Today's discussion:

Want to boost birth rates? Stop taxing mothers

Canada is in a fertility crisis, with the country registering its lowest-ever rate of only 1.33 births per woman. Unfortunately, birth rates are hard for public policy to change. But it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try. A bold idea would be to grant mothers an income tax exemption.

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Peter Menzies

An intriguing idea that if nothing else should at least be a solid conversation-starter and counteract the increasing lack of options available to young women.

26th April 2024 at 9:28 am
Sylvia Kanitsch

In an age of parental leaves and a time when women work full-time, earn almost as much as men, and value their careers, it is astounding to me that a public policy is proposed that would be targeted only to mothers, and not to fathers. This is sexist and harmful to women and families. If you want to see an increase in birth rates, try offering all parents the same benefits so that each wage earner can participate fully in family life as equal partners. This will help the birth rate more than simply targeting mothers.

26th April 2024 at 8:54 am
UEL

Richer demographics have less babies – we know this trend.
Canada is already pursuing the easier solution – make Canadians poor again and reverse the trend.

26th April 2024 at 9:48 am
Peter Byrne

As Democracies vaporize around the world, so too do the Family Values that my ‘boomer generation’ was raised with. Socialist influences have gradually reduced real income for the middle-class, making it a necessity for women to work outside instead of working at home as mothers.
Combine this with the erosive effects on Traditional Family Values; ie: the psycho-babble leftist narrative that genders are fluid (not the baby making kind), the ‘planned parenthood’ / birth control doctrine (which goes back easily 50 years or more) as well as the disruption of religion in the West and you have a declining interest in procreation.
People worry Islam might take over the world by force. Nonsense! They won’t need to. In a few years they will represent the largest segment of the Western World population at the rate we’re going.
Our grandchildren will live in a very different world than their parents were born into.
(These are simple observations – not prejudices.)

26th April 2024 at 12:28 pm
Valerie

Women don’t have as many children as they want partially because they can’t have them when they want. Many of the things people need to feel stable enough happen before the baby (particularly getting family-sized housing) and if young people can’t get their adult lives started relatively young, the marginal incentive for a woman to have a second baby at 38 is only going to do so much.

And, half the problem is that it already takes too much planning to start a family. Not sure adding tax planning to the mix helps. This seems better designed to get women back to work (does a woman who had 4 children really want that?) than to have more children.

26th April 2024 at 11:52 am
Gord Edwards

I agree this (or any tax policy) wouldn’t be a standalone solution. Really we’d need to look at the factors that make if difficult or unappealing to have children. And to start relatively early.
– cost of housing to fit a couple and, in the future, a growing family
– availability of family friendly housing
– over credentialization which increases time in school/delays security in a job
– girls mental health (anxiety and depression). I think social media is the place to focus.
– boys falling behind in school and careers. Women date laterally and up in the social hierarchy.

26th April 2024 at 5:58 pm
Gord Edwards

It is an interesting idea. I’d have liked to have seen a cost estimate. Even a back-of-an-envelope estimate that an X% increase in fertility rate should cost between $Y and $Z based on median income. Given the state of federal and provincial budgets, no policy can be seriously considered without a sense of its affordability. It would be about 20 years before those new little tax payers enter the workforce. It is also worth noting that the baseline cost would be incurred without any increase in fertility levels. Women have babies now and would become eligible.

The related idea I find more palatable is family income tax. It would incentivize family formation which should result (perhaps in conjunction with other incentives) in more children. It has a child-focused aspect this proposal lacks, as two parent families are a better environment to raise children. A couple can choose not to have children or have fewer – not ideal as a pro-natalist policy but it leaves decisions up to individuals. Also governments could increase taxation rates to partially or fully offset income losses. Someone will always complain, but overall I see that as a less divisive policy that preferencing even 50% of the population.

26th April 2024 at 10:37 am
Kim Morton

Stay at home mothers are not taxed now. They become a dependent, and tax deduction for the wage earner. The catch is, very few families can afford to live on one income anymore.
The other important problem is that perhaps educated women do not wish to stay at home and be baby machines.

26th April 2024 at 10:26 am
K Foon Der

This is a radical proposal but one that has merit. Every person that grows up and becomes a tax paying worker will return multiple times the tax exemption received by the mother given the tax exemption. There are other ways to give the mom a financial incentive to have more children. Quebec has chosen to give one time grants which is obviously not enough to stimulate the birth rate. Perhaps giving the mom equivalent to married for each child until age 13, even if legally married. Also child care expenses transferable to the spouse if unable to take advantage to use all exemptions. A lifetime exemption would be a bit much. There is more than one road to Rome but I am all for getting rid of the short sighted policy of taxing every dollar earned if there is a higher goal.

28th April 2024 at 9:35 pm
Raj Bharati

I love the connection between conservatism and happiness. Conservatism is conserving that which is good. That should be a guiding principle on conservative policy and political philosophy.

28th April 2024 at 9:58 am
Paul Attics

Shrinking birth rates are a natural outcome for affluent societies (or the odd one that mandates a lower birth rate like China). It seems that Canada is even below this natural setpoint with families reporting that they would have more children “if conditions allowed’. Regardless, our prosperity engine continually requires enough people in the core tax-paying demographic (30-60 years) to support the standard-of-living for all. If we haven’t produced enough population three decades earlier to fill up these highest tax-paying cohorts, then immigration is required to close the gap.

Encouraging families to have more children is a reasonable objective, at least to the point of them having as many children as they would want. Possible unintended negative second order effects must be anticipated. The proposed tax measure may be effective and should be part of the conversation, although with a focus on parents versus mothers specifically. Considering that this is a thirty-year-plus project, I would be surprised if it gets much government attention. Then again, the immediate tax benefit to families may be an immediate political winner!

26th April 2024 at 10:24 am