Sep 22, 2006

Go forth and multiply

Russian provincial governor gives workers the afternoon off to procreate.
Bureaucrats have been dreaming up ever more imaginative schemes to help reverse the trend ever since President Vladimir Putin identified Russia's demographic crisis – caused in part by soaring levels of alcoholism – as the country's biggest threat.

But few have been quite as blunt as Sergey Morozov, the governor of Ulyanovsk, a depressed region on the Volga.

In exchange for an afternoon of state-sponsored passion, his "Give birth to a patriot" campaign launched last week offers parents who give birth next year on June 12, Russia's Independence Day, a range of incentives from a fridge or washing machine to a four-wheel-drive vehicle, depending on how many children the couple already has.

The Kremlin is offering even more substantial inducements. In a state of the nation address in May that was redolent of the Soviet era, Mr Putin encouraged Russians to make more babies and promised to give £5,000 to every mother who gives birth to a second child.

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