Demographic "bomb"

08:08, 25 August 2018

In January 2018, 302 thousand children were born In Ukraine, which is 3 thousand less than a year earlier...

From the beginning of 2017, media regularly says about a “demographic catastrophe”, indicating the decline in birthrate as the main sign of falling into the abyss. Indeed, in the list of European countries in which the population declines, Ukraine takes the fourth place. According to the official statistics, during 2017 the population has decreased by 180 thousand people, that is, up to 42 403 000.  In the place of every hundred died people, only 64 children are born.
However, already in November, experts began talking about the fact that the real population of the country is 36-38 million. This figure was obtained by comparing the total number of citizens with the data on migrant workers provided by the migration services of the EU and Russia. Experts from the Institute of Demography and Social Research of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine believe that only by the critical drop in the birth rate of the population by 2050 will be reduced to 35 million. Given the migration, about 30 million people will live in Ukraine.
The generation of the mid-1980s-1990s is the most numerous and, according to the experts' forecasts, there will be nobody to have children. According to Ella Libanova, the Director of this Institute, the population of Ukraine will be reduced, because of the potential of demographic growth is exhausted: “the 75-year-old women in the population structure are more than the 5-year-old girls. Already since the 1960s, a Ukrainian woman has not given birth as much as is necessary for the simple reproduction of generations, and, accordingly, each successive generation is less than the previous one.”
The situation is definitely critical, but there are different ways of solving this problem. The opinions of the respondents from Odesa (about five hundred) were divided into two parts: “to raise the birth rate” and “to raise the wages”. It was a little worrying that among the supporters of the first method the most people were among the retirement and retirement age.
It is impossible not to pay attention to the fact that some people reacted negatively to the question of the demographic situation, unambiguously associating the notion of the giving birth to children: “they talk about it all the time”, “it looks like a blaming women”, “you’re going to write again that the youth is bad “, - the young respondents answered. Partly, they are right: the bills are being submitted to the Verkhovna Rada regularly, which, according to deputies, are capable of affecting the birth rate: in the summer, society has undermined the suggestion to allow doctors refusing to carry out abortion for ideological reasons; after the New Year, they mentioned the need to raise the maternity care for newborns. Migration is remembered much less often by magnates.
But does the government really struggle with the demographic crisis? It was recently spoken in the media about “the reproductive violence” while the discussion of the same bill, whose authors suggested to restrict access to abortion. However, this concept is far from new; it is even included in the Istanbul Convention on the Prevention and Combating of Violence against Women.
Iryna Solomatina, the coordinator of the “Global Media Monitoring” project from Belarus, tells what this term is hiding: "If we consider the forms of the reproductive violence in the form of a scale, the softest form will be the pressure of the immediate environment and society, the eternal “come on, give birth”, the hardest is the restriction or prohibition of abortion at the state level. This is, first of all, disrespect for the right to dispose of the one’s own body.”
At the domestic level, many women (and not only) of the very “numerical generation” of the end of the last century are faced with the reproductive violence. Kateryna Levchenko, the President of the International Women's Rights Center “La Strada-Ukraine”, commenting the “scandalous” Ukrainian bill, mentioned that “it can lead to significant violations of the women’s legal rights.” However, even without a law, the doctors are able to fight against the low birth rates.
“I don’t think it's the good time for having children, - Victoria says. - Therefore, I consulted with my husband and decided that it is best to use pills. I studied materials on the Internet for a long time, trying to figure out the subject, but still, I asked the doctor: it is very responsible, it is necessary to issue analyzes in order to find the right medicine and not to get more problems. It turned out that it was not that easy. When you are twenty seven, each doctor thinks his duty to tell you about what “time passes away” and advise you to give birth as fast as possible, simply because it’s time!”
Another girl mentioned that the doctor had persuaded her to abandon the “malicious” ways of preventing and use the so-called “calendar method”, which, in essence, is equivalent to a refusal to prevent. They both understand that they can complain about the incompetence of doctors, but they preferred not to be in contact with is, fearing to face a similar position of the head doctor.
“It's unpleasant, - Victoria explains, - they reprimand me as a schoolgirl, for missing lessons, and even support of the husband does not clean the feeling of guilt. Like you’re doing something really bad”.
We interviewed more than a hundred patients in district clinics between the ages of 20 and 30, and this survey confirmed our suspicions: even specialists or other medical branches, from general practitioners to ophthalmologists, are afflicted with the issues of childbirth. “It's like a test for a good specialist, - one of the respondents jokes, - a normal doctor thinks about me as I’m a human being and the bad one as I’m an incubator."
