Tax childless adults to tackle plummeting birth rates, leading demographer says

4 July 2022, 11:11 | Updated: 4 July 2022, 12:57

Demographer Paul Morland says childless people should be taxed
Demographer Paul Morland says childless people should be taxed. Picture: Alamy

By Amy Addison-Dunne

A tax should be imposed on childless people to tackle plummeting birth rates, a leading demographer has said.

Demography expert Paul Morland said the population is growing, but the population is ageing, and growth is slowing down as no children are being born.

He suggested in an opinion piece in The Times that in order to incentivise parenthood, a tax should be created to be put on those without children.

The Oxford University demographer said: "This may seem unfair on those who can’t or won’t have children, but it recognises that we all rely on there being a next generation and that everyone should contribute to the cost of creating that generation."

Mr Morland said the country should spend money collected from the childless tax to fix the UK's "broken, expensive early-years care system".

According to government statistics released in February 2022, the second largest spend after health and social care (£193 million) was education, of which over £72.9 million was spent in the budget. Both, funded by taxes, involve a substantial amount of money spent on child-related expenses.

It was also revealed that local authorities collectively spent £510 million on Surestart centres and other child-related services in 2020-2021, funded partially by council tax of which all eligible adults must pay.

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He also suggested women should be educated that getting pregnant becomes more difficult later in life, and they should have children at a younger age, on the birth of the third child, they would receive a telegram from the Queen.

A poll conducted by YouGov in 2020 found that childless Brits were put off having children due to the high costs of raising them.

According to the UK's largest parental charity National Childbirth Trust (NCT), parents spend on average a staggering £7,000 per year on a part-time nursery place, and more when living in London.

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NCT estimates that families will typically fork out £138 per week for part-time nursery places, and £262 for full-time.

Mr Morland, however, stressed that in order to encourage couples to have children, incentives must be put in place. He pointed out that countries with good provisions tend to produce more children.

'Everybody benefits from the next generation'

He gave the example of countries like Denmark, where women are able pursue careers more easily due to generous provision and a more hands on approach to fatherhood, in comparison to Korea or Japan, where, he says, career opportunities are fewer, and men are expected to do less.

Latest census data revealed that population growth slowed to 6.3 percent between 2011-2021, in comparison to a population growth of 7.8 percent between 2001-2011, meaning fewer children were being born.

The population of people in the 70-74 age bracket has reached three million, which is up more than a third in a decade, and the number of toddlers dropped by 7.6 percent to 3.2 million.

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This comes as the government launches a consultation to bring down the cost of childcare in a bid to tackle the cost of living crisis.

However, the plans have been roundly criticised as measures suggested include reducing the staff to child ratio from 1:4 to 1:5.

Purnima Tanuku, the chief executive of the National Day Nurseries Association told The Guardian: "From when this was first mooted, the sector has been saying that altering ratios for two-year-olds from 1:4 to 1:5 won’t make any meaningful difference to the cost of childcare for providers or parents.

"That can only come from the government paying the full rate for funded childcare places for children under five."