The rise of political familism

As a single and childless male I know an election year won’t be good for me. On both right and left, the trend is toward political familism, with the interests of people with kids put above those without.

On the right, the main trend has been toward income transfers. This year the Howard government plans to spend a staggering $28 billion on financial assistance to families with children. It’s the second-largest item in the federal budget after the aged pension, and does not include indirect benefits such as schools and health care. This largesse has helped make the Howard years exceptionally good for people with kids. In the latest NATSEM study Ann Harding calculates that real disposable income has increased by 29% for couples with kids over the last decade, for single parent families by 26%, for couples without kids by 23%, and for single households by 15%. This of course isn’t just government benefits; rising real wages and increased labour force participation are important too. But family benefits payments have undoubtedly skewed the income distribution further away from the childless. Everyone pays unnecessarily high taxes, but only those with kids get money back.

On the left, the main trend is toward advocating further intervention in the labour market in the interests of families. Kevin Rudd has enthusiastically embraced this agenda. In his first speech to Parliament as Labor leader, he said: [restored from NLA website]

…families are such a basic social institution that they deserve special protections. When you instead have a set of laws which says that you can be told to work at any time of the day, at any place and for virtually whatever rate of pay, that it can include weekends or whatever and that you can have your shifts and rosters changed at a moment’s notice, just pause for a moment. Let us think through where that all goes in terms of the impact on working families.

As yet, it is unclear exactly how this might translate into policy. Late last week, Julia Gillard floated the idea of pressuring employers of people with kids under six years of age to permit part-time work without the disadvantages often associated with it, such as less training. Barbara Pocock’s book The Labour Market Ate My Babies, cited by Rudd in his CIS speech, proposes that:

…Australian labour law should be amended to increase the time autonomy of workers, especially those with care responsibilities. …within a framework that restricts long working hours … [including] new capacities for changes in working hours that are initiated by employees…all parents [to have] an opportunity to take up to two years out of paid work with income support on the birth of a child.

Obviously making half a million people a year eligible for income support (250,000 births times two parents) has fiscal implications, and means higher taxes for others or less spending on other things. But this kind of labour market intervention also has significant implications for other workers, who must fill the gaps left by people who decide, without reference to others, to vary their hours of work. Inevitably, the childless or empty nesters will pick up most of the slack, lacking the ‘childcare centre shuts at 5.30pm’ and other excuses of workers with kids.

The basic concerns behind political familism have been widely accepted, even if the major political parties do not have the same policy responses. But these concerns do not seem to me to be compelling enough to warrant the redistributions of time and money occurring or being proposed.

As the NATSEM research shows, families with kids have higher incomes than other kinds of households, receiving about $250 a week more on average than the next most affluent household type, couples without kids. In my article on ‘big government conservatism’ I report research from the mid-1990s showing that at that time people with kids had above average satisfaction with their financial situation. Yet for all the spending, it is hard to see any significant trends in the basic family statistics except for increased use of formal childcare.

Obviously parents need time to look after their kids, and many surveys have shown at least a large minority of people perceive some conflict between work and family. But this in itself is not a policy, as opposed to personal, problem. For most people, there are more things they could do with their time than there are hours in the day or days in the year. Inevitably, trade-offs need to be made between competing uses of time. But the ‘right’ trade-offs cannot be set in Canberra or by academics. They depend on a wide range of personal, family, and work circumstances, which will vary greatly from household to household and within households over time.

For example, in the 2005 Australian Survey of Social Attitudes about a third of respondents said they would like to spend less time in their paid job and 70% said they would like to spend more time with their families (implying some other activity ought to be reduced). But only 10% agreed that they would rather ‘work fewer hours and earn less money’, with twice as many saying they would rather ‘work longer hours and earn more money’. So while in a constraint-free world we would have more of everything, in the real world of trade-offs work is more preferred than it might appear if we just looked at questions about work and family. In the kids interviewed for Pocock’s book about their parents’ work hours the same pragmatism is on display. Many would like to spend more time with their parents (particularly boys with their fathers), but they also accept that their parents need to work, often for money but also because they enjoy it.