Girls did not squirm at the sharp sayings, telling about their clashes with doctors. Not surprisingly: turning to a doctor with a specific problem, you are not expecting to listen to a batch of advice: “give birth for recovery” and “have children, while it is not too late”. If the circumstances fail, they may even advise postponing the treatment “before the birth of a child”. The fact that pregnancy can endanger the health, some found not from the treating physician, but from scientific articles on the Internet.
“I still can’t get a clear answer, which risk getting blind I have because of it, - says Olena. – Such an impression that everyone agreed: therapists, ophthalmologists, gynecologists and even my mother with the mother-in-law. I'm only thirty years old; I do not want to get a disability because of someone's whim”.
The contacts of doctors able to take care of the health of patients, first of all, are passed from hand to hand.
The general practitioner, who wished to remain anonymous, called such behavior of colleagues incorrect and complained that due to the specifics of medical reform, physicians are interested in getting as many young patients as possible – for their maintenance the state plans to allocate more money than for the employable citizens. The salary of physicians in the foreseeable future depends directly on those who enter into a service contract with them. But, in her opinion, everything is in hands of the patients, because thanks to the same reform, everyone has the right to choose a doctor himself.
- I would not blame the material benefit in everything, - our interlocutor says. - Many physicians are sincerely convinced that they act in the interests of the patient. Despite the fact nothing like that is taught at universities, at the end of the last century there were popular theories about the positive effects of pregnancy on the female body.
Official science, however, refutes most of these theories.
Katerina Mikhailivna, as many retirees, is worried because her children does not hurry with the grandchildren: it seems to her that soon she won’t be able to help the young family because of her age. She doesn’t even have doubts that the help will be useful: “It is necessary to teach and show everything, and again, who should sit with the child? The grandmother”.
Katerina Mikhailivna enthusiastically tells about her son and daughter-in-law: young, successful by the standards of the majority couple, travel together a lot, but at the same time she constantly surprises, why they don’t they have a child yet.  Similar problems her friends have: the health is not aplenty over the years, but there are still no cherished grandchildren, and soon they will also need care. The main problem, in the pensioners’ opinion is in that the current generation is still in the childhood and "did not play enough": "There were not all these computers-phones, toys are beautiful, all trips were – to the country house for planting."
Her son denies, tiredly lamented with complaints: saying, what toys, how can you have children in a situation where a good salary today does not guarantee that people will not be below the poverty line tomorrow. Additionally, Oleg categorically against growing up the children by the “the USSR generation”: “Since that time, the world made a step far ahead, and the current pensioners simply are not adapted to the life in these conditions. I don’t know about others, but I certainly do not trust the children to my mother – I barely got rid myself of the complexes, implanted by her wrong settings to life: “let him be like everyone”, “lay low”, the constant “you are the boy, you have to”. He believes that with such education the society will be stuck for a long time in the last millennium. Both are right in their own way, each is out of their own depth.
Daria Artyushkov, a practicing psychologist, tells that the “largest generation” mentioned by the Director of the Institute of Demography and Social Studies of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, doesn’t not hurry to have children for many reasons, among which there is their own negative experience stands not at the last place.
“At the end of the last century, it was thought that the child needed only parental love, not fashion clothes, modern gadgets or versatile education,” the psychologist says. – “These children grew up in Spartan conditions and, like no one else, understand the wrongness of this approach. Of course, the parent’s participation in the lives of children is important, but cannot replace all said above. Many sociologists now note that the modern “youth” is growing up very slowly - or DOES NOT grow up at all, in comparing with previous generations. It may seem that people are hardly trying to catch up their missed childhood, but that's not the case. Simply people started to attitude to the birth of children more responsibly – however, it is a pan-European trend, and there is nothing surprising in that the adults began to attitude to the family planning responsibly.
The fact that the attempts of some people to influence the fertility can be successful is strongly doubted by the Institute of Demography and Social Research of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine. According to the leading scientific worker, PhD of economic sciences Lidiya Tkachenko, we cannot cope here only by the economic measures: “A systematic approach is needed that can’t be solved only by money. First of all, Ukraine needs people to live up to retirement age – we have to fight for the survival. Which sense in stimulating the fertility if people live very short life? In Europe, the highest fertility rates are in the countries with the developed infrastructure, numerous child care institutions, and the ability to continue working. These are the northern countries - Sweden, Finland, where almost every family has two children.”
According to the expert, the stabilization of the economy and the development of the sphere of social services will inevitably lead to a long-awaited increase of the birth rate. But on the way to this a lot of changes must be done – first of all, the society’s attitude to the problem. And until that time, when Ukraine rises up, all the talking about the “extinction of the nation” and “stimulation of fertility” is useless.
Author: Tamara Gladka
Translation: Svetlana Fedoruk