During Election 2020, we heard a lot about serious concerns regarding the State’s inability to pay pensions in the future, yet very few of those discussions noted how anti-family this country has become. 

On RTE’s Prime Time a couple paying €1700 rent a month and doing a 12-hour day including a long commute said they would never be in a position to have children. How very sad. If my generation feel they can’t have children, we literally have no future as a nation. Too many people feel having a child isn’t possible with long commutes, stressful jobs, and expensive housing.

The tax policies don’t make it any easier. Single-income families can often pay more tax as a proportion of their income than a double-income family where both partners are working because Charlie McCreevy in 2000 brought in tax individualisation which means less income tax is paid where both spouses work outside the home. This tax discrimination should be addressed immediately.

Mothers or fathers are penalised for staying at home and raising the family, even though many families would rather that a parent be with their children when they are very young and benefit most from that shared time.

Then there is the housing crisis.

How can we encourage prospective mothers to not have abortions if the state is making it practically impossible to afford to have children? Financial pressures were mentioned in the referendum time and again, but there seems to be very little by way of energy devoted to addressing this problem for prospective mums.

Personally,  I would like to see Ireland’s parties consider the Hungarian Family Policy. Hungary has managed to reduce abortion rates and reverse its shrinking population rates by implementing pro-family policies.

They offer interest-free loans for couples committed to having children. Loan repayments are suspended for 3 years following birth of a first child, again for another 3 years after a second child, and the state takes over loan if a third child is born to the family.

Grants are given for the purchasing of 7-seater vehicles and families are partially exempt from mortgage repayments after birth of their first child.

Payments are made to grandparents who provide childcare, in stark contrast to the push for commercial childcare here, a model that most families don’t want to use.

Not all of these incentives might be affordable for Ireland right now but we should be working towards this. They’re not bad ideas, and they are proving popular with Hungarians. We should also be offering women every incentive to keep their babies, since all sides in the abortion referendum agreed that it should be a last resort, not the only option.

Policies such as:

  • Further increasing child benefit for 3rd and subsequent children
  • Increase the threshold for income tax for larger families
  • Increase rent allowance to support families
  • Mortgage tax relief for families who have two or more children
  • Extra childcare supports/maternity leave for working single mothers
  • Increase financial supports and crisis pregnancy supports to single mothers

We need to help people have babies if we want to support our ageing population – and keep the pension age down. Hungary has got this balance right, why can’t Ireland follow?

 


 

Catherine Sullivan is a mother with young children