This town gives you a day off work to make a baby
For most people, a dream midweek day off work looks something a little bit like this: a lazy lie-in, a wander around a sunny park, maybe followed by cake and coffee somewhere cute, and then a chilled out evening of catching up on Netflix. Oh, and if you’re lucky, you might be able to fit in a bit of hanky panky with someone special in between all of that too. All in all, it sounds pretty blissful, right?
But imagine if the whole point of your day off was to indulge in a bit of "hanky panky". No, not in an illicit don’t-want-go-get-caught kind of way, but instead in a state-sponsored, "lie back and think of England" lovemaking kind of way. Well, apparently it's actually a thing. In this case though, the proverbial England is actually Russia, where every year an entire town is given the day off to procreate for the good of the nation. The best bit? If you do happen to conceive, you might win a sports car.
As the home of novel and revolutionary ideas go, Ulyanovsk, a town of roughly 700,000 people located about 550 miles east of Moscow, has a reputation to uphold. It was, after all, the birthplace of Lenin. So maybe it’s no surprise that they found a unique way to do their bit when Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed his grave concern over the country's low birth rate. The solution was simple: on September 12 every year, employers should give their staff time off work, with the intention that they all go home and put those hours into producing a whole new generation of proud Russians. And how to make sex even more fun? By turning it into a competition, of course.
To take part in the baby-making festival, you must first register with the town's authorities.... the rest of what goes on is between you and your partner. So what happens if you get busy and it actually works? Well, if you conceive and give birth on any old day then you’re just left with a baby to raise - duh. But, if you (completely uncontrollably) hit the biological jackpot and manage to not only conceive, but also give birth on 12th June - Russia Day - then you could be in for a windfall. Every couple who has a baby on this day gets some kind of prize, be it a camera, a washing machine or a cash prize.
However, one lucky couple will also win the “grand prize”, decided on by a special committee who deliberate for two weeks over who is most deserving, based on factors such as their respectability. Previous winners have included Irina and Andrei Kartuzov, who made the decision to leave nothing to chance and scheduled a caesarean section to ensure a perfectly-timed arrival on June 12. As a thank you for their efforts, they won themselves a locally-made UAZ-Patriot SUV vehicle. By 2012, the prizes had got bigger, with an apartment going to the winning couple.
To be fair, the incentives seem to be working, with an almost five per cent rise in births in the first couple of years after the Day of Conception's conception. Nationally however, the picture is still bleak. In 2017, rates for the whole of Russia hit a 10-year low, with 1.6 million births registered in a country with a population of 147 million and Putin has described the situation as "Russia's greatest threat". The government is now planning to spend billions of dollars on schemes to encourage Russians to have more babies, including offering mortgage subsidies and grants to growing families.
Amusing as it may be, it’s far from the only creative way that countries have tried to raise their birth rate. In South Korea, which in 2017 took the dubious title of having the world’s lowest fertility rate, millions have been spent on "baby bonuses" and infertility treatment. More recently, the third Wednesday of every month has also been designated “family day”, when many offices close at 7pm so that not only can parents spend time with their children, but would-be parents work on producing theirs. Singapore, meanwhile, even decided to release a sexy smooth jam which included the lyrics “the birthrate won’t spike itself”.
If you happen to be unfortunate enough to be born around November 14, then someone has probably teased you before with the information that you're quite likely to be a Valentines-bonk baby. So spare a thought for those born around June 12 in Ulyanovsk, who will have to live with the knowledge that their parents were getting jiggy for the "good of the nation" - or a new fridge - when they came into existence. Who said romance is dead, eh?