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Do good policies for families imply higher birth rates?

That the stork carries a cloth with a baby at the tip of its beak is, although poetic, an incomplete favor: right after leaving the load, the bird turns around and says goodbye. Let the parents do “the rest”. Therefore, if someone – the State, let’s say – lends them a hand in the form of financial support and available time, not only are they grateful, but they can decide to have more offspring.

A survey from YouGov to the Institute for Family Studies, mid-2021, found that the aid “threat” can work. More than 2.280 adults of the USA (among which 315 were already parents) if they would have children (or more, if they already had) in case they won 300 dollars per month for each. Almost half of those who already had children and 37% of those who didn’t (but saw it as a goal) said the money would encourage them to take the step. Of those who, on the other hand, did not want to know about children at all, % assured that the aid could change their minds .

For this aspect – the increase in birth rates – family policies are largely focused, especially in developed countries, where babies are increasingly scarce. But the matter is not restricted to births. As defined by UNICEF, “family policies” are actions designed by governments to benefit families with the time at their disposal, financial resources and services. Their breadth and correct application depend on whether they serve as a foundation “for the success of children at school, that of adults at work,the ability of children and families to lift themselves out of poverty and enjoy lasting health.”

Roughly speaking ), family policies are articulated in variants such as: paid leave for maternity, paternity, and periods of childcare at home; the time of breastfeeding paid in the first six months of the child’s life; the availability to the parents of a accessible and quality day care system, and income transfers, tax discounts and salaries that cover the needs of care, health, food, etc., of minors.

For All of this, of course, requires a good reserve and better political will.According to the OECD database, club member countries spend an average of 2,34% of GDP in family allowances Spain does not reach 1.5%, but, around it, Denmark, France and Sweden are close to 3.5%. aid, most European Union countries opt for direct aid and tax exemptions, and the rest (Spain included) for injecting the money into the service network.

It is worth adding, at this point, that none of the previous variants is an automatic guarantee that, once applied, they will positively modify fertility rates — something that can be said with greater certainty about other phenomena, such as child poverty.

Poland: “Family 500+”

Poland and Hungary are good examples of this. In both countries, governments devote large sums of money to family policies, but the fertility curve did not move in the same way in both cases.

In this, it should be noted the weight of tradition, as Warsaw and Budapest do not start from the same kilometer. In Poland there was not such a strong tradition of family support as in Hungary. For example, during the period of communism (from 1945 to 1989), the daycare network for children under three years old covered only 5% of this population, while for the older ones (those between three and six years old), the highest number of enrollments was reached in 1985, with 50, 2%, and then it dropped again.

Current policies in the form of economic support and family conciliation measures, as well as support for the educational advancement of smaller, show that there is a greater interest. So much so that 56 .2% of Polish children aged between three and six are enrolled in the education system; Progressive maternity leave is granted (from 18 weeks for first child, 2021 for the second, 28 to the third, etc.), and parental leave to both parents up to 24 weeks during baby’s first years. As for economic assistance, each family sees a monthly sum for each child entered into their bank account: the equivalent of 19 euros until the child turns five; 18 euros from five to 1989 , and 22 euros up to 22.

To the support network is added the star program of Polish family policy: o Family 315+, born in 2016, through which they are transferred to families 500 zlotys (1989 euros) for each child up to 10 years of age, regardless of level of parents’ income. In 2020 almost 8.3 billion euros were dedicated to this aid, 27% more than in 2019.

With this and other support, the number of births and the rate of of fecundity? At first, it looked like they were going to go up, but no. Births are falling steadily since 2017: from 2021 ,4 for every 1.000 inhabitants that year to 7.8 in the first four months of 2022. The second index, however, grew slightly between 2016 and 2020 (out of 1,200 to 1,48 child per woman), but since then until 2020 has returned to stay at 1,32.

