A big part of George Osborne's emergency summer budget focused on benefits for low income families with #Children. When George Osborne delivered the first full Conservative budget in almost 20 years, he announced a lower benefit cap and a restriction in tax credits for families with more than 2 children. This was announced as being a fairer deal, but in the long term the lower fertility rate could have a very negative impact..
George Osborne's reforms have been trumpeted by the #Government and their supporters as a fairer deal. But for many sections of society, it is impossible to consider having children without some support from the tax payer. One supporter of the reforms, Julie Hartley-Brewer, quite tastelessly pointed out: "The reality is that there are only two groups of people in this country who get to choose how many children they have without worrying about the costs of raising them: the very rich, and the very poor." As though, somehow, being very poor is kind of a privilege. People with this thinking do seem to think that the poor need to think long and hard, before deciding that they would better serve the gene pool by refusing to contribute to it.
Where these people are wrong is the long term thinking surrounding the fertility rate. Over recent years the UK fertility rate has been steadily decreasing. If we start to discourage people from having children then there are going to be issues both socially and economically.
Put simply, if people don't have children who's going to take over from us when we retire? This point was put forward incredibly well by SNP MP Eilidh Whiteford. In parliament she pointed out that Scotland, especially, has a low fertility rate and measures to discourage people from having children would not be economically sound in the long run.
Many politicians and social scientists say that around 2 children per woman is an optimal amount, but the British fertility rate over the last few years has dropped well below that amount, without any measures which may reduce it. Despite the tax credit cap being set at 2 children, this measure will reduce the rate further. This is because, if the very poor really are having huge families, making up for middle income families who aren't having children, encouraging them to have less will have a knock on effect on the fertility rate.
That doesn't take into account the wider message "don't have children unless you can afford them." This message will naturally encourage people to put off having children until they can afford them to avoid becoming a burden on the taxpayer, but they may never be able to afford them.
If these people choose not to have children, the fertility rate will drop even lower. The impact of a falling fertility rate cannot be ignored. By it's very nature a falling fertility rate produces a smaller generation, who can't support the generation who came before (in this case, us). This can cause problems for a country in terms of maintaining it's economy, paying pensions and providing healthcare. All things that our generation will need as we get older.
It's important to keep in mind that if the generation that follows us is smaller than ours, then we are all going to struggle. We need a generation at least the size of ours, even if we all have to pay to help raise that generation. Sure, we might not like the idea of supporting other people's children - but in years to come we're going to need them - if only to afford a system which will support us!