Romanians, who during Ceausescu's communist regime were bullied by the secret police into getting married and having children, tied the knot at twice the pace in January after the government started offering cash inducement.
The number of weddings in Romania more than doubled to 12,300 from 5,900 the same month a year earlier as the government started paying couples €200 ($266) in the hope they will start a family and halt a population drop. That's the most January weddings since 1979, according to the statistical office. „Some people rushed to get married to get the money as soon as possible,” Laura Ichim, the National Statistics Institute's demographics specialist, said in a telephone interview today. „The 200 euros is much more than the cost of getting married. It's too early to say if the trend will hold, though.”
The population of Romania, one of the European Union's two newest and poorest members, has been shrinking steadily since Nicolae Ceausescu's regime collapsed in 1989. His Securitate agents enforced bans on abortion and birth control and harassed women who were slow to have children. The population dropped 0.19% last year to 21.57 million, around the levels of the 1970s. It continued to dwindle at the rate of 150 people a day in January, also as people continued to move abroad after Romania joined the European Union on January 1, the statistical office's data showed. The government marriage bonus equals about three weeks of the average monthly net salary of €275.
„This is a significant gift for extremely poor people and will probably increase the marriage rate in poor areas,” said Traian Rotariu, dean of the Demographics Department at the Babes-Bolyai University in the city of Cluj. „I doubt it will have a significant impact on birth rates.” The overall cost to the government in January was €2.5 million, the statistical office said. Under Ceausescu, women risked discrimination if they weren't willing to demonstrate their fertility. He awarded „Maternity Medals” to women with more than five children, the „Order of Maternal Glory” for those with seven to nine offspring and the title of „Heroine Mother” for women with more than 10. Childless women paid a special „Celibacy Tax.”
Romania's annual population growth rate rose to 1.24% in Ceausescu's first five years of rule, from 1965 to 1970, double the rate of the previous five, according to United Nations data. (Bloomberg)