Belgrade (AFP) – “Give birth, don’t delay!” “Love and babies are what we need first!”
Serbia has announced the winning slogans in a competition to help boost the birth rate in the Balkan country, where the population is decreasing by tens of thousands each year.
A campaign to tackle the declining numbers is due to start “soon”, a spokeswoman at the ministry dealing with demographics told AFP on Wednesday.
But government officials have already chosen their favourite slogans from more than 1,000 entries in a nationwide cash-prize competition.
“Mum, I don’t want to be alone. Dad, I want a brother,” came in joint second place, along with the more direct command: “Enough of words! Let babies’ cries be heard!”
Serbia’s ageing population of seven million people is dropping off by around 36,000 people a year, according to the national statistics office.
In 2016, 100,834 people died while just 64,734 were born. On top of that, a “brain drain” has seen Serbian youngsters flocking abroad to study and work in richer countries.
But the planned campaign to boost births has angered Serbia’s influential deputy prime minister Zorana Mihajlovic, who warned that it could “only be counter-productive”.
“Most of the slogans chosen in this initiative require women to give birth as an imperative,” she was quoted as saying by the local Beta news agency.
Mihajlovic recently came up against the powerful Serbian Orthodox Church on the matters of childbirth and abortion, which is strongly opposed by religious officials.
The leader of the Church, Patriarch Irinej, met President Aleksandar Vucic in October to discuss their concerns over the country’s “very low birth rate”.