Modern Russian family policy

By Ludmila Totland, hospitant at NIBR’s department for international studies

In the 1990’s, when Russian society underwent a strong social and economic crisis, very few children were born in Russia. Despite the fact that the number of newborns since 2000 steadily increases, and currently even surpasses the number of deaths, in 2012 the reproduction coefficient was only 1.6 points, i.e. below the level (2.31 points) that is necessary for the reproduction of the population.

The needs of the modern, professionally active woman should interest Russian politicians and be the focus of social policies, housing programs, labor policies, educational policies, etc. It is therefore interesting to look at what the Russian authorities do to stimulate an increase in the birth rate.

Image credit Public portal “Papa i mama” (Mother and father). Picture gallery. Published 2013.

To give an idea of the situation of young families in Russia today, in this article I will provide an overview of the kindergarten system and social support programs for families with children in the country.

Modern Russian system of kindergartens
The leading normative document for pre-school education is the new Federal law on education dated 1. September 2013 no. 273, which will come into force 1. January 2014.

The new law, like the Soviet law “About the Basic Principles of National Education” no. 4536-8, proclaims the principle of free education made available to all. In the new law, the Soviet hierarchical structure of the educational administration system is maintained, where responsibility for methodical quality, standardization, control and financing lies with the federal level and is delegated to lower administrative units. Such a structure makes it possible to retain a comprehensive policy of state control of the approved national standards of education and training. Education is defined as a general responsibility for authorities at all levels.

The current legislation differs from the Soviet one in three aspects: First, in the new law the principle of private ownership of kindergartens is upheld. Kindergarten owners can independently decide whether they want to finance their cost by payment of parents or by state allowance. Secondly, local authorities may independently, depending on the requirements of the users, decide what services local kindergartens shall provide. Thirdly, the law makes 104 laws from the period 1973-2012 invalid. It simplifies legislation and makes it more accurate.

As distinguished from both the Soviet and the market-based legislation of the 1990’s, the current legislation does not allow state enterprises, state organizations or local governing bodies to act as owners of educational or training institutions. Local authorities cannot independently close down pre-school institutions.

The preschool teacher
In Russia a preschool teacher is called a “tutor” (vospitatel’nitsa). There are a number of expectations related to what kind of a person a teacher in a kindergarten should be: kind, polite, attentive, patient, inquisitive, careful, able to leave personal problems at home, etc. To put it briefly, the “tutor” has to be cultured and educated. There are nine “golden rules” the tutor has to adhere to, but the main principle is: Primum non nocere (do not harm).

In Russia today, there are 182 budgetary, 75 commercial and 5 none state (attached to joint-stock companies) pedagogical universities and colleges, as well as hundreds of local branches associated with the main institutions.

In 2013, the average grades required to be admitted for the study of pedagogy at two Moscow universities were 68.7 and 68.8 points. In comparison, the grades required at the State architectural university in Moscow and the Moscow Academy of business and management were 67.5 and 67.6 points, respectively. At the Ural state pedagogical university the required average grade was 66.5 points and at the Ural state university for transportation and technology, 60.1 points.
Future preschool teachers. Image credit Moscow governmental regional humanitarian college, Pedagogic faculty. Class of 2013.

In 2013, the Russian government allocated 266.5 billion rubles to the educational sector, and in 2016 it plans to increase the allocations to 290.3 billions. In 2010, the average salary of a preschool teacher was 25.400 rubles (approximately 580 Euros) a month. In 2013, the salary was raised to 41.500 rubles a month. By comparison, in 2010 a school teacher received 39.200 rubles a month and in 2013 64.100 rubles a month.

