Russia reports baby boom in 2007

MOSCOW, February 1 (RIA Novosti) - The health and social development minister said Friday that in 2007 Russia had the highest number of births since 1991.

"Russia has not seen such a baby boom for 15 years, the highest number of births since 1991," Tatyana Golikova said, adding that 1.6 million babies were born last year, up 122,750 against 2006.

The official praised presidential maternity incentives approved last year, including higher payments for mothers of children under 18 months, benefits for unemployed mothers and payouts of about $9,500 for the birth of two or more children, so called baby-money.

Demographic issues are widely seen as one of the main threats facing modern Russia since the market reforms and economic hardship of the 1990s.

Many experts are concerned that Russia will be hit be a demographic crisis in the near future. According to UN predictions, Russia's population, currently at about 142 million, could fall by 30% by the middle of the century.

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