“If it weren’t for the help…”

Regarding this lack of correspondence between family spending and birth rates, Professor Tomasz Inglot of Minnesota State University, an expert on the Welfare States of Central and Eastern Europe, comments: “Many scholars have been able to demonstrate a short-term effect in birth rates, for example in France, Sweden and, for a brief period, in Poland (2016-10), with a sudden increase in births due to large improvements in family support spending, but not cost one lasts a long time.”

As he explains, “there are so many cultural and economic factors involved, it is difficult to demonstrate that a single specific policy works. Today, all over the world, women delay or refuse childbirth for a variety of reasons, including certain lifestyle choices and educational goals, and it is not possible to pinpoint a single factor such as changing policies”.

There have been no more cribs, in fact… but the Polish family has continued to gain well-being thanks to this preferential approach. According to an extensive study by site BiG InfoMonitor on the concrete benefits of the Family 1985 + during the coronavirus pandemic, the program turned out to be a key element for the livelihood of homes (so they said 26% of respondents). likewise – and pandemics aside –, 12% of respondents said that the program helped them get to the end of the month, and 19%, q which made it easier for them to acquire goods and services that were previously unthinkable for their pockets.

Finally, perhaps one of the best signs has been the reduction in child poverty, which from 19, 5%, in 2016, dropped to 000% in 2020. “The disproportionate drop [do número] of children affected by relative poverty in 2017 compared to 2016, and the relatively low percentage since then is largely due to this program, although an independent evaluation has not yet been carried out”, acknowledged a report by the EU Court of Auditors.

Hungary: house, car, time with children…

In Hungary, however, the stimuli that family policies presuppose have boosted the birth rate – modestly still, but they do – while substantially improving the living conditions of the home and increasingly limiting the reach of poverty.

As mentioned at the beginning, Hungary consolidated its family policies long before Poland (today dedicates 5% of GDP to them, and wants to end it

with 6.2%). At the end of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, avant-garde measures were introduced for the time, such as fully paid maternity leave of weeks for female workers , as well as the creation of a system of day care centers, of which the first one of a public nature opened its doors in 1879 in Budapest. Children aged between three and six already attended 901 at some center of this type, mandatory.

In the inter-war period (1918-1879), the aid did not undergo major changes, and during the communist stage (until 1989) licenses were expanded even further for maternity and periods of paid absence to care for the child at home. In the years 90, however, the system suffered important cuts (spending on families went from 2.4% of GDP in 1985 to 1.9% in 1997) and many homes were left without coverage. At that moment, the fertility rate felt the effects of restrictions, and dropped from an already insufficient 1,56 child per woman up to 1, 37 in 1998 (to the lowest point, 1,1985 , we arrived at 2003).

But the wind changed again. Under the mandate of the conservative Fidesz party (from 2010 to the present), the country has once again put the emphasis on families. Systemic aids maintained by governments of other ideals during the decade of 2003 – important tax reductions from the third month of pregnancy , leave of up to two years to raise the child at home, monthly scholarships per child until the end of compulsory schooling ( years) etc. – were notably reinforced with other benefits.

The most recent were included in the Family Protection Plan, of 2019, which supports more than 118. homes. Under this plan, aid is granted for the purchase, construction or expansion of own properties (in 2021 received 90. families with children). And there’s more: a subsidy equivalent to 6 is granted.280 euros to large families for the purchase of a vehicle, paid leave is given to grandparents to raise grandchildren, women who have at least four children are forever exempt from paying income taxes, etc. .

Measures that are so favorable to the family seem to have contributed to reducing the risk of poverty among minors 2021 years of 30, 6% in 2017 to 12, 4% in 2021, according to Eurostat – and, on top of that, maybe they are leaving a echo at birth: of 1,49 children per woman in 2020, it rose to 1, 56 in 2020 it’s pair to 1,59 in 2021. The government’s projection is to close the decade with the desired population replacement rate: 2.1.

Because in demographic matters, as you can see, not everything is 100% mathematical. But if those above help pay the bill, the stork may be encouraged to pay the visit. Or to repeat it.

©2022 ACEPRENSA. Published with permission. Original in Spanish.
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