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The petticoat revolt is brewing in Russia

The petticoat revolt is brewing in Russia

02.06.2011 — Analysis

The Russian government policy frequently results in populist half-measures. It can be referred to the presidential call for Russian women, urging them to give birth to children in order to improve the demographic situation in dying out and ageing Russia. As an "incentive", in 2007, mothers were offered 250 thousand rubles. Those who want to get this bonus, which has increased by 115 thousand within the recent years, must give birth to, at least, the second child until 2017. However, tough luck - before they received their hundreds of thousands rubles, those who answered the presidential call, faced a lot of problems: overcrowded clinics, long waiting lists for day care centers and forthcoming fee-paying school education. The "RusBusinessNews" reporter has found out how it happened that the government invited to plant "flowers of life", however, made no attempt to prepare the soil.

To give, or not to give birth: that is the question

The Sverdlovsk Region could feature spectacular obedience to the President: the year of 2008 became record high in the birth rate over the last five years - with 54,500 babies being born. However, the region failed to provide happy childhood to the new generation. Andrei Yefimov, Deputy Minister of General and Vocational Education in the Sverdlovsk Region, has informed "RusBusinessNews" that since 1998, when the birth rate went down, 300 vacant day care centers have been closed down. The buildings were appropriated by businesses and federal entities - law and drug enforcement agencies. Now, with the demographic situation being in the upturn, there is not enough money to "move ahead" the former, and not enough courage to move aside the latter. (Note that the children of law enforcement officers bypass the waiting list for day care centers).

Based on the official data alone, at the moment, 69 thousand kids are waiting for day care vouchers. There comes a logical question: Why did the authorities not do any estimation of the baby-boom consequences in advance? Nikolay Voronin, Chairman of the Sverdlovsk Regional Duma, claims that since 2008 the amount of funds allocated to construction and reconstruction of day care facilities has increased by 1.5-2 times annually (totaling 1.6 billion rubles in 2011). The regional program for 2010-2014 promises to provide facilities to about 50 thousand children, accommodating all the wanting children from 1.5 to 7 years old. However, the waiting list is much longer!

The year when the program was put into effect provided day care facilities for 13 thousand kids. However, the new construction accounted for only 10%. The rest were "squeezed" into the existing day care facilities. The health regulations applicable in Russia require that a child older than 3 years old should have two square meters of the play and bedroom space, whereas kids younger than 3 years old should have 2.5 square meters of the play and 1.8 square meters of the bedroom space. As a result, it was decided to pack chock-full the groups having space of 50 square meters - 25 kids per group. Parents are angry: somewhere groups already have more than 30 children under supervision of one teacher. Generally, municipal day care centers are represented by members of "the old guard"; younger and promising teachers opted for private day care centers where they can get better salaries.

Igor Burdakov, acting head of the Ekaterinburg Education Department, stated openly that the plans for deficit elimination are realistic provided that Russian women stop giving birth to so many children.

Golden children

Those who have already given birth to a child have to pay for this, in the ordinary sense of the word. The full-time baby-sitter will take 15-25 thousand rubles from the family budget. The private day care center costs 10-15 thousand rubles monthly.

The increased demand woke up the commercial spirit of directors of municipal day care centers. For example, in Ekaterinburg, a child can be accommodated for 50-70 thousand rubles, bypassing the waiting list. The list is also bypassed by the so-called aided community, among which there are children of judges as well as officers of drug enforcement agencies and public prosecution. As a result, the "ordinary people" are left with very few vacancies. Frequently, they are destined to act as a "voluntary" sponsor buying toys and paying for repair of premises.

Ekaterinburg mothers urged the officials to read over the RF Constitution that guarantees education to every child. The "public servants", in their turn, offered to organize at least three-hour day-time groups for all the children.

Surprisingly, but in other regions of Russia, the government authorities manage to find opportunities to provide actual support to families. For example, on Yamal, the issue of maternity capital is being under consideration as an additional district law, and the parents whose children were not accommodated in day care centers receive monthly compensation in the amount of 3-4 thousand rubles. The similar practice exists in Perm.

While ignoring children-related problems, the authorities of the Sverdlovsk Region easily allocate budget funds to their ambitious projects. For example, the Ekaterinburg-EXPO Exhibition Center is going to "consume" 7.5 billion rubles - the amount that would be sufficient to accommodate 10 thousand children in day care centers. Officials are ready to lay themselves out to host the World Football Championship-2018 in Ekaterinburg, which will also cost a pretty penny.

Officials complain about lack of vacant space for construction of day care facilities. The best land in Ekaterinburg is occupied by upscale high rises. At the same time, the city administration is ready to consider land allotment for the Ekaterinburg eparchy that nurtures plans for construction of 300 new churches.

In the meantime, Alexander Misharin, Governor, without any embarrassment, is recording fight against day care deficit as his achievements gained within the first year of his being in office. He was put down by Gennady Onischenko, Russia's Chief Sanitary Doctor, who stated that the authorities of the Sverdlovsk Region are good only at angry and poorly thought complaints to the country's government, but do nothing to solve the problem.

The no-way-out situation caused Russian women to embark on "forceful" actions. Mothers declared the national hunger strike. They failed to get attention of the local political elite - so, there is nothing else to do but appeal to Dmitry Medvedev, Russian President.

Lyudmila Maslova

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