Incentives for Large Families in the West (Part II)

By Rosanna Emenusiobi

(contd from last edition)

2.3 France Moves to Encourage Large Families
Already boasting one of the highest birth rates in the EU, France has unveiled measures to spur women to have more children. They include an increased monthly grant for mothers who take time off work for a third baby. “Things aren’t going well in France. With 1.9 children per woman, we have one of the highest birth rates in Europe. But it’s still not enough for us to reproduce our generations,” said Sullerot. The government agrees. An initiative, which is aimed at boosting the country’s birth rate up to so-called “replacement” level, was unveiled at an annual Conference on the Family in Paris attended by government ministers, pro-family campaigners, employers and trade unions. Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin said the new measures were intended to “allow a better conciliation between professional and family life up to the child’s majority.” Under the proposals, a parent who takes time off from work for a third child will have the option of a boosted monthly pay-out of 750 euros ($915) for one year. Currently the figure is set at $500 available over three years. According to Hubert Brin, president of the National Union of Family Associations (UNAF), the increased payment is to encourage higher-earners to have a third child. The current rate is only attractive for couples on low incomes. But we have to encourage professionals with higher incomes to have babies,” he said. Other changes include a doubling of the tax credit for families that hire home-help for children under six, and the extension of discounts available for families with three or more children.

France already has a comprehensive array of incentives for child-bearing, including generous child allowances and a calibrated income tax system that means that families with more children pay less. Parents with three or more children can also get “Large Family” cards that bring discounts on public transport. These will now also include cut-price deals on household goods and leisure activities. “Nonetheless the trend is not satisfactory,” it said, largely because more French women are waiting longer to have their first child. With some 80.7 percent of women aged between 25 and 49 participating in the workforce, France has one of the highest rates of working women in Europe. But the UNAF report said that this is not incompatible with a high birth rate and that — with the proper policies — the two can go hand-in-hand.

2.4 Germany and Large Families
Germany needs more children; it is the country with the oldest population after Japan. Although, at 1.5 children per woman, the birth rate is at the highest level since reunification, it is still lower than the EU average of 1.58. This is why there are a large number of state aids aimed at promoting families. The most important are child allowance, parental allowance, tax incentives, and subsidies for pregnant women and families whose income is too low to meet their children’s basic needs. School education is free. Children or career? Policy-makers have been trying to make it easier for women and men to reconcile the two. Since 2013, every child has had a legal right to a kindergarten place from their first year. Germany’s federal states have invested heavily in the expansion of childcare for infants and school children.

Since 2007, mothers and fathers have been able to take a paid break from work. The state pays a parental allowance amounting to 65% of net income for a total of 14 months. Father earns the money, mother stays at home with the children – this role model is regarded as outdated, but it still exists. Although 70 percent of mothers go out to work, 40 percent work only part-time. A change is emerging: the generation of young fathers would like to spend more time with their children and be more involved in their upbringing. Currently, as many as one in three fathers takes advantage of the parental allowance for two to three months.

2.5 Russia and Large Families
On July 8, 1944, the order of Mother-Heroine was instituted for women who raised over ten children. This was done in order to fight the dropping birthrate amid Second World War. The award was backed up by child support, a dowry for the newborns, and extra supplies of food. From 1944 till 1991, about 500,000 women received the award. The first woman to receive the award was Anna Aleksakhina, a peasant living in a shack in one of the Moscow region villages, and a mother of 12 children. One of the measures inducing the large family paradigm was the so-called sterility tax (“balls tax”). The tax was imposed on bachelors aged 20-50 and married women aged 20-45, requiring them to pay 6% of their salary to the state if they didn’t have children. Smart or crazy? After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the population of Russia shrank by up to 700,000 a year. Between 1992 and 2009, the country lost about six million people, or four percent of its population. During the presidential-election campaign in 2012, Putin expressed his concern for the country’s future: “We are facing the risk of turning into an “empty space”, whose fate will not be decided by us.” There was one simple solution: to make more children! Thus, since 2007, extra money has been given to parents on the birth of their second and third children. In 2008, a special prize was established – the Order of Parental Glory. Today, parents with seven or more children (biological or adopted) are invited to the Kremlin and receive the medal from the President himself.

2.5. Falling Birth Rates Worry the European Union: No Birth, No Economic Growth
Falling birth rates are a growing worry across the EU, with demographers predicting that large-scale immigration will be necessary in many countries in order to sustain the benefits enjoyed by a steadily aging population. Through tax and transportation breaks, child and health care benefits, the French government has been aggressively pushing a pro-baby policy for years – and it has paid off. With an average of two children per woman of childbearing age, France’s birth rate leads Europe in an otherwise gloomy statistic. With few exceptions, birth rates across the 27-member European Union have been declining steadily for decades with Slovenia at the bottom with 1.31 births per woman of childbearing age. The birth rate in the United States, by comparison, is about 2.1. Citing demographers and economists, a 2004 report by the Rand Europe research group paints a dire picture of Europe’s future, saying low birth rates will lead to a drop of 30 million working-age Europeans by 2050.

The European Commission also raised an alarm bell in a 2005 study, warning European lawmakers that falling fertility rates – averaging just 1.48, well below the 2.1 rate needed to maintain the current population – could hurt the region’s economy, living standards and relations between generations. “Modern Europe has never had economic growth without births,” it noted. Now, local and national governments across the continent are responding with a flurry of incentives, many of them cash payments to have children. But most demographers agree such perks are inadequate. “Purely pro-natal policies – giving people a baby bonus if they have more children and so on – has only a marginal effect,” said Mark Pierson, head of the social policy division at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, in Paris. “It’s not a very effective way of encouraging fertility. The way you encourage women to have more children is to help them work more.”

In Sweden for example – with a healthy 1.85 birth rate, according to EU statistics – both parents are entitled to 18 months’ government-paid leave. Day care is subsidized and many jobs offer flexible works schedules. At 1.32, Germany by contrast has among the lowest birth rates in the region, with day care expensive and scarce. But under Family Affairs Minister Ursula von der Leyen – a mother of seven – the government has drafted a plan to increase the number of kindergarten spots and has passed legislation offering tax breaks to families. Two other pro-natal laggards, Spain and Italy, are also joining a number of European governments offering cash incentives to have babies. Several years ago, Rocco Falivena, the mayor of Laviano in southern Italy, said his village would pay a $15,000 bonus on top of the government’s $1,500-per-child rate to residents having children. “A decline in the population imposes costs, and clearly Europe is going to have to cope with them,” said Pierson. The upshot for European economies, he predicted, would be “a gradual fading away compared to more dynamic parts of the world.”

2.7 10 Countries that Desperately Want People to Have More Sex for Babies
Demographers suggest that a country needs a fertility rate of over two children per woman to hit “replacement fertility” — the rate at which new births fill the spaces left behind by deaths. But because of certain cultural and economic forces, only about half of the world’s 224 countries currently hit replacement fertility, mainly African nations.

If you aren’t going to have a kid for your own family, Danes are told, at least do it for Denmark. “No, literally, do it for Denmark”. The small Nordic country has such a low fertility rate — about 1.73 children per woman — that Spies Rejser, a Danish travel company, has come up with ingenious incentives to persuade women to get pregnant. First, it offered to provide three years’ worth of baby supplies to couples who conceived on a vacation booked through the company. Now it has come up with a sexy campaign video titled “Do it for Mom,” which guilt trips couples into having kids to give their precious mothers a grandchild.

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