Russians are urged to take the afternoon off, go home and make a baby
The governor of a Russian province gave workers an afternoon off and told them to go home and multiply in the most direct attempt yet by officials seeking to tackle the country's growing depopulation crisis.
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.
It is unclear how many of Ulyankovsk's residents took up Mr Morozov's offer, but the governor is convinced that such strategies are essential if the decline is to be reversed. Russia's 142 million population is dwindling faster than any other on Earth with 793,000 more deaths than births in 2004, according to the Centre for Demography.
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