People also adjust without intervention from above. In an analysis based on HILDA data, between Wave 1 and Wave 2 (about a year) about 30% of those described as ‘conscripts’ to long hours (50 hours a week or more) went to shorter hours, along with about a quarter of those described as long hours ‘volunteers’. There are several ways this can occur: the long hours were just a spike in work which went away, employers take on more people to reduce hours (when demand increases, employers often work existing staff harder and take on more workers only when they are confident the higher demand will last), or workers change jobs. There is also considerable movement (about a fifth of each group) moving between ‘volunteer’ and ‘conscript’, showing changing preferences for hours worked but not the fact of long hours.

It’s far from clear to me that blunt rules imposed by policymakers can improve on this dynamic process of trade-off and adjustment. Prohibiting long hours might help ‘conscripts’ to reduce work. But it would be bad for those who enjoy their work, or need the money, or both. There would also be flow-on effects for those who rely on the work done by long-hours employees. These will be worst in occupations where there are existing labour market shortages, and no spare workers to make up for the hours not worked. With such shortages widespread in health professions, much longer waits to see medical professionals may not seem so ‘family friendly’.

Political familism doesn’t just disadvantage single people to provide added assistance to families who do not necessarily have greater needs. It is an attempt to replace individual judgments made by people in and out of families with collective judgments made by social critics and politicians. Liberals – small ‘l’ and large, welfare and classical – should resist these intrusions into the private sphere.

50 thoughts on “The rise of political familism

  1. Indeed. They’ve never proven to be very good at it. Bannerman would caution you against bleating about familial favouritism, Andrew, especially without having experienced both sides of the divide.

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  2. The $28 billion provided to families actually pales into relative insignificance compared to the $55 billion provided to taxpayers through the low tax rates in the progressive tax system

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  3. Andrew, I totally agree with your arguments, but does either Liberal or Labor in Australia espouse “political familism” in the way you’ve described it? We have a coalition government that has increased transfers to families but has removed some restrictions on employment arrangements and a Labor Party leader who opposes labour market deregulation and but has not suggested he will expand the family payments system. As you noted in your Policy article and indicated above, such family payments are regressive, so ‘Labor in power’ may at least slow their future growth.

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  4. The rise of political familism

    Look at the election-year rhetoric of the Menzies government in the 1950s-’60s, as well as that of Calwell and the DLP around the same time. This is hardly a new phenomenon. Where people are too busy to pay attention to politics, politicians must address those issues to which people are paying attention, be it child care or Big Brother or whatever. The sheer yearning of Bronwyn Bishop to not be ignored is a mighty force that ought not be underestimated.

    … permit part-time work without the disadvantages often associated with it, such as less training … this kind of labour market intervention also has significant implications for other workers, who must fill the gaps left by people who decide, without reference to others, to vary their hours of work. Inevitably, the childless or empty nesters will pick up most of the slack

    Anecdotally, those who have secured limited-hours work face great pressure to be available full-time without being remunerated on that basis. This can take the form of being on-call and having to respond to detailed enquiries about work at a time when the employee is not formally required at the workplace; this demand represents an essential condition of the employee’s work, yet the employee is not remunerated for this time.

    Managers will often claim to be happy to make such arrangements, mindful of the importance etc., but the reality of such arrangements is always fraught. When you have managers who could afford to raise their families on a single income, and who do not understand that raising a family today requires two incomes (and hence more flexible working arrangements), the problem gets worse rather than better. Worse still, employees who suffer a fraught working relationship for a few years while their children need childcare will not stick around when their children reach school age, and hence are able to work on a more full-time basis; the payoff for the employer for having provided that flexibility often goes to another employer when the employee seeks another, less fraught and often better-paid, job.

    There have been few and tentative studies into the notion that people will sacrifice money and other traditional entitlements for flexibility, including the ability to work at home. Part of the reason why trade unionism has declined is because it has not fully understood or addressed this. Politicians are grappling in addressing it because you can’t provide pre-digested talking points without significant data to digest.

    The Australian workforce is now arguably at a point where those who do not secure paid employment through inability to secure cost-effective childcare are more numerous, and represent more skilled workers, than those who are unemployed (I say “arguably” because there isn’t enough data either way). Every time minimum wages go up there is much consternation about pricing people out of the workforce, but modelling childcare costs and flexibility requires more complexity than a simple more-heat-than-light argument like that will allow.

    It is not true that people who secure the rare jobs which provide this flexibility are “people who decide, without reference to others, to vary their hours of work”. Such arrangements are matters of careful negotiation and are often contingent upon well-established working relationships (and are therefore highly subjective and relatively rare). The challenge for government (regardless of political complexion) is to make these options available on a less subjective and broader basis. At the moment they can’t even measure the problem. However, the first political party that sounds convincing in addressing this complex issue has a lock on the next election and probably the one after.

