Igor Yefremov, a Researcher of the International Research Department of Political Demography and Macrodynamics at the Gaidar Institute, highlighted reasons for the decline in the birth rate in Russia to “Nezavisimaya gazeta”.

According to Rosstat, the number of births in Russia in January 2023 increased in annual terms for the first time since November 2021. Any definition of the demographic burden will be quite approximate and diverge fr om the real situation, says Igor Yefremov. The expert named the reasons that hinder growth of the birth rate. The paradoxes of the pension system of the Russian Federation, strange as it may seem, have a negative impact. An increase in the retirement age is fraught with the fact that some working women who wanted to share childcare with their grandmothers, will start postponing childbirth more often. That said, formally raising the retirement age does not mean that the elderly will stay healthy longer. They may need care, which usually falls on women as well, reducing the chances of having a second and subsequent child. Thus, Russian women face the issue of combining the demographic "burden" with work.

According to Igor Yefremov, the upper lim it of the working age is very blurred: "Formally, it depends on the retirement age, but in reality, there are many 'early' pensioners in Russia, as well as people who have lost their ability to work before the retirement age.

“At the same time, a huge number of age pensioners in Russia continue to work, both because they are actually still able to work, and because of the modest size of pensions, forcing them to work," the expert added.

The double burden of caring for both children and elderly relatives may indirectly influence families to have children as well. Perhaps this interdependence of the two “burdens” is not yet so visible in Russia: now most families manage to have a child, at least the first one, before time arrives when their elderly parents need full care.

However, due to later motherhood and the overall aging of the population, “this effect could intensify in the coming decades if society, represented by the state, does not undertake a significant part of the efforts (or at least the cost) of caring for both the elderly and young children,” Yefremov explained.

The expert also drew attention to another paradox of the Russian pension system: the direct effect of raising the retirement age on the birth rate. “Due to the inability of effectively combining motherhood and work, the older generation often helps to take care of grandchildren. Due to increase in the retirement age (both nominal and actual retirement age), some women who had planned earlier to share childcare with their grandmothers may postpone the birth of a child until later (when grandmothers retire)," said Igor Yefremov.

The expert stressed that, apparently, there are now objective factors in the decline of the birth rate, which cannot be influenced. “First of all, this is a change in the age composition of the population (the so-called demographic echo of the 1990s and early 2000s, when fertility was at a historic low). This factor will stop negatively affecting fertility only by the very end of the 2020s,” forecasts Igor Yefremov.

However, there are also subjective factors that “have recently contributed even more to the decline in fertility.” “This is a constant factor of lack of resources: housing, income, time for childcare and combining parenthood and work,” the expert listed. Now it is high anxiety added due to the extreme uncertainty of the future for young families (primarily because of partial mobilization, but also because of falling real incomes), growing inaccessibility of housing (rising housing prices overtake the rise in prices on average; rising commercial mortgage rates), the effect of transferring most of the maternity capital to the first child.”

Although the maternity capital is indexed, the additional payment for the second child, if the principal amount has already been received for the firstborn, is so small that, according to expert estimates, it does not help families reduce the barriers that prevent them from having a second or subsequent child. At the same time, without denying the importance of the maternity capital program, it is worth adding that this measure alone does not solve the problem of combining many women with working demographic "burden". This means that it is also necessary to change the very conditions of work.

For example, as the experts of the Economic Innovation Group report, one of the conditions for a new baby boom in other countries could be the spread of a remote work format, allowing women to plan marriage (build relationships) and have children. Moreover, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research, after the pandemic collapse of the birth rate in 2020, then, in 2021, there was even a slight increase in the birth rate, not typical of developed countries and it is associated with a remote format of work.

On the one hand, as Igor Yefremov commented, the analysis of the effect of remote work on fertility that was conducted in the United States may not be applicable to Russian realities. “For example, in the U.S. there is still no maternity leave available to all mothers, and even when there is one, its duration is usually very short,” the expert explained.

Maternity capital, as added Igor Yefremov, “should be extended to the second and third child in an amount that will allow families to solve housing problems.”