, corruption, despotism at local and national levels, the cheapness of human life, the country doesn't seem to have changed that much in seventy years.
Politkovskaya's book is almost unreadable in its depressing quality. Her Russia isn't a place you'd ideally choose to sprog in. One tale of brutality and corruption after another - to the point where you start to wonder whether things can really be this bad. Then you remember her murder. Which le Carre novel is it where the quality of information is attested to by the murder of the provider ?
Along with AFF (with allowances made for group differences), I'd suggest that confidence is key to sprogging in a world with freely available and effective contraception, just as we're always told that confidence is key to business investment decisions - and what greater investment than children ? The hope and expectation that your children will have a better life than their parents will IMHO be a key driver of fertility, all else being equal. True for the baby-boomer parents of the post-war West, true for the Bangladeshis and Mirpuris of Bradford and Tower Hamlets. But for today's Russians ? And today's Brits ?