Putin’s ‘Mother Heroine’ awardAHN CHAK-HEE
The author is the head of the global cooperation team of the JoongAng Ilbo.
According to the recently published UN World Population Prospects, the total world population will reach 8 billion on Nov. 15. It sounds like a huge number, but analytic reports show opposite concerns. The rate of global population growth, which was once over 2 percent in the 1960s, fell to 1 percent in 2020, when the pandemic began. If the current trend continues, populations will only decrease in 61 major countries.
Not surprisingly, Korea, China and Japan are all included among the countries with declining populations. But one person seems to have acknowledged the seriousness of this matter: Russian President Vladimir Putin. The country with the largest territory in the world is experiencing the greatest natural population decline since World War II.
Last month, Putin reinstated an award established by Stalin in 1944. It is called “Mother Heroine.” The title is awarded to mothers bearing and raising more than 10 children, when the first nine children are still alive when the 10th child turns 1 year old. Along with the medal, a prize money of 1 million rubles ($16,000) and various benefits are offered. But the reaction from in and outside the country is lukewarm.
We must first look at the background of Russia promoting such a policy. Putin, who has been in power since 2000, says that Russia’s population decline never leaves his mind. He often warns against a national crisis if Russians don’t have more children.
According to the Federal State Statistics Service, Russia’s current population is 145.1 million, with a decline of 86,000 between January and May this year. The fall is indeed record-breaking. Compared to 1991, when the Soviet era ended, the population is 3.2 million less and the fertility rate is on a steady decline.
How about Korea? According to Statistics Korea, the total fertility rate was 0.81, down 0.03 from the previous year. It is the lowest birthrate in the world. The government has invested 46 trillion won ($33.2 billion) to overcome low birthrate, but there is no sign of improving.
Of course, the social conditions in Russia and Korea are different. However, be it Moscow or Seoul, women feel they don’t have a good enough environment in which they’d like to have and raise children. It is time to gather knowledge once again on how to efficiently use the budget to raise the low fertility rate.