Anatoly Antonov: “The institution of the family in Russia has long been destroyed”

Sociologist Anatoly Antonov about the fall in birth rate, maternal capital and contraception

Anatoly Antonov: “The institution of the family in Russia has long been destroyed” Photo: Anatoly Antonov

Russia is experiencing a low and ultra-low birth rate. People are getting married later, and two-thirds of Russian families have or want to have only one child. All this is due to the anti-family orientation of modern civilization, sociologist Anatoly Antonov says. From the mid-90s to the present time, under his leadership the Department of Family Sociology and Demography of the Moscow State University has carried out more than 30 sample inquiries, national and regional population surveys and several studies of the values of family lifestyle and family image in literature (in prose and poetry) and folklore (fairy tales, ditties, anecdotes). Anatoly Antonov told about the results of these studies of the family and his observations in the interview with Realnoe Vremya.

“70% of today's families are single-child and multiple-divorced imitation of domesticity”

Mr Antonov, what problems with the institution of the family is Russia experiencing today?

The institution of the family does not perform demographic functions, it no longer exists and there is no family socialization of children. The state is struggling with social pathology, multiplying the ranks of fighters for the support of the family, that is, the economy and the social sphere of officials thriving on the decay of the family. Seventy per cent of current families are single-child and multiple-divorced imitation of domesticity. Family life is decaying in the atmosphere of anti-family orientation. The surrogate happiness of I-loneliness.

“Employees having four children should not receive the same salary as those having only one child”

You have said about the anti-family orientation of modern civilization. What does this mean?

The appeal to market economy conceals predatory essence of not humane at all social order, social system. Humanely, workers having four children shouldn't get the same salary as those having one child, but someone (who?) invented to pay according to the results of only factory labour. It comes from the time of Adam Smith. This is not economy, but the sociology of discrimination of parental work. It is capitalism with the human face of a jackal. We all live in strange surrealism, shouting about social justice, love for the neighbour, about the social state and its care for the family, but a child is born and the utility bills increase. We've resigned ourselves to this frenzy of the care for birth rate. Per capita income falls, why give birth? And we tell the women who give birth, “Freaks, why the hell you breed poverty?” Arithmetic at the level of individuals is against fertility. Higher mathematics at the macro level of the national economy states that the average wage of workers decreases with the reduction of fertility. And someone benefits from it. So let's put the per capita income of the family under control so that it does not fall below the poverty line in childbirth. It is impossible, alcoholics will flood the world with reproducibility. No, no... Well, if we live in market capitalism, where it is supposed to pay for everything, why then the result of the work of the family (millions of new labour) is annually appropriated by the state and corporations in the spirit of medieval paternalism? That’s a civilization of family care...

Photo: Maksim Platonov
If we live in market capitalism, where it is supposed to pay for everything, why then the result of the work of the family (millions of new labour) is annually appropriated by the state and corporations in the spirit of medieval paternalism? That’s a civilization of family care...

How does the demographic situation in Russia differ from the situation in the world?

The demographic situation in Russia and in the world has been difficult for many decades. In the Russian Federation and the EU, the actual fertility rate is only one-third of the population's fertility potential, due to health and demographic structure by sex and age, and this level is far from 2,1 and therefore the natural decline continues, which is partially offset by migration growth. The demographic situation in the world is uneven, it is different in developed countries and in developing ones. This leads to misconceptions, prejudices and stereotypes.

In the collective consciousness, the demographic situation is reduced, first, to the trends of population number, not its reproduction. The downgrading of the situation to population growth, secondly, implies the prospect of “overpopulation”, because it does not take into account the constantly declining rates of population growth. For example, at the end of the twentieth century, the global population growth rate fell from 16,6% (per mille) in 1980 to 11,7% in 2010, and in developing regions — from 20,2% to 13,7%. Paul Ralph Ehrlich, an ardent Malthusianist, unsuccessfully frightened in the ‘70th with terrible consequences of “overpopulation” — hunger, epidemics, depletion of the earth's resources. The “overpopulated” countries with the highest population density, such as Japan, have the highest life expectancy and high levels of well-being in the world.

