WARSAW (ChurchMilitant.com) - Poland is going to start paying couples to have more children.
Only weeks after the election of the Law and Justice Party, the conservative, pro-Catholic prime minister, Beata Szydlo, made good on her campaign promise and approved a measure Tuesday that will start paying families monthly bonuses for every child beyond the first. Poor families will receive bonuses for all children. The monthly stipend will consist of 500 zlotys (about $124).
The measure will next go to the public forum for comment and debate, and must be passed by parliament before taking effect in spring 2016. Funding will come from proposed bank and supermarket taxes, among other things.
With an average of only 1.3 children per family — beneath the replacement fertility rate of 2.1 children per woman — Poland has one of the lowest birth rates in the world, raising concerns over the country's ability to keep its economy and pension system going.
The declining birth rate means an aging population; whereas in 1950 the median age was 25.8, today it's closer to 40. If the trend continues, it will be 51 by 2050. The population is also decreasing, from 38.6 million in 1995 to 38 million in 2010, to a predicted 32 million in 2050. Without sufficient youth to replace the elderly and contribute to the work force, pay taxes and support the pension system, economic collapse could result — an event the Polish government is trying to forestall by encouraging families to procreate.
Although Poland is having trouble increasing its birthrate on its own continent, Polish women living abroad don't seem to have the same troubles. For instance, Polish women living in the United Kingdom have children at twice the rate they do at home, with an average of 2.13 children per woman. One demographer, Professor Irena E. Kotowska from the Institute of Statistics and Demography, claims there are specific reasons for the increased fertility there.
"The instability of employment [in Poland], the difficulty in placing your child in a nursery or kindergarten and with little parental support from the state is discouraging couples having children," says Prof. Kotowska.
At least 80 countries around the world are facing the same demographic decline and resultant socioeconomic concerns, with some calling it a "population disaster." A number of countries have within the past two decades started implementing measures to avert this decline by promoting more children. Italy, Greece, Germany, France and other nations have offered tax breaks and financial incentives to couples to procreate; Russia has a national "Stay home and have babies" day; and Singapore has a special government administrative body devoted specifically to fostering romance and marriage.
The falling birthrate globally is not helped by high abortion numbers and contraception use, responsible for either ending or preventing the lives of hundreds of millions of children over the past century. Poland, a traditionally Catholic country, was forced to accept abortion and contraception under the former Communist regime. In post-Communist Poland, abortion has been outlawed outside of limited circumstances, but contraception remains legal.
To learn more about the spiritual, physical and economic harms of contraception, watch our "Faith-Based Investigation: Contraception Deception."