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    Russian parliament's upper house passes maternity bill

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    MOSCOW, December 27 (RIA Novosti) - Russian parliament's upper house, the Federation Council, passed Wednesday a maternity incentive bill on payouts for women who give birth to or adopt more than one child.

    The president-sponsored bill, aimed at reversing the current decline in the nation's birth rate, will provide for one-off payouts to women who give birth to or adopt a second child after January 1, 2007, and for subsequent births.

    But the payouts, which are currently set at 250,000 rubles (a little under $9,400), will be revised annually to adjust to inflation and come with conditions attached. They could be invested in education, housing, or a pension saving program, but not until the child turns three, or three years after his/her adoption.

    The second-birth incentive bill is expected to help Russia overcome a severe demographic crisis. The country's population has been in steady decline since the launch of market reforms in the early 1990s, and, according to the United Nations, it may further fall by one-third from today's 142 million by the middle of the century.

    Ahead of the bill's submission to parliament in October, Deputy Duma Chairman Oleg Morozov said, citing expert estimates, that if enacted, the new legislation could triple the birth rate within three years.

    In his annual address to the nation in May, President Vladimir Putin said the population in Russia was falling by about 700,000 each year, and pledged financial incentives to women with larger families.

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