A decalogue for the promotion of the birth rate

Faced with Spain's bleak demographic outlook, the authorities can no longer remain impassive: they must promote the birth rate.

Roberto Esteban Duque-February 13, 2016-Reading time: 3 minutes
Newborn babies in cribs

Professor Contreras Peláez, Professor of Philosophy of Law at the University of Seville, maintains that only in the years 1918 and 1939, due to issues of "Spanish flu" and the casualties of our civil war, Spain lost population. Something that happened again in 2012 and 2013, a period in which it decreased by 2.6 million inhabitants, no longer due to conjunctural issues as then, but as something structural and permanent. And Alejandro Macarrón, adds that a fertility of 1.26 children per woman in 2013 puts us at 40 % below the "replacement rate", (2.1). On the other hand, Spanish women do not have their first child until they are 31.8 years old and the average age of Spaniards is now quite high: 41.8 years.

The decline in population levels will continue over the next decade. This is even clear from the UN report "World Population Prospects 2015", which warns of the negative effects of such a demographic transformation on economic growth. There is a strong feedback loop between the economic crisis and the demographic crisis: the worse the economy, the less stimulus for childbearing; and the more eclipsed childbearing is, the worse the economy will be.

But it is also necessary to note the correlation between family stability and birth rate. And conversely, between family crisis and demographic winter. Marriage is the ideal ecosystem for the procreation and education of children. In the United States, the Chinese-American researchers J. Zhang and X. Song showed that married couples have a fertility rate four times higher than unmarried couples. The commitment and stability characteristic of marriage influence their reproductive behavior, almost absent in the amorous volatility of a common-law couple, which makes investment in "durable goods" such as children much more implausible. A society with few stable marriages will be a society with few children.

It is common to hear that the low birth rate and the increase in extra-marital births, the devaluation of marriage and the high divorce rates are merely social trends that the State can only confirm. However, the law is not neutral. The legislator cannot remain impassive, nor contribute to the progressive degradation of the family, but must encourage marriage and avoid, as far as possible, breakups, especially because in Spain it seems as if having children is considered a private whim. The economic measures to stimulate the birth rate will pass, in the first place, by rewarding -through fiscal, salary or pension advantages- fertility, for its contribution to the future of Spain.

It is not enough to believe that an intensification of immigration flows is the solution to the drama of the inverted demographic pyramid.

On the other hand, we must urgently call for individual responsibility: we cannot expect the State to solve our basic needs.

I suggest a decalogue to strengthen marriage and the family, in order to lay the foundations for a correct promotion of the birth rate in Spain:

1. A new regulation of abortion, similar to the Polish law, whose implementation in 1993 brought about a decrease in abortions from more than 100,000 in the early 1980s to less than 1,000 in the mid-1990s. The Constitutional Court has ratified in a recent ruling that the conceived child is a member of the family. The world is strange to God if we are not receptive to the gift and transmission of life.

2. Repeal of the "express-divorce" law in order to create a consensus of both spouses and provide sufficient time for reflection on the assessment of the negative impact of divorce on children.

3. Creation of a public network of Family Orientation Centers, whose fundamental motivation will be to promote the family instead of dissolving it.

4. Offering a subject of preparation for family life in secondary education, capable of raising awareness of the social importance of the family and the birth rate, as well as counteracting the harmful effects of a widespread gender ideology.

5. Creation of a Ministry of the Family that would make visible in an institutional way the state's commitment to the empowerment of the family. Ministries of this type exist in many European countries.

6. Implementation of corrective coefficients in the calculation of the contributory pension according to the principle "the more children, the more pension", a principle of justice insofar as parents provide society with future contributors.

7. Payment by the State, for a period of time to be determined, of the Social Security contribution for each child for women who stop working after becoming mothers.

8. Tax deduction of the cost of family caregivers, day care and other expenses associated with children, as well as the assumption by companies of flexible schedules according to the needs of workers with children.

9. Increase of personal income tax deductions for minor children and reduction of the Transfer Tax for families with minor children and of the Real Estate Tax for families with children.

10. Elaboration of a comprehensive plan to support the reconciliation of work and family life, as well as a comprehensive maternity assistance plan that includes financial and welfare assistance for pregnant women in distress.

The authorRoberto Esteban Duque

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