In the mid-twentieth century, the critical threshold for having the first child was the age of 22-24. And our mothers were told they should definitely have a firstborn before 25. Today, these boundaries have shifted significantly, and by modern obstetrics standards, women aged over 35 are considered to be elderly primigravidas. But the reality is (and this is evidenced by the sociological studies data) that young people increasingly prefer to hold off on having offspring. What motives guide millennials who are not in a hurry to become parents, was the topic of Znamya Yunosti talk with experts.
– To cultivate the land and live in the country, we need people, that's what matters. We need at least 15 million, or better 20 million people, and we have not reversed this downward trend. And this may become not just a problem in the future, but a disaster. Then other densely populated areas will look at us in order to come and stay with us. We are not against people coming to stay with us, but for the most part, Belarusians should live here, so that this land will always be Belarusian. To do this, today we need to support mothers who give birth to children, that's all. We should pay special attention to large families and the birth rate.
President of the Republic of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko
(during his address to the VI All-Belarusian People's Assembly)
Until Better Times
The 2019 census outcomes ruthlessly state: over 20 years, the number of residents of our country has decreased by 631.8 thousand people. The decline in population that has become a scourge to many civilized countries, has several reasons, one of which is the decreased birth rate. The situation is paradoxical: despite the fact that over the past two decades, our wealth and living standard have improved considerably, our population, nonetheless, is not growing, and young people are increasingly delaying parenthood for later.
Late motherhood is not a trend of today or even of the past year. According to the National Statistical Committee, Belarus demonstrates a tendency to increase the average age of mothers giving birth to their first-born child. It increased from 24.9 years old in 2010 to 26.7 years old in 2018.
Nikolai Sukhotsky, analyst of the Belarusian Institute of Strategic Research, indicates the increasing value of individualism and private life among young people as one of decisive factors for avoiding family planning, which is typical for the market socio-economic model and the Western way of life:
– The measure of vital success for young people is, first of all, the material well-being: the ability to buy what you want and like, dispose of your own property, freely choose your occupation, place of residence. This means that the current generation of young people has the vision of reality with a reliance on success, and achieving high professional and social status.
Young Belarusians are increasingly delaying the adolescence resulting in postponement of such important life milestones as leaving parental care, start¬ing a family and having children, Nikolay Sukhotsky says:
– This is confirmed by outcomes of a survey made by the Presidential Academy of Public Administration in 2020. For instance, compared to 2014 data, the value of the young people's desire to have children has significantly decreased (from 59% to 47.4%), this is especially noticeable among the male part of the population (from 64.1% to 41.2%). Also, last year, com-pared to 2016, young people much more often showed moral unwillingness to implement parental duties, which tells of an increased infantilization of the younger generation. A sig-nificant investment in own life becomes a purposeful health promotion – a value more important for young people than family and children.
Another factor: the number of childfree – people with voluntary choice not to have children, is slowly but growing. If, for instance, there were 1.8% in 2014 among young people aged 18-24 who do not want to have a single child, in 2020 this number is already 5.2%, Nikolai Sukhotsky states:
– The figures appear insignificant at first, but the trend makes you wonder. The proportion of young people who were thinking of having three or four children, has declined. At the same time, the number of young people who would like two children (the most popular answer) remains stable – 54.8%.
Read the full version on the "Belarus Today" website