Monday, March 22, 2010

"There is no finer investment for any community than putting milk into babies"

The Japanese, admittedly a tad late, get natalist :

Several sectors of the Japanese economy are tipped to benefit from the Y2.2 trillion programme, through which families will receive payments of Y13,000 (£97) every month for each child if the new Government is able to push its much-vaunted programme through parliament.

Payments will rise to Y23,000 a month in the second year of the scheme as part of the Government’s effort to demonstrate that the State will permanently be on the side of families and childrearing.

The past two decades have witnessed relentless declines in the Japanese birth rate, prompting a range of demographic concerns, from a lack of elderly care provision to long-term fiscal catastrophe.
At getting on for £175 per month per child, presumably tax-free, it appears to this father of four, taxed as a single person, to be a pretty good deal. The previous deal was Y10,000 per child, increased from 5,000 for the first two and 10,000 for subsequent kids in 2007. So for four children you're talking an increase in 3 years from Y30,000 to Y92,000 - tripled, and at current exchange rates nearly £700 a month.

By contrast, the UK Child Benefit rate is £20 pw for the first, and £13.20 for subsequent - about £250 a month for four. I'm sure there are various tax credits in addition for those who can navigate them, but they're a fairly recent innovation. And of course, for non-earners, there are all those various welfare state goodies - free housing, council tax etc.

You have to wonder if such a policy will work for Japan, and whether one could work over here.

Of course a much less generous policy has worked already for some UK communities.

While most graduate girlies might not fancy a council flat and £100 a week, the assorted benefit package is quite enough to keep the Williams sisters or a Karen Matthews in their accustomed lifestyle.

And imagine thirty or forty years back, when early arrivals in Bradford or the Isle of Dogs brought the news back to Mirpur and Bangladesh that the UK taxpayer would pay you to have babies - the locals probably thought the deal too good to be true. When all the other goodies - free health care and education, money even if you didn't work - were added in, no wonder V.S. Naipaul's manpower export experts were busy.

I think it unlikely that our rulers will introduce such policies any time soon. Japan are doing it for a reason - they have minimal immigration and want more Japanese babies, not babies per se.

In the UK, we don't need to do that sort of thing. The current incentives are quite sufficient if you just want babies, as we reached the point of inflection back in 2001. Then it was that the increasing number of births to immigrant mothers started to more than compensate for the shortage of births among clever grads or ordinary Janes. Now we're on a roll - or somebody is :

The equivalent of more than 2,000 new primary schools will be needed within the next eight years to cope with a massive increase in pupil numbers, figures suggest. Places need to be found for almost 550,000 extra pupils by 2018, it was disclosed. The projected rise is believed to be down to a sharp increase in birthrates combined with an influx of immigrants in some areas...

Last year, MPs said that the extra pressure on primary places was a "direct result of mass immigration" into the UK. The Cross Party Group on Balanced Migration said the number of births to foreign mothers increased by 64 per cent in the last eight years. At the same time, birthrates among UK families increased by only six per cent. It accused the Government of being "in denial about the consequences of their losing control of our borders".
The quote which opens this post is apparently 1943 Churchill (I've never found a proper reference - anyone got one ?).

"There is no finer investment for any community than putting milk into babies"

In 1943 we knew who Churchill was talking about. For which community now will it be 'a fine investment' ?

UPDATE - Sho(t)gun weddings :

Everything, from the generously elasticated rental dress to the special anteroom for napping, is part of the “Double Happy” service — once a niche market for pregnant brides, but one that now represents nearly a third of the hugely lucrative Japanese wedding industry.

The shift reflects changing attitudes in Japan. The historic taboo of pregnancy outside marriage was largely abandoned during the 1990s but a strong tradition of being married by the time of the birth remained.

By 2004 the national average of ten months between marriage and the birth of a first child had fallen to six.

Equally important, social commentators say, is the psychological effect of Japan’s bigger demographic problem. For 28 consecutive years, the country’s population of children under the age of 15 has fallen to a new low. For the parents of young women, that relentless decline has had a profound effect — in a country where fewer and fewer women are choosing to have children, a daughter’s pregnancy and the prospect of grandchildren is hugely welcome.