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  5. Andrew – I think it is true that some jobs aren’t easily run part-time, especially if the worker has outside clients who cannot be expected to keep track of their hours, or the worker is the only person with particular skills or knowledge. Certainly my two part-time jobs do not keep to their official days for these reasons. But I could have had full-time work and chose the current arrangement as suiting my objectives overall.

    Though there are complexities for part-timers, they do have fewer problems with barriers between family and work. For example, in the 2005 AuSSA 15% of part-timers but 26% of full-timers said that their job always or often interfered with their family life. By contrast, 43% of part-timers and 29% of full-timers gave hardly ever or never answers.

    You’re right that there have always been handouts to families; it’s the scale that is different now. Labour market regulation used to be organised around the male breadwinner model; to some extent what the left wants to restore the family basis, but with the primary emphasis on women instead.

    Rajat – I agree there is not complete ideological consistency, though it is strongest on the Labor side. They might axe policies like Family Tax Benefit B (as they should), but they’ll probably spend the money on childcare instead.

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  6. And I as a parent think this great middle class welfare transfer is just fine and dandy. But it is not even fair to all parents, as it does not take into account the type of work the parents do, or benefits the employer provides. For example, my spouse and I are lucky enough to have access to employer provided childcare, which is 100% FBT exempt under the salary packaging rules, which more than halves the not insubstantial cost for childcare for our 4 kids. However, if I did not secure a place for my kids on site, I could send them to a centre run by the same firm, but would not be able to claim the FBT exemption as the care is not on-site. This system favours employees of large firms or organisations, but penalises those who, for example, edit magazines like Policy. Amid the rules relating to family assistance are countless other inconsistencies.

    Perhaps, if society has decided it values kids, then a one-off payment from consolidated revenue is a better way to go. That is, the birth of the child automatically triggers a (means tested) welfare payment of a certain size for a certain period. It could even be a lump sum. I suspect efficiency and consumer sovereignty would both improve, as the innate perversities of the current system would be removed.

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  7. “This system favours employees of large firms or organisations, but penalises those who, for example, edit magazines like Policy.”

    Er, but Andrew Norton (the editor of Policy) doesn’t have any kids, so even if he worked for a larger firm he would not benefit.

    But more generally, Jimmythespiv, I agree with you. Tax deduction rules always seem to be about not opening the floodgates rather than principle. I can’t even believe my tax law lecturers taught me the stuff with a straight face…

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  8. Rajat

    Sorry, my point was if you were self employed, or worked for a small company, or an outfit like Policy, you were discriminated against. And there is a sort of anti liberal bias to it all – giving people incentives to work for large, bureaucratic organisations, rather than strike out and let their animal spirits rip.

    Andrew,

    Cash is king, and I am not sure people will trade it off for flexibility. This “flexibility” would require a wholesale examination of individual consumer preferences- and choosing to downgrade, or at least cheapen, some of them. So out goes the Audi, in comes the Barina etc. Based on my own experience, this is not something that comes naturally to people.

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  9. If you think Australia is bad for taxing the childless, you should try living in France — it is hardly worth working there if you don’t have children.

    In fact, I think one of the little studied problems about taxing the eyeballs out of the childless is that they are also the most mobile group in society — it would be interesting to know to what extent such high tax rates cause (a) a loss of the professional population who get sick of it and emmigrate; and (b) stop childless professionals from immigrating to Australia.

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  10. Have you all never heard that touching piece of African wisdom: “It takes a village to raise a child”? Well then, instead of saying “the trend is toward political familism, with the interests of people with kids put above those without” you could say these policies put the interests of kids first, not their parents, and that you’re all happy to contribute. (Plus starting off with “As a single and childless male” will surely put you in the running for another ‘Ernie”)

    From the post I can’t tell what the quoted stats mean “Ann Harding calculates that real disposable income has increased by 29% for couples with kids over the last decade” means what in relation to how much the costs of raising kids has gone up? (The ‘phone bills alone …..!)

    “As the NATSEM research shows, families with kids have higher incomes than other kinds of households, receiving about $250 a week more on average than the next most affluent household type, couples without kids.” what other kinds of households? people on the disability pension, single old-age pensioners, students sharing a house? – it’s just as well they do have higher income because they’d need it.

