Paying women to have more children is not a good idea

Donald Trump has promised: if he is elected to the White House next November, every American family that welcomes a new baby will be granted substantial financial assistance. In South Korea, the government is talking about a birth bonus of an amount equivalent to 64,500 euros. In France too, there is talk of “demographic rearmament”.

“All rich countries except Israel have fertility rates below the non-immigration replacement rate of 2.1 children per woman. Over the past ten years, the decline in the fertility rate has been faster than demographers expected. remember The Economistwhich devotes the front page of its May 25 edition to this subject.

Hence the return, almost everywhere in the world, of pronatalist policies. But “paying women to have children will not work”, warns the British magazine on the front page.

Governments are wrong to think it is in their power to increase fertility rates, says The Economist. On the one hand, because these policies “are based on an erroneous diagnosis of the causes of demographic decline”. On the other hand, because they cost way too much.

A personal decision

Contrary to popular belief, the decline in fertility rates in rich countries is not due to the fact that women have started to work.

“Essentially, it is due to the collapse in the number of births to women under 19 from modest backgrounds.”

They have children later in life (including those who don’t go to college) and as a result, they have fewer children.

Encouraging these young women, through financial incentives, to have children earlier would ruin decades of efforts “aimed at curbing unwanted teenage pregnancies and encouraging women to study and work”. These policies are socially retrograde.

They are also ineffective, underlines the weekly. “Sweden has an extraordinarily generous child care program, but its total fertility rate (which relates the number of annual births in a given generation to the size of that generation) is only 1.7. ”

Having children is a personal decision and should remain so, says The Economist. How, then, should governments respond to the falling birth rate?

Promoting qualified immigration will not, in the long term, be the solution “since fertility is declining globally”. All that remains is to try to adapt, with more conviction than today, to the new situation. “Welfare states will need to be rethought. We will have to work later in life. The development and adoption of new technologies must be encouraged, both to boost productivity and to care for the elderly.”

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