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Are financial incentives for parents fair?

By Victoria Fryer 

I’ll begin by coming out and saying that I don’t know the answer to that question, but I actually lean toward yes. After all, I’ve written before about how I believe the childfree and childless should be in favor of better support for people who want to be parents (just as they should support our right to forego children) so that everyone can pursue what it is that makes them happy. But I’m curious about this community’s thoughts on it.

After doing some research, it looks like countries outside the U.S. provide the most incentives for having children. It makes sense, I think. These are the countries that are experiencing the more significant falling birthrates, and they’re worried about how it will affect their countries’ economies.

French women, for example, have access to “cheap health care, low-cost preschools – for infants as young as 6 months – subsidized at-home care and generous maternity leaves,” according to this SFGate article. And Germans are eligible to receive from the government compensation for lost wages—for up to about a year—if they stop work after a child is born. Japan, Denmark, and the Netherlands are among other countries that provide incentives for parents.

In the U.S., these incentives are almost nonexistent, save for the Child Tax Credit, worth as much as $1000 per qualifying child. Mostly, this just means a larger tax return in the spring, providing some families a little extra cash to pay off debts or take a vacation.

Maybe some of the European nations go too far, and perhaps the U.S. does too little. Though I don’t think any couple makes the decision solely based on financial benefits—or lack thereof—finances certainly played a role in our own decision not to have children.

My husband and I work a long day, and we need both our jobs to make ends meet. Having certain financial incentives (such as longer, compensated maternity leaves) and better and cheaper access to childcare certainly would have given us some food for thought as we weighed our options.

I am firmly opposed to the idea that childfree couples are ruining the economy, and I’ve written about that before. And it’s true that many areas of the world are becoming overpopulated. But the fact is that our economies do depend on continuing generations of children being born to become productive members of society. And I don’t believe that women should have to make so many sacrifices in order to become mothers if that’s what they want to do.

But I’m curious to hear what you think about financial incentives for parents. Do you think it’s fair?

Victoria Fryer is a writer and content strategist. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two pit bulls. You can find her on Twitter @extoria.

Large families

Comments

  1. Dann Alexander says

    Well researched and well-written. Parents may see these benefits as fair, or that they are not strong enough. No matter where a person is from, my problem is there are no tax incentives in Canada (and elsewhere) for people who do not have children. I have often felt that we are punished for the choice we made, or in the instance of those who might want kids but cannot have them, punished because they cannot have kids.

    • I see where you are coming from Dann. However, as childless people, we have to accept that we will never be the priority in the eyes of policy makers. Because as Victoria puts it in her article, children are the future of society. The other thing against us, is the assumption that because we don’t have children, we must have lots of disposable income. Of course that is not true of all childless people. For things to change we must make as much noise as other minority groups who campaign relentlessly for their cause. Politicians will only act if there is enough of us demanding change.

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