Over the last few years in the UK, we’ve seen a number of policies that have led us at the very least to raise an eyebrow. Ideas from 'experts' to help us make the world a better place, the latest of which - from demographer Paul Morland - a suggestion that couples who choose not to have children should pay more taxes than those who do.
The reason why seems twofold. Firstly, we are living longer. The last census suggests that all the gains were in the older generations – 70, 80, and 90-year-olds. On the opposite end, there were fewer births (though still more than the number of deaths). Our population growth is slowing, and our population is aging.
So, what do we do? Extend the working-age by moving pensions back again? Invest in the infrastructure that would ensure that more people would not just want to have children, but can afford to have them? Help with rising housing costs, and invest in the NHS?.
No. Instead, the thinking goes out of the window, steps out of the office, and wanders down the road to a playground somewhere to sit on a set of swings. Tax the childless, build housing on greenbelt land, and get a telegram from the Queen for the birth of your third child...
Now, I appreciate, as a married woman who chose to remain childfree, that of course, I would say that. You betcha. But not just for selfish reasons. Damn right I don’t want to give the Government any more money to spaff on their besties. And also, I appreciate that yes, this could be another distraction tactic, as in the same week the Government announced that nursery staff will now have to look after five children rather than four. But as a childfree married person who works full time, my taxes and National Insurance payments go into exactly the same pot as everyone else’s – with or without children.
So, my money already goes into schools, childcare, the NHS, and Tax Credits. Areas that I do not benefit from directly as a childfree person. So, unless I missed something, I already am paying for being childfree in a roundabout way, and I have no problem with it. I recognize that in the future, I will need people to look after me and my needs, whatever they may be...
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Some of my biggest questions come from a practical perspective. Would this tax be for every single person in the UK? Or couples only? Married, Civil Partnership - does living together count? I presume single parents would be exempt – what about absentee fathers (including Mr Johnson himself) would they be counted?
Acknowledging your kids as a tax break would certainly be a new one.
My choice is to be childfree, but what if someone is childfree for medical or other reasons beyond their control? Paying extra tax on a source of pain, what an excellent idea! Let’s make sure we rub it in, on a monthly basis!
What perhaps I find the most baffling is that we receive the constant message from environmentalists that as a world we are overpopulated. There are already too many people and too few resources. We overreach the earth’s resources regularly to maintain the people we already have.
Our own Government even insists that we're full – we’re making it harder for people to move here, Brexit has stopped the migrant workforce who would have previously filled the gaps we have both now and in the future. Surely it would be better to use the people in the world who already exist than to add more to an overpopulated world?
Tie this into the wording of these ideas, and it’s enough to make anyone uncomfortable. ‘Grow our own’ and ‘provide most of the population growth from births within our racially and ethnically diverse country rather than immigration’.
Why? Why does it need to be from within? What is wrong with others? Is this actually less about more people, and more about the right kind of people?
And if so, that begs the question, who are they?
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Charlie Hooson-Sykes is a forty-something who loves writing about food and drink, health and fitness, feminism and sex, and even the odd technical foray as she's actually a big geek at heart.
Her work has been published in The Guardian, The Times, and Crafty magazine.
You can also find her on-screen, having featured on television programs such as Right on the Money (BBC One), Ruth Watson’s Hotel Rescue (Channel 4), Alex Polizi – The Fixer (BBC Two), and BBC Breakfast.
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