In Russia, Valentine’s Day Is for Making Babies

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(Bloomberg – – Kirsten Salyer – February 4, 2013)

This Valentine’s Day in Russia, do your patriotic duty and make a baby.

That’s the message from President Vladimir Putin, who has invited the trio Boyz II Men to perform in Moscow on Feb. 6 as part of an effort to raise the country’s birth rate. The group will sing romantic ballads, “hopefully giving Russian men some inspiration ahead of St. Valentine’s Day,” according to the Moscow Times. (Update: Putin “may or may not” have invited the band, as Foreign Policy reports. His campaign for more Russian babies, however, is longstanding.)

Russia isn’t the only country that has tested creative ways to get its citizens in the mood. Falling fertility rates mean more elderly and fewer young people, causing economic pressure from diminishing labor and less tax revenue. And though baby-making marketing efforts are no substitute for addressing existing deterrents to having children in some countries, such as the high cost of child care and education, that hasn’t kept officials from trying.

Putin’s latest effort is part of Russia’s ongoing (and occasionally eccentric) fertility campaign. In 2007, officials declared Sept. 12 the “Day of Conception” and gave couples time off work to procreate. If they had a baby exactly nine months later, the country’s national day, they could win money, a car or a refrigerator.

In Singapore, which had a 2012 fertility rate of 0.78, Mentos mints sponsored a three-minute video on the country’s national day last August, encouraging citizens to celebrate “National Night,” too. A man in the video raps: “Singapore’s population, it needs some increasin’, so forget waving flags, August 9th we be freaking.”

A few years ago in Japan, which had a fertility rate of 1.39 in 2012, university students created Yotaro, a giggling robot baby to encourage couples to want kids. In South Korea, where some estimates suggest almost 40 percent of the population will be 65 or older by midcentury, the Ministry of Heath created a monthly “Family Day” in 2010 by turning off the office lights at 7 p.m. and encouraging employees to “go home to their families and, well, make bigger ones,” as BBC wrote.

Regardless of whether these not-so-subtle campaigns produce more babies, they are reminders of the long-term implications of demographic shifts. And, let’s be honest, sex sells, whether the goal is a higher birth rate or more radio listeners. Last week WBEZ, a public radio station in Chicago, Illinois, began an advertising campaign with the slogan: “We Want Listeners Tomorrow. Go Make Babies Today.”

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