27 Dec 2006 - Bruno Prior
Pregnant Germans are trying to delay the birth of their babies until 1 January, the BBC report, because parents of babies born after that date will receive 25,200 euros (£16,911, $33,300 at current exchange rates) to "ease the financial burden of parenthood".
The handout is part of German plans to increase the national birthrate, which, at 1.37 children per woman, is well below the 2.1 children per woman needed to maintain the population level (assuming that immigration is not an acceptable alternative way to maintain the population level).
Is it too cynical to imagine that this will provide a more significant incentive to the low-paid, unskilled sector of the population, than it will for the better-paid, skilled sector? Is it in the interests of any nation to encourage the expansion of an underclass, a group who are already encouraged and growing across the developed world thanks to generous social provision?
Having children costs money in the short- and medium-term. It also yields, for many people, great benefits in the short- and long-run. People should decide to have children on the basis of balancing the cost (of which the direct financial impact is significant but not the only cost) against the gain. If people decide to have children on the basis of an artificial, government-generated, short-term gain, more of those children will be born for the wrong reasons, receive an inadequate upbringing, and become a cost to society, than would have been the case if people had made the more balanced calculation.
This is not to say that poor people make bad parents, but that some people in deprived circumstances already have children for the wrong reasons (e.g. to be loved, or to get better state-provided accommodation). It may be politically incorrect to say so, but the growth of slum estates dominated by single-parent, multiple-child families where crime is rife and hope almost extinguished, is evidence that unsustainable patterns of living are being maintained by the state. Though it may seem cruel, only the reintroduction of financial reality to their lives can counter the growth of this underclass.