Types of kindergartens
Pre-school education institutions in Russia today are subdivided into two main types:

1. OUDM (Obrazovatel’nye Ucrezhdenija dlja detej Doshkol’nogo i Mladshego shkl’nogo vozrasta) – Educational institutions for children of pre-school and elementary school age. These are subdivided into three categories:

a) school-kindergarten (extended day based on elementary school for 7-year old children)
b) school-kindergarten for children with special needs
c) pre-school daytime groups (preparatory group for 6-7 year old children)

Image credit Ordinary kindergarten. E-Journal “Sovremennoe doshkol’noe obrazovanie” (Modern preschool education. Theory and practice), 2013, no. 7

2. DOU (Doshkol’nye Obrazovatel’nye Ucrezhdenija) – Pre-school educational institutions.

There are 6 categories of DOUs:

a) ordinary kindergartens (general program)
b) special kindergartens (i.e. intellectual, esthetical, artistic, sports or cultural programs)
c) kindergartens with a compensating program for children with special physical or psychological needs
d) kindergartens-sanatoria (for children with health problems);
e) comprehensive kindergartens (various combinations of general, compensating and rehabilitation programs)
f) children’s development centers (correction of deviations in the physical or mental development of the children as well as various health promoting programs).

In all types of kindergartens there are the following groups:

1. Compensating groups, for children with chronic diseases who are offered correctional activities and medicines
2. Health strengthening groups
3. Groups for children with chronic illness
4. Groups with a special profile (knowledge, communication, socialization, health, music, literature, fine arts, etc)
5. Groups for disabled children
6. Mixed groups

Image credit Public portal “Yandex”. Picture gallery. Published 2013

Opening hours
Traditionally, the opening time in kindergartens is 12 hours (07:00-19:00) and 24 hours, five days a week. The system of round the clock stays in the kindergartens was introduced in the early years of the Soviet reign. Both parents were expected to contribute to the building of the country by working. By providing professional care and supervision it enabled both parents to work shift and allowed them to bring their child home when convenient.

Kindergartens with a 24 hour service offer both ordinary and specialized programs. Recently, kindergartens with this kind of offer have become more and more popular among young Russian families.

Apparently, neither Russian parents nor the public perceive it as a problem to send children to kindergartens with a 24 hour service. At least there is no noticeable debate on the possible negative effects on the children related to such a protracted stay. This suggests that people have confidence in the kindergarten system and the competence of the pedagogues.

From 2000, a 10 or 14 hour service is offered in the kindergartens. The 14 hours service is quite popular as it is much cheaper than the round-the-clock service. The short 10 hour service makes kindergartens more available for broad groups of users.

Image credit Public portal “Akademitsjeskaja gimnasija” (Academic gymnasium). Picture gallery. Published 2013

How to register a child in a kindergarten: Example from the Moscow region
In 2009, there were 52.830 kindergartens in the Russian Federation. Never the less, in October that year there were one million children who used temporary solutions while they were waiting for a regular place in a kindergarten. The Minister of Education, Dmitry V. Livanov, promised that by the beginning of 2015 there should be 1.2 million places in kindergartens. Today, for instance, in the Moscow region there are 2.051 ordinary kindergartens with a general program that are visited by 424.000 children. The Moscow authorities have taken measures to create 1000-1500 temporary places annually for children waiting for a place in a kindergarten. This effort was financed with 46 million rubles, and since 2012 41.519 new places in kindergartens have been created. The Moscow government plans to solve the problem of insufficient places in kindergartens within 2015.

From 1 October 2010 an electronic system of registration for a place in a kindergarten has been introduced. Registration takes place continuously from August 1 to June 15, and the applicants can monitor their place in the electronic queue. According to the decision of the federal government, a Council of parents was introduced to supervise the electronic registration. The system guarantees an objective registration process, the parents are allowed to designate three kindergartens and a date of commencement.