    Maybe families need the payments because the trend is for everyone to pay for themselves and the government would rather people purchased individually and privately, rather than provide community facilities for those who need to use them?

    My experience of working in an almost entirely female workplace was that over the years nearly all the full-time positions became part-time positions as women returned to work after having children. (Previously they resigned and didn’t come back till much later). It took a long time, because political correctness meant that you couldn’t say it wasn’t working, but eventually everyone knew that it didn’t work – half the employees in each team never saw the other half – and though there was a real effort to put the part-time positions back together again, it was too late, Humpty was broken.

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  11. One could argue that by having and raising children, parents are providing a benefit to society in the long run, at a private cost to themselves. So that would be one case for transferring income from those without children to those with children.

    Further – parents (or single parents) without employment income have higher costs than those without children. Higher transfers to them make sense, and the taper system means that, without imposing (even more) punitive EMTRs, a certain amount of spending will go to people on relatively higher incomes.

    I think when you look around at the world, at the various tax/welfare systems in operation, we can be fairly proud of what we have. Of course it could be improved, but its better than anything else going, as Nick Gruen has been arguing in various pieces recently.

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  12. Andrew, it is now fashionable to use anecdote – but hey – I lived in London for five years primarily for the fun factor and partly the money – now I have a plane ticket home for good. My early thirties and the possibility of tiny feet in a couple of years. Must be the sun and the family friendly environment.

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  13. Nobody disputes that kids cost money – but what’s missing from the debate is that families with kids on average have higher household incomes before income redistribution.

    Leopold – Despite the Treasurer’s line about having one for the country, I don’t believe anyone does. People have kids for much more personal reasons.

    Corin – Exapand the welfare state, attract Labor voters! Meanwhile, Liberal voters go into tax exile. My article says Howard’s strategy is bad for the Liberal Party in the long run.

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  14. Corin,

    You’re a good example of what I am talking about. You have people that a) get subsidized more than they contribute throughout their education; b) work overseas when childless; and c) come back to have children (when their average net tax/benefit contribution is going to be close to zero).

    The only time when people like this are paying a positive amout of money to the goverment is presumably once their children become adults, which isn’t going to be very long considering the average of age of childbirth now.

    In the end someone is going to have to pay for the subsidies of other people — The more people that go overseas to escape tax that actually pay a positive amount (now at record levels) mean that the fewer there are to pay it, and hence the more they have to pay and the more they will want to avoid it. I don’t think this is a great problem now, but as the population ages and there are comparitively less people in the “pay postive amounts of tax category”, I don’t see how this is sustainable.

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  15. I’m not arguing that people are having children ‘for the country’.

    I’m arguing that by having children, they are benefitting the country in the long run – a social benefit, for which they incur a private cost. Their motivation is not really relevant to my point.

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  16. Leopold – What I don’t get here is why, if people choose for private reasons to engage in activities that may have benefits for other people, they should receive a subsidy.

    This is a bigger issue than just family payments. This kind of argument is also used in favour of assisting students doing university studies for self-interested reasons as well.

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  17. “private reasons” ? you mean basic human instinct. Having children isn’t like a choice between having a home theatre or a more exclusive gym membership. It is, for most people, a basic human function. It has to happen, it willl happen, and in Australia we’ve long supported people who have the added cost of raising children – even my parents got “child endowment”.

    You might argue about means testing benefits, but only an economist would categorise having children as simply a private choice and responsibility – it completely strips the meaning out of the activity.

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  18. Who will read Policy, the IPA Review , Precis etc etc in 30 years if people don’t reproduce ? I suppose the benefit would be they are also not reading Green Left Weekly and the Age.

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  19. I’m reading Policy at the moment (hence the need to escape to blogs) and if I thought I’d be reading it in 30 years time I’d cut my throat.

    There’s an article with a strange view of children (it’s about childhood obesity) and how these tots have sovereign rights over their own little bodies so the state has no right to decide not to sell them junk foods in school canteens. So on one side we have the infants (and perhaps their parents) and on the other side billion dollar industries determined to make a profit out of pushing this junk into kiddies hands. God forbid the government should take commsense measures to keep junk foods out of sight and out of the minds of infants – at least in schools. Why have I never heard of parents complaining about this?

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  20. Russell, we meet again! I thought young Jess Moir’s article was very clever, and very good too. I am intruiged by this notion of government taking a ‘commonsense measure’ – I wish they’d start by lowering taxes and cutting expenditure.

