In spite of all kinds of difficulties, some regions of Ukraine cannot say they are in a demographic crisis. This applies, above all, to Kyiv, Transcarpathian, and Rivne oblasts, where, according to the Ministry of Justice, the birthrate was three times as high as the mortality rate last year. For example, in Kyiv alone almost 32,000 babies were born in 2008 against 28,000 in 2007. Transcarpathia has also shown one of the best results in the birthrate: about 18,000 babies saw the light of day last year, up 2,000 on the previous one. Overall in Ukraine, about 513,000 were born last year against 472,000 in 2007.
It is difficult to predict how families with the newborns will do in the conditions of economic instability. The point is that for some parents the appearance of a child in the family is a long-desired fact, and they are prepared for this morally and, what is more, materially. But for some other, a baby in the family is just an occasion to get the coveted benefit from the state. And what will happen to the child when the money runs out? I would like to believe that all the half million babies born last year will happily remain in their families. A new child in the family is sheer joy, especially if the family is prepared for responsible parenthood. Social workers, too, are sure that the ideal situation for bringing up a child is when s/he lives in a full-fledged family—with both parents and, still better, with both sets of grandparents.
Incidentally, the President of Ukraine emphasized the other day that problems with pensions, monthly allowances, and other budgetary payments will begin in February. Let us hope that this will not affect the young mothers who expect to get governmental aid.
Liya ILCHENKO, spokesperson, Ministry of Justice, Ukraine:
“Ukraine continues to see a growth in the birthrate because in 2008, for the first time in many years, the birthrate exceeded mortality. This indicator grew three times in three regions of Ukraine. In particular, about 32,000 babies were born in Kyiv, while 30,000 people died; over 18,000 babies were born in Transcarpatian oblast (16,000 died); and 17,000 children were born in Rivne oblast (16,000 died).
“Incidentally, Transcarpathia has shown the best ratio of births to deaths in the past five years. It is so far the only region in Ukraine, where this ratio is 1 to 1 or close to this. We put this trend down to the desire of many young families to obtain state benefits. But the task of our ministry is only to record data, while other experts should analyze the situation. Still, this situation pleases us because the gap between deaths and births has been reduced to a minimum in three more regions, i.e., Volyn, Ivano-Frankivsk, and Chernihiv oblasts.
“On the whole, 513,997 babies were born in Ukraine last year, up 37,000 on the year 2007. Last year 754,461 people died, which means 8,416 deaths fewer than in 2007. So most of the regions show a tendency toward bridging the gap between the newborns and the dead in favor of the former. This ratio was 1 to 1.4 in 2008, the best result in the past decade, whereas in 2004–2005 it was 1 to 1.7 and in 2006—1 to 1.63. The worst situation is in Donetsk oblast, where this ratio is 2.1 to 1, approximately the same as in Luhansk, Cherkasy, and Poltava oblasts.”
Lydia SMOLA, Candidate of Sciences (History), advisor to the Secretary of the National Security Council of Ukraine:
“I do not think that a cash benefit is the main factor that prompts parents to have children. Most new parents now are those who were born in the 1970s—1980s. In other words, a new demographic wave has swept over society, which has in fact led to a higher birthrate. It would be wrong to say that the financial factor is the main incentive for this because a growing birthrate is now a natural process, but only comprehensive research can give a clear and verifiable answer as to what caused this phenomenon.
“Unfortunately, no research of this kind is being carried out in Ukraine. Such research could show what motivates parents to have children and explain the impact of the financial factor. Even in the conditions when people are cash-strapped, I do not think that the primary motivation for having a child is a desire to improve one’s material situation. Of course, there are families of this kind. But, in most cases, these are the so-called crisis families.
“I do not think that the economic crisis will increase the risk that some parents will abandon their children and leave them in orphanages. This will not be a nationwide tendency because this attitude runs counter to the principles of responsible parenthood. This phenomenon may even diminish in the next years. Given the current economic situation in this country, we may expect a greater number of socially disadvantaged families rather than that of orphaned children. More often than not, the number of such families will rise not through their own fault but, for example, if one of the parents loses his/her job. However, this is not an excuse for abandoning children.”