The following groups may apply for a place in a kindergarten or are given preferential treatment:

– You have to be registered at a Moscow address to apply for a place in a kindergarten.
– Direct access: Orphans and adopted children, children who have lost one or both parents, children affected by the Chernobyl accident, children who grow up in homes with problems, and children of judges, prosecutors and intelligence officers will automatically get a place in a kindergarten.
– Prioritized according to category: Disabled children, children from families where one or both parents are disabled, children of certain groups of employees (military, police, fire service, etc) and children whose parent have been killed or disabled serving the state (military people, etc) will be given preferential treatment when applying for a place in a kindergarten.
– Category 1: children of sole providers,
– Category 2: children who have siblings in the DOU, except when the sibling receives specialized rehabilitative treatment
– Category 3: children of pedagogues in the DOU and other employed in the educational system in Moscow.

Alternative services

In addition to traditional kindergartens, in Russia there are kindergartens situated in private houses, centers of pre-school education and other alternative solutions. For example:

1. “Day time care” that offers a 10 hour service to children who did not receive a place in an ordinary kindergarten. Such groups are organized by an ordinary kindergarten and can be:

a) Adaptation groups for babies
b) Development groups for children with special needs
c) Evening and periodic stay groups
d) “Learning-by-playing” groups to develop the children’s intellectual, social, esthetic and other skills
e) “The special child” groups for disabled children
f) Correction groups for children with mental problems
g) Language groups for children that speak other languages than Russian
h) “Soon in school” groups
i) “Small Olympians” groups (sport)
j) “Learn to swim” groups
Image credit Private kindergarten «Olympic» i Moskva. Swimming studio. Public portal: “Academic gymnasium”. Published 2013

2. Play groups. An offer to children from 0.2 to 7 years that are unable to visit an ordinary kindergarten, in which children get psycho-pedagogical support, and their parents are offered consultation with experts.

3. Home kindergartens. An offer to children from 0.2 to 7 years. Only one tutor is required, and she must have her own child(ren) in the kindergarten. Local authorities give pedagogical support to the teacher.

4. “Early help”. An offer for children from 0.2 to 7 years that need psycho-pedagogical, social or medical help not available in an ordinary kindergarten.

5. “Play support” centers. An offer for children 0.6-3 years learning to develop certain skills by means of games and play organized by professional pedagogues.

Image credit Public portal “Akademitsjeskaja gimnasija” (Academic gymnasium). Private kindergarten «Olympic» i Moskva. Art-studio ‘Politra’. Published 2013

Private Kindergartens
In October 2013, in the Russian Federation there were 2.551 private kindergartens, of which 233 were in the Moscow region. These kindergartens are financed by payment from the parents, and the kindergartens may independently dispose of their means.

Private kindergartens offer a wide variety of high quality services. In the Moscow kindergarten Olympic, for example, there are such programs as: English, sensory training, mathematics, grammar, art, literature, speech therapy, art and needlework, music and dance, gymnastics, choreography, communication, swimming, developing games, outdoor activities. The health of the children is taken care of by a permanent pediatrician. The kindergarten is open from 7:30 to 22:00. The monthly price for a five-day service per week is 38.000 rubles (approximately 870 Euros).
Image credit Public portal “Akademitsjeskaja gimnasija” (Academic gymnasium). Private kindergarten Nagornaja Street 38, Moskva. Dance and choreography studio. Published 2013

In additives to the standard programs, both private and state kindergartens offer a wide variety of additional programs, such as sports, developing games, etc.

Pre-school education is financed through subsidies from the state budget that has to cover all expenses, apart from municipal and technical. Municipal budgets receive additional resources if kindergartens in the respective administrative districts, in addition to the general programs, offer additional specialized services in the form of sports sections or training courses.

To organize and operate a private kindergarten, a license is required. To obtain a license, the kindergarten, in addition to specialized programs, also have to offer a general program which will be financed from the state budget.

As both municipal and private kindergartens have to offer general as well as specialized programs, there is a fusion of the public and the private sector in pre-school education.