Third, common sense equates population growth with “birth rate growth” in spite of the widespread decline in the birth rate. Such mythology is a consequence of the intimidation of people by “high reproduction”, which allegedly leads to social pathology of various kinds. The threat of “overpopulation” is fuelled by propaganda masking the inefficiency of social and economic management.

In Russia, like in other developed countries, the birth rate has been declining for a long time, leading to the spread of low and ultra-low fertility (TFR, total fertility rate, below 2.1 children per woman of reproductive age). This is the threshold of simple reproduction of the population, when the net coefficient is 1.0, that is, if the replacement of parents by children, or rather mothers with daughters, is provided. Expanded reproduction is when exceeding 1.0, contracted reproduction — if net coefficient if below 1.0. Since the mid-‘60s, Russia has developed a contracted type of reproduction, small families have become widespread, the TFR varied from 1.97-1.90, and the net coefficient was 0.90, the regime of simple reproduction could be achieved only fifth or sixth births. This situation predicted the imminent onset of depopulation (natural population decline), however, the measures taken by the state in 1981 to support professionally employed mothers led to a temporary increase in the TFR to 2.01 in 1989 and postponed the terms of depopulation to 1992. The shock therapy of the post-Soviet government did not create a decline in the population, but only consolidated it at the level of TFR 1.17—1.30 in 1992-2006.

Photo: Oleg Tikhonov
The demographic situation in Russia and in the world has been difficult for many decades. In the Russian Federation and the EU, the actual fertility rate is only one third of the population's fertility potential, due to health and demographic structure by sex and age

“The availability and reliability of contraception has led to an increase in childless cohabitation”

What about family policy? What is it in Russia and other countries?

In the EU, North America and Russia, there is no family-demographic policy aimed at the mass distribution of the necessity for 3-4 children in a family. The EU has extensive experience in social (assistance to poor and sick individuals) and family (assistance to incomplete and dysfunctional families) policies. Here, Russia lags far behind the welfare countries — our spending is 0,5% of GDP, but their — 5%. Besides, Russia had a bitter experience of the anti-family policy of the Bolsheviks — the destruction of the family based on religious marriage and replacing it with civil marriage through registration in the registry office. After the Great Patriotic War in the ‘50s and ‘60s, during the restoration of the national economy and attempts to smooth the imbalance of the male and female population, measures were taken within the framework of social and family policy. But these measures cannot be considered as stimulating the intensity of births — they only help to better meet the already existing needs of the population, mainly for two children. Now two-thirds of all families with children are single-child families, most of which have blocked the need for two children and the smaller part wanted just one child.

Further, it must be said that the mass nature of childfree norms in the 1970s in connection with the abolition of the taboo on contraception and abortion meant the destruction of the artificial connection of sexual, marital and reproductive behaviour, the abolition of the obligation of early and widespread marriages, the abolition of lifelong marriage and childbirth, the abolition of prohibitions on premarital and extramarital sexual relationships.

The mass nature of childfree norms in the 1970s in connection with the abolition of the taboo on contraception and abortion meant the destruction of the artificial connection of sexual, marital and reproductive behaviour, the abolition of the obligation of early and widespread marriages, the abolition of lifelong marriage and childbirth, the abolition of prohibitions on premarital and extramarital sexual relationships

I would like to emphasize that the talks about the sexual revolution are exaggerated. In fact, the removal of the function of compensating for high mortality from fertility contributed to the contraceptive revolution. Currently, we are reaping the fruits of the collapse of the old millennial system of social norms of high fertility. Increasing the availability and reliability of contraception has led not to “desired child-centrism”, but the growth of childfree cohabitations, which in the future will reduce legal marriages.

By Natalia Fyodorova