Women should be offered tax breaks to have more children, a cabinet minister has said. In what has been dubbed by the tabloids as “bonk for Britain”, the policy would encourage women to have more children in order to increase the UK’s labour force while also making the country less reliant on immigration. A similar policy already exists in Hungary but, while the UK certainly does need far more young people, the policy has a number of issues.
First of all, it places the blame for the UK’s low birth rates on women. Hopefully it won’t be a surprise to readers that when it comes to pregnancy, it takes two to tango. It ignores the plethora of other factors which determine whether a couple – not just women – choose to have a baby or not.
It would also add further complexity to the tax system. The UK’s tax code is already incredibly long and difficult to understand and so adding extra exemptions and breaks is the last thing we need. The government should be aiming to simplify the tax system, not making things worse.
Such a policy also views immigration as a bad thing. Immigration brings huge social and economic benefits to the UK. Immigration boosts productivity and economic growth, making the country richer as a result – or, as Liz Truss says, it grows the pie.
Currently, we are a country with an ageing population and we need more people of working age to pay the taxes which help to fund pensions and pay for the health and social care for older people. We also need people to fill gaps in the labour market and help boost productivity.
If we want to see a British Baby Boom then there are things the government can do.
It needs to tackle the housing crisis so that young people can afford a home of their own. Currently, many young people can’t afford their own home or to move to a larger house and so they delay important life decisions such as having a child or having more children. The government needs to liberalise the planning system so that more homes can be built, especially in our major cities.
We also need to look at the benefits system. The first reform should be to axe the two-child limit which restricts some benefit payments to the first two children born in low income families. In recent years this has been one of the biggest drivers of child poverty. The government should also make child benefits more generous in order to reduce the financial burden on parents. We should also increase the threshold at which parents have to start paying back child benefit so that they can earn more money without having to worry about losing the support.
Finally, we need to look at making childcare more affordable. We should be making it easier for people to enter the profession and reduce costs for providers. It could also involve the government providing more financial support for childcare.
Nativism is wrong, but natalism is not. We should reject calls by those who want to stir up fears about immigration but we shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bath water. If we want to see a British Baby Boom then we should forget tinkering with the tax system and instead fix the housing crisis and reform the benefit system while also welcoming people from all over the world.