Image credit Public portal “Сампо.ру” Published 11.01.2013

Payment for a place in a budget financed kindergarten
In the Russian Federation, according to Law of 1.9.2013 no. 273, § 5, subsection 3 and subsection 5, 3rd paragraph, education at all levels is free of charge and financed from the state budget. This means that parental fees has to be considered as payment for attention and care.

According to the law, local authorities may, depending on supply and demand, determine the price of the services attached to a place in a kindergarten. So for example, by the resolution of the Committee on education in Moscow of 31. August 2011, no. 404, it is determined that a place in a kindergarten that offers a general program will be financed by the following annual allotments: for children from 1.5 to 3 years 67.440 rubles, for children from 3 to 5 years 79.920 rubles, and for children from 5 to 7 years 93.200 rubles. The annual charges for attention and care are: for children from 1.5 to 3 years 42.560 rubles, for children from 3 to 5 years 35.080, and for children from 5 to 7 years 26.800 rubles.

An important state initiative to support families with small children was to establish an upper limit on the payment of attention and care. By Law of 1.9.2013 no. 273, it is determined that the parents should not pay more than 20% of the real cost. For some categories (large families, families with low income, etc) payment should not exceed 10% of the real cost.

In 2013, the price of a 12 hour place in a kindergarten vary from 176 to 2 129 rubles a month. In the Nizhny Novgorod area, for example, where parents pay 20% of the real cost of services related to attention and care of their child, a place in an ordinary kindergarten with the general program costs 1 394 rubles a month.

Law on compensation
An important incentive to support families with small children was expressed in Federal law of 17.7.2009, no. 48. Paragraph 52, subsection 6 of this law states that parents with children in a kindergarten with the general program are entitled to a partial compensation of the related cost. For one child the compensation is 20% of the cost, for two children 50%, and for three and more children 70%. The same rule applies for children from one family visiting various pre-school institutions in the same administrative region.

This principle was expressed by the resolution of the Moscow government of 27. July 2010, no. 590 (revised 7.11.2012) and also in the latest Law on education of 1.9.2013, no. 273. This means, for example, that parents of one child that visits kindergarten no. 22 in the city of Balakhna in the Nizhny Novgorod region pay only 1.115 rubles a month.

Families with small children get other grants and bonuses as well, for example, 50% reduction of the costs of having a child in a kindergarten for families with a low monthly income and for families where one of parents is disabled, has physical or mental problems etc.

According to the resolution of the city administration of Balakhna in the Nizhny Novgorod region of 3.5.2006, no. 151, kindergartens have to reduce payment if the child does not visit the kindergarten because of illness or rehabilitation. Kindergarten no. 22 in the city of Balakhna, for example, reduces the payment if the child is absent from 3 to 75 days.

Grants during pregnancy
According to a Russian proverb, even a straw hut may be paradise as long as you are together with your beloved. Even if the Russian woman is known for her moderation, it is very seldom that people live in accordance with the moral this proverb conveys.

Neither a successful marriage nor an outstanding career is sufficient to make a woman choose to have more than one child. The modern woman wishes to have social programs that give security in uncertain life situations.

Families with children are supported economically in accordance with Federal law of 19.5.1995, no. 81 (revised 18.7.2013 as Law no.167) “About welfare payments to citizens with children”, Federal law of 29.12.2006 no. 255 (revised 23.7.2013 as Law no. 243) “About obligatory social insurance in case of temporary disability to work and motherhood”, and also by the resolution of the Health and Social Department of 23.12.2009, no.1012 (revised 23.8.2010) “About organization of and conditions for payment of grants to citizens with children”.

By these laws, grants are allotted to eight categories of citizens with children, among them pregnant women, women who give birth and people who look after or adopt children. Additional grants are handed out if the parents serve in the police or military. In case a second child is born, a special grant is paid, the so called maternity capital.

