Facing an increasingly aging population and below replacement birth rates, some governments are looking at incentives for couples to have more children.With the high cost of living, many couples choose to become financially secure before having children. This often includes heavy mortgage and student loan repayments.
- Companies seeking retention of their workers are offering incentives to accomodate motherhood.
- Some countries are offering cash bonuses to intice couples to have more than one or two children.
- Childcare tax credits if given to all mothers, would provide women with a real choice to either work or stay home.
- Income-splitting results in a 'marriage bonus' for couples with children.
- Feminists and liberals regard income- splitting as a backwards move that discriminates against working women.
- Others believe society should reward stay-at-home parents.
The trend is for couples to work hard to pay off as much of the debt as possible before starting a family. Some couples resort to abortion when contraception fails because they can't afford a baby to jeopardise their mortgage payments.
In The Price of Motherhood: Why the Most Important Job in the World Is Still the Least Valued, Ann Crittenden, a former reporter, argues that the decision to become a mother is not only a career-buster, but also the worst possible economic choice for a woman.
Crittenden maintains that mothers, particularly well-educated women with high earning capacities, pay a "Mommy Tax" in the form of slowed career advancement and lost earnings. According to Crittenden's calculations, the typical female college graduate forfeits $1 million in lifetime earnings if she has a child.
Many women have admitted that they would choose to stay home with their children if it were economically viable.
All parents - whether they are in the paid workforce or at home taking care of a family - pay a price for parenthood, but the benefits are impossible to calculate. Many women have admitted that they would choose to stay home with their children if it were economically viable. This is one reason some women tend to opt for part-time employment following maternity leave.
Some companies are implementing policies that make it easier for women to return to work, although this generally applies more to 'white-collar' positions. As more and more women graduate from university, the number of professional women is rising, giving employers a real incentive to accomodate motherhood by offering schedules and benefits that accomodate women.
Some parents, faced with expensive childcare costs, start up in business for themselves to gain more flexibility.
One option companies are pursuing more and more, is having the mother, or in some cases the father, work from home either full-time or part-time, going in to the office when necessary for meetings or consultations. Some parents, choosing to have more than two children and unable to meet expensive childcare costs, start up in business for themselves to gain more flexibility.
In some countries, concerns about low fertility rates and an aging populace have led governments to offer cash incentives for couples to have more children.
In 2000, Singapore announced it would give cash bonuses to parents who have more than one child in an attempt to reverse falling birth rates. Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong said the allowances would be paid to couples having a second or third baby starting from April 2001.
In 2003, Italy set aside 500 million euros in its budget for families, so they can offer 1,000 euros ($NZ1800) to each child born and to help parents bring children more easily into the world.
In May 2004, Australia's Treasurer, Peter Costello, the minister responsible for economic and fiscal policy, unveiled a 'family-friendly', $13.3-billion package that for five years starting in June would pay couples $2,000 ($NZ2,200) for each new baby born. The budget also made provision for maternity payments, family tax credits and an increase in the number of subsidized after-school childcare places.
Costello told reporters that having two children per family simply wasn't enough "to fix the ageing demographic."
Australian couples should have at least three children each "...one for dad, one for mom and one for the country."
"If you can have children, it is a good thing to do," he said, adding that Australian couples should have at least three children each - "one for dad, one for mom and one for the country".
Couples should go further, and have more than that to make up for others "who are not even replicating themselves," Costello said, ending the press conference by telling journalists: "Go home and do your patriotic duty tonight."
China, in 2004, finally decided to try to repair the negative effect its one-child policy has had on the population, offering to pay couples a premium for producing baby girls. Last year, 117 boys were born for every 100 girls in China, compared with a global average of 105 to 100.
Faced by a socially destabilising shortage of more than 30 million women by 2020, senior family planning officials said that they would offer welfare incentives to couples with two daughters and tighten the prohibition on sex-selective abortions.
Japan's version of the baby bonus scheme gives parents 5,000 yen ($NZ68) a month for the first two children, and 10,000 yen for each subsequent child, while children are in pre-school. They can also opt to take child-care leave and still receive 40% of their salary.
In Japan, only a small number of workers use the cash incentives because of social pressure to continue working.
But according to Professor Naohiro Ogawa from Nihon University in Japan, only a small number of workers use the cash incentives because of social pressure to continue working.
Toymakers, Bandai Corporation, obviously concerned for long term economic loss, announced in 2000 that it would pay employees one-million yen ($NZ13,500) for every baby they had after their second child.
Cash incentives for having babies was first tried in Sweden. Initially the birth rate rose but after a period of time it once more declined which would seem to indicate that more than a one-off cash payment was needed.
While some incentives pay cash and/or monthly subsidies, most initiatives focus on making it easier and more economical to raise children, extending flexible work hours, family leave and child care.
Tax credits could be used as an incentive for employers to set up workplace creches, allowing women to breastfeed their babies.
Childcare tax credits is one way in which governments can assist. It is suggested that in order to provide women with a genuine choice, the tax credit be given to all mothers, who can then either keep it or use it for childcare. These tax credits could be used as an incentive for employers to set up workplace creches, allowing women to continue to breastfeed their babies. Breastfed babies are in general, healthier than those who are bottlefed, reducing absenteeism among mothers.
Another incentive that is often suggested is income-splitting. France, Luxembourg, Portugal, and Switzerland grant marriage bonuses to virtually all families and provide child bonuses as well.
The French system requires taxpayers to combine all income earned by parents and their children and then to split the income among all family members. Children are weighted half as much as parents. Individual tax schedules then apply to each of the split incomes. A couple with two children would thus pay the same tax rate as a single person with one-third of their family income. Under progressive tax rates, such income-splitting nearly always results in a marriage bonus.
Income-splitting is also seen to discriminate against gay and de-facto couples.
Income-splitting for married couples, has been criticised as retrograde and discriminatory against working women by liberals, radical feminists and those who favour 'political correctness.' It is seen as a retrograde move that would be 'bribing' women to stay at home and raise their family rather than return to the workforce. It is also seen to discriminate against gay and de-facto couples.
As feminist-socialist, Simone de Beauvoir, said in her famous 1974 interview in The Saturday Review:
"No woman should be authorized to stay at home to raise her children. Society should be totally different. Women should not have that choice, precisely because if there is such a choice, too many women will make that one.
The radical feminist worldview, goals, tactics, and rhetoric was influenced by Marxist- Leninist theory.The radical feminist worldview, goals, tactics, and rhetoric was influenced by Marxist-Leninist theory. Read more here.
Author, Ann Crittenden, believes that society should accord more prestige to the unpaid labor of caregivers and that society should reward stay-at-home parents for taking care of their families.
For example, eliminating the marriage penalty and allowing working women to deduct a significant portion of their child care bills as business expenses are long overdue tax reforms. Providing incentives for businesses to create more part-time jobs and job-sharing arrangements is also a sensible idea that would expand the options available to mothers.
Simone de Beauvoir was prophetic. Many women are making the choice to stay at home.
According to an American Census Bureau report, 5.4 million mothers with children under age 15 stayed home in 2003, an increase of almost one million stay-at-home mothers since 1995. Eighty-eight percent of married mothers who are out of the work force said the primary reason was "to care for home and family."
Sixty-five percent of the stay-at-home mothers had children under age six. This trend occurred not just among high-income families, but also among low- and middle-income families.
In a 2003, CBS News/New York Times poll, 61 percent of adults said children are better off if their mother is home rather than working outside the home. These trends show why pro-family policies make it easier for more families to have one parent at home.
Source: Family Research Council