Australia’s fertility rate reached an historic low in 2001 of 1.73 babies per woman, but by the end of the decade it had risen to 1.90 babies per woman (see One for the Country: Recent Trends in Fertility) – an amazing turnaround that many attribute to the Howard Government’s Baby Bonus first introduced in 2002. The Managing Director of Gold Coast-headquartered national childcare centre operator G8 certainly credits the Baby Bonus:
G8 Education managing director Chris Scott said the company’s Australian operations had been performing strongly, in part due to a baby boom created by Howard government treasurer Mr Costello, who put in place the controversial bonus scheme with the catchphrase “one for mum, one for dad and one for the country”.
“Our Australian operations have been performing above budget for the past six months,” Mr Scott said. “That has continued into January.
“The market for childcare centres in Australia is very strong.”
Academics have questioned the impact of the Baby Bonus, arguing that other factors such as the state of the economy and knowledge about the effects of age on the chances of having children are more important (see Baby bonus no boost to the fertility rate). But I’ve always believed it had an impact because it signaled to parents that the Government is supportive of them having and raising children. It’s certainly hard to rationalise how a few thousand dollars influence people to have children that can cost several hundred thousands of dollars each to raise, but in some odd way people may have been psychologically reassured by the Baby Bonus that the Government would continue to look after them in the future.