The Guardian view on falling birthrates: to parent or not to parent? | Editorial

Pronatalist policies seem beside the point when existing families’ needs are ignored

There are not many things that most people agree on. But one is that it is a good thing if adults who want children are able to have them. This is the simple idea at the heart of a new report from the Social Market Foundation thinktank, which examines the case for pronatalist policymaking in the UK in the context of a falling birthrate, and recommends more research. The Scottish government, the report says, already has a population taskforce.

So far so uncontroversial. The birthrate in England and Wales stood at 1.58 in 2020, well below the 2.1 required to replace the population (in Scotland, the birthrate was 1.29). More than a quarter of the world’s countries have explicitly pronatal policies, usually entailing financial incentives designed to encourage people to have babies. While often associated with anti-immigrant rightwingers, such policies include birth grants in Finland and variable tax rates in France, as well as housing subsidies and other rewards in Hungary and Poland. Pronatalism need not be the exclusive concern of nativist politicians seeking to reverse population declines.

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