    There is a nice discussion about the ‘new paternalism’ over at the Cato Institute.
    http://www.cato.org/new/pressrelease.php?id=11

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  21. I’ve been to the Cato site quite enough, thanks Sinclair.

    Sinclair, how many kids is it that you have? Four, I think. How would you describe their importance to you? (OK, I’m taking a risk, but surely they’re not just accessories or something?)

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  22. I have four. But Mrs D and I earn too much to get money from the government. Number 2 daughter spends one day per week at creche, and the feds pay $6 to the creche on our behalf, so I should be ashamed of myself being the beneficiary of all that largesse at the cost of single, childless bachelors. But alas, no.

    In answer to your question, I am familiar with the argument that children are like durable consumer goods but I don’t agree with that notion. Afterall, you can leave the fridge on the nature strip when you don’t want it anymore and someone comes to take it away. When you leave the kids on the nature strip, the police come and take you away.

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  23. I’ll want something back for that $6 – could you steer her towards a vocation in SCIENCE – a cure for dementia would be reassuring, even a seedless watermelon that has flavour would be something.

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  24. Despite the fact that I am one of those “single, childless bachelors”, I don’t begrudge you the miniscule portion of the $6 per week that comes from my taxes Sinclair!!! 😉

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  25. I regret to inform she’s going to be a fish-wife, she’s already a fish-daughter with a mouth on her! Nobody’s going to die wondering what she wants. So before she starts paying back the $6 to society, I want to be paid back the angst and abuse.

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  26. Just on a technical point. What has happened in Australia as in many other countries is that some women and men have decided never to have children, but more importantly the birth of children has been postponed.

    So to measure how many people have children you need to look at life histories rather than statistics on how many people have children at a particular point in time. The paper below does this using HILDA data.

    If you look at Table 1 you will see a column that shows the percentage of women of different ages who have ever had children, where the relevant column is having 0 children.

    Women who were born towards the beginning of the century have fairly high rates of having zero children (because they were in prime child-bearing age in the Depression, and this had a substantial effect on fertility).

    However, if you look at women aged 40 to 44, you will see that only 14% have never had children (whereas 44% of women aged between 15 and 44 have never had children).

    It is clear that lots of women have children in their 30’s particularly in the second half of their 30’s. (This usually implies the same for men too, of course.)

    This is also true in other countries with much lower fertility rates than Australia. So the idea that 25% or 50% of people don’t ever have children is simply wrong. It’s more like 10% to 15%.

    Of course, we will need to look at the data in another 5 years or so, to see whether the women now aged 30 to 35 have had a child in their late 30’s, but it seems likely that many people will.

    You can also see that one of the explanations for falling fertility is the enormous decline in the number of women having 3 or more children.

    Nearly 65% of those born between 1932 and 1936 had 3 or more children (i.e. the baby boom of the 50’s and 60s, while about 33% of those born uring the baby boom went on to have 3 or more children.

    Click to access Tesfaghiorghis2005.pdf

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  27. One more point. Survey data show that people would prefer to have more children than they actually do in most OECD countries. Some of this is people who end up having no children and they would prefer to have had some. Of course, some people who do have children may prefer to have had none, but the balance is still towards fewer than desired.

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  28. The paper Peter linked to does have the estimate made a number of years ago by the ABS of about a quarter, which has turned into a factoid. But it was an extrapolation forward of current birth rates, when in fact as Peter notes there has been a surge of births to women in their 30s. So while childlessness is likely to be high by 20th century standards, it is unlikely to be as high as 25%.

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  29. Conrad.

    You need to distinguish between current and completed fertility.

    To do this you need to look at whether women have ever had children by the time they are 50 (after which they are extremely unlikely to have children).

    You see that in Australia with a current fertility rate of around 1.7 to 1.8 is consistent with around 11% of women having 0 children by the time they are 50. However, completed fertility is higher than current fertility – it is over 2 for women born up to 1970 and about 1.9 for women born between 1970 and 1980.

    Look at http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/7/33/35304751.pdf

    In Figure 7 you will see that in Spain and Italy around 60% of women have had no children by the time they are 30, but by the time they are 40 this has fallen to a little over 10% in Spain, and a little under 20% in Italy. These too will fall by the time the cohorts reach age 50 (but not by as much as for women in their 30s).

