Does Family Policy Have an Impact on Birth Rate?
The article provides a survey of the impact of the main measures of family policy on the birth rate. The article summarises the experiences of other developed countries and scientific publications on this topic and also gives an overview of the research conducted in Estonia in this field.
The impact of family policy on birth rate is analysed from the perspective of three family policy measures: allowances, work-leave and childcare. The impact of leaves is analysed from three aspects: length of leaves, leave payments and leave policies for fathers. Most research articles in the two last decades attest that family allowances have an impact on birth rate because they reduce the economic burden relating to children. Usually the impact is greater for disadvantaged families or in the case of children in higher order of birth, but there are exceptions. The positive impact of working also functions through ensuring better economic subsistence, but if there are no adequate compensations when a parent is unable to work because of having a child, the alternative expenses of having a child increase for parents, and this may reduce the birth rate. In many countries, women with higher education have less children because, due to acquiring education, they start having children later and due to alternative expenses, children are more “expensive” for them. At the same time, strong work and leave policy helps reduce this educational difference. Most of the scientific publications analysing the measures relating to leaves reach the conclusion that such measures a) have an impact, b) are necessary.
Numerous studies have been conducted on the impact of the length of leave in countries that are generally dealing with robust changes in policies. Although most studies find a positive correlation, this correlation is often inconsistent, i.e. sometimes evident and then again not, or evident only in the case of birth of second or third children. The studies conducted during the last decade also show a positive correlation between kindergarten places and birth rate. Existence of kindergarten places and children’s participation in kindergartens and birth rate were mostly studied.
Thus, most analyses show that policies have an impact on birth rate. Lack of impact of policy may be connected with low forcefulness of a policy, or with the impact of other factors on birth rate at the same time. When analysing the connection between policies and birth rate, the general social-political context of the country and the system of allowances as well as the socio-economic subsistence of parents should be taken into account. The studies once again show that birth rate is a complex phenomenon where policies have the power to influence only a certain part of human life. This also explains the fact that policies have never had a large impact on total fertility rate, although in absolute numbers of births the result may be considerable. The policies seem to work better in countries that have an environment supporting families with children.