Grants to women who give birth to children
Maternal benefits during the period before and after childbirth is a central part of the state family policy that aims to increase the freedom of choice. According to Federal law of 19.5.1995, no. 81 “About state economic support of citizens with children”, chapter 2, subsections 7-12, for 70 days prior to and 70 days after the delivery women are entitled to economic support corresponding to 100% of their average salary. If two or more children are born, the period increases to 84 days prior to and 110 days after the delivery. Women are also entitled to grants determined by local legislation, for example compensation for temporary disability.

According to the new legislation, the woman herself can choose which one of two years before pregnancy shall be used to calculate the grant related to childbirth. However, the income that is used to calculate the grant should not exceed the size of the salary which is subject to social insurance, which in 2013 is 568.000 rubles.

As a onetime grant, women receive a certain amount of money, in 2013 13.087 rubles, paid by the employer. If both parents are unemployed, the grant is paid by a local social security office or the governmental fund for social support. The grant is paid no later than 10 days after it has been applied for and within 6 months after the delivery. Person’s, who adopt a child, receive a similar grant. Both grants are tax-exempt.

Grants to persons who look after children
If one of the parents chooses to stay at home with the child until it is 1.5 years old, that person will receive monthly payments from the state. In 2013 these payments were 40% of that person’s salary, and they cannot be lower than 2.454 rubles a month for the first child and 4.908 rubles for the second and each of the subsequent children. If a person chooses to take care of several children aged until 1.5 years, the payments are put together, but should not exceed 100% of a normal salary. In Russia today, the average yearly salary is 217.863 rubles, 40% of which is 87.145 rubles. Thus, a person with an ordinary income who stays at home receives about 7.260 rubles a month.

Financial support to unemployed mothers
Women who did not receive a salary during the last two years before pregnancy are also entitled to social support when their child is born. In this case the support consists of: 1) a one-time payment of 13 087 rubles for each live-born child; 2) monthly payments until the child is 1,5 years old, 2 600 rubles for the first child, 5 200 rubles for the second child and for each subsequent child; 3) single parents also receive a monthly extra grant, 2000 rubles until the child is 1,5 years and 4000 rubles until it is 3 years.

Image credit Public portal “Doroga domoj” (Way home. Younger. Annotations to parents). Published 2013

Maternity capital
In Russia, motherhood is protected and encouraged. By Regional law of 12.1.2006 no. 1(updated 6.2.2013) “About measures to support families with children in the Moscow area”, the Moscow government granted families where two or more children had been born or adopted during the period from 1.1.2007 to 31.12.2016 a certificate that grants a one-time payment. The money will be paid before the child reaches the age of three, and only one of the parents will receive such a certificate. In 2013, the allowance is 408.960 rubles, and in 2014 it will be 430.000 rubles. According to Federal law of 16.11.2011 no. 256 “About additional measures of state support to families with children”, the regional authorities may increase maternity capital. Thus, in the Moscow region in 1.1.2011 the amount of the capital was increased by 100.000 rubles. Since 2012, local governing bodies are responsible for documenting claims to maternity capital.

The maternity capital is financed from regional budgets, and the money the families receive is tax-exempt. However, the money can only be used for three purposes: 1) improvement of the family’s housing situation; 2) education of the child; 3) pension savings for the holder of the certificate. Since the beginning of 2007, when the Maternity capital program was introduced, 4.5 million families have received the Family capital certificate, of which two million have used the certificate money to improve their housing situation.

In 2013, there were 75.000 applications to spend the certificate money on university education, and 1.685 applications related to transfer of the money into pension funds. Today, the prolongation of the Maternity capital program till 2025 is discussed.

In the early 1990’s, the Russian state abandoned the Soviet ideology; by the end of this decade it also became clear that a market economy of the Western type was unsuited to Russian conditions. Today, Russian politicians try to find a Russian way to a well-functioning, robust society.

In its family policy, Russian authorities pragmatically utilizes both knowledge and experiences gained during the Soviet period and solutions based upon market economic principles. It remains to be seen whether today’s Russian family policy will increase the birth rate.

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