    The other point is that you assume: “Now if the average number of children that women have that have children is 1.5, 33% of women don

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  30. As a married man with two children I would just like to say thank you to all those childless taxpayers who have been conscripted into contributing so much to the care of my children. Thank you very much for the subsidised childcare, kindergarten and schooling. I hope you will continue to sacrifice your own enjoyment as you continue to pay for my children’s university education.

    I only have one little quibble. I would prefer you demand the government to hand back our taxes and let me decide how I wish to spend my money, rather than John Howard and Steve Bracks make those decisions. I’m a grown up now and I can decide for myself.

    I also reckon you can make your own decisions. If you wish to voluntarily pay for my children’s education rather than your own pleasure, I will gladly accept your money, but it’s a bit rough that the government makes that decision for you.

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  31. Andrew,

    Well, that is one way of looking at it. The other way of looking at it is that you are encouraging people to do things that are good for the country.

    The benefits of making life easier for families may be quite substantial in the long run.

    Have you ever written any more broad stuff on how you think we should restructure the system? Its easy to see you don’t like what we have, but not so clear what your alternative is.

    I believe your colleague Peter Saunders wants to replace FTB with $3,000 universal non-means-tested ‘child tax credits’, which is not exactly a recipe for ending either ‘familism’ or ‘middle class welfare’, both of which you seem hostile to.

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  32. Leopold – My basic assumption is that spending should be zero unless some compelling argument can be made. If it could be demonstrated that family benefits were necessary to sustain fertility ‘for the country’ I would soften my position, but I have not seen such an argument. There has been a recent increase in births, but this may be attributable to the late reproduction of women in their 30s mentioned by Peter above.

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  33. Leopold,

    you don’t have to worry about distributions at all, nor the number that happen to have certain numbers of children. All you need to worry about is the final birth rate (which I agree maybe an underestimate in some places) and the average number of children per women who happen to have them and do the division i.e., Proporiton of pop with children equals Birth Rate divided avg number of children per women that have children. For example if you have 10 children, I have 2, and someone else has none, then the average is 4, 4 divided by 6 two thirds, which is correct — two of us had children and one didn’t.

    Figures like 1.5 average and 2 per women that has them give you numbers like 25% childless. For the ultra low birth countries (of which there are many), even if we give them some more children than estimated, figures like 1.2 and 1.5 still get you 25% of the population without children.

    So I think my point stands that there are decent proportions of childless people in many countries, and that this phenomena exists across a number of different cultures (Eastern Europe, parts of Asia, parts of Northern Europe).

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  34. I think we could marshal evidence that people are credit constrained when they have young children in the household.

    Mind you, this could be addressed with policies that relax these constraints directly (eg a HECS-type scheme for childraising, or simply higher taxes on people who have adult children, but are not above retirement age themselves).

    However, the strongest argument for these child-related transfers is our concern for the consumption level of children. Parents might choose to sacrifice consumption in exchange for the joy of parenthood. However, children can’t make this exchange.

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  35. Bruce – Perhaps we could marshal such evidence, but I haven’t seen it and you are not citing it, though you work in a centre that is preoccupied with income distribution. And shouldn’t we get the evidence for a policy program *before* we spend $28 billion rather than after?

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  36. Hang on a minute – isn’t it Liberal party policy to encourage higher fertility rates for two different reasons: (1) stopping the projected fall in numbers of working age people to prop up the welfare system to (2) make sure we don’t have to have high immigration to pay for our welfare system? Y’know we can’t have policies which encourage high immigration any more because it upsets all the relaxed and comfortable Howard battlers.

    That’s why Uncle Pete wants your good lady wife to lay back and think of Australia – it’s a self-defeating cycle of transfers that seems to be powering the plasma TV market more than anything, while attempting to make sure that somebody is around to pay enough taxes so that Uncle Pete can have somebody fund his overly generous retirement in 2030.

    It’s hard to believe that the beloved Liberal party would concoct useless policies built around populism simply to get re-elected, while sounding like they are doing something – surely they wouldn’t do that?

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  37. bit late on the commenting side, but hey, just found yr blog.
    your post proves I was being ripped off as a single person ! If the Gov wants you to be married, (because I will be happier & therefore not use the mental health services as much) have children for the country (future tax payers), then where is the tax support for being single & wanting to find someone? It’s now costly to find someone! the stamps on RSVP, the $$ for fast dating and the cost of constant grooming…I’d like a single bonus, like the baby bonus or tax deductions for using dating services.. 😉

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