Is it too expensive in Europe to have children? Across the EU, birthrates have been steadily decreasing since the 1960s. By 2017, there were an average of 1.59 live births per woman in the European Union (well below the replacement-level fertility rate of 2.1 live births per woman). Could the high cost of childcare have something to do with that?

Childcare costs vary considerably across the EU. In the UK, for example, a couple with 2 children earning the average wage would spend over 60% of their gross household income on childcare (though, after benefits had been factored in, it would be more like 30%). Other countries also have high childcare costs; in Ireland, the Netherlands, Slovenia, Portugal and Luxembourg households will typically spend over 25% of their gross income (before benefits).

Elsewhere in Europe, however, childcare costs are comparatively low. In Malta, for example, the government provides free childcare services to parents or guardians who are in employment or education. Similar government-funded childcare schemes are operated in Latvia, Lithuania, and Romania. Should more EU countries follow their lead?

What do our readers think? We had a comment from Paul who argues that having children is a choice and so he doesn’t see why he (and other taxpayers) should have to foot the bill for government-subsidised childcare.

To get a response, we spoke to Jana Javornik, Associate Professor of Work and Employment Relations at Leeds Business School. Did she think that Paul has a point?

For another perspective, we also put Paul’s comment to Daniela Bulgarelli, Researcher at the University of Turin and author of ‘Quality of Employment in Childcare: Italian Report’. What would she say?

From a psychological point of view, everyone of us should be free to decide to become a parent or not. But then, from a societal point of view, children are our richness. From Darwin’s perspective, human beings need children to bring on their species… and then, an economist can easily explain that a healthy country relies on young people replacing old people getting retired or it relies on young people taking care of the elderly getting sick. And then, I want to go back to my first point: people are free to choose to become parents only if the state supports them managing working duties and children rearing. Otherwise, adults are not free to choose, they just don’t have children because they cannot manage how to rear them while working. Thus, this is also an issue of equal rights.

Next up, Nadine sent us a comment arguing that one of the main barriers to women in top leadership roles is the inflexibility of most working practices. Could government-funded childcare help improve the position of women in the workplace?

How would Jana Javornik respond?

Finally, we had a comment from Christos, who believes that childcare should be free because it makes economic sense in the long term. He argues that expensive childcare stops people having children meaning there are fewer children and ultimately fewer taxpayers.

How would Daniela Bulgarelli respond?

I agree and I would like to add that children attending childcare are more likely to become better students at every grade in school and this also means they will have better working positions as adult. This effect is stronger for children from disadvantaged backgrounds. This is demonstrated by international research. Of course, childcare services should be high quality ones.

Should governments provide free childcare for working parents? Does the high cost of childcare discourage people from having children? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

IMAGE CREDITS: (c) BigStock – Anna Kraynova; PORTRAIT CREDITS: Bulgarelli (c) Bulgarelli
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11 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. avatar
    catherine benning

    Should governments provide free childcare for working parents?

    This question is dishonest. What is meant by it is, should we pay additional taxation into the so called government coffers in order to foot the bill for mass breeding. If climate change is you big concern the answer is quite definitely, no.

    And here is a little insight into what the so called leaders of our political parties are trying to sell in their future manifesto. The UK Labour party, whom is said to be in cahoots with the EU is promoting, world wide open door policy. Meaning, against the will of the British population majority, they intend to bring in a policy, possibly under the table, that akin to the EU present open door rule we rejected by the Brexit majority vote, they suggest we do this insane move on a world wide scale.

    This is being floated even after the Brexit vote was brought about by mass immigration into the UK as one of the primary causes for homelessness, poverty wages, over packed and failing schools, a health service that cannot function as it should in a modern civilised society, all rebounding endlessly on the tax payers expected standard of living.

    The false information continually sent out that millions more coming into our country is not the downfall of our standard of living, which is never backed up by honest or indeed open statitics. We are refused the figures on the impact of this failed and nonsensical policy, as they want to pretend reality doesn’t exist.

  2. avatar

    Or maybe governments should take less taxes from young parents so they can have more money to get the daycare THEY prefer…

  3. avatar

    Unless you want the Europeans to desapear!

  4. avatar

    Better give other type of help…but also consider that many women prefers to work then have more then one child.

  5. avatar

    Rather than continuallly increase the scope of what “government” should do & the consequential continuous increase in state spending & taxes…start thinking about shrinking the state…tax less..let people keep their own money & make their own decisions & choices on what they can afford.

  6. avatar

    What about governments STOP TAXING TO DEATH their citizens so we can stay home more and WE raise our children?

  7. avatar

    something tells me all the benefits won’t go to Europeans

  8. avatar

    Low sales tax on child products and services and big tax cuts for families.

  9. avatar

    Given the evolution of the labour market, and that machines are better than humans at anything but bringing up creative capable children, we should certainly reconsider if we humans need to spend so long keeping chairs warm / doing the job that machines do far better than we do. I do not believe Governments should ever use our contributions as tax payers to sustain an unsustainable labour market – model: that where we continue focusing on tasks that do not contribute to our well-being. Healthy citizens are citizens that contribute far more than stressed out citizens. Governments should support paid parental leaves, encourage men to share the responsibility with their partners in the bringing of life to earth. A child that grows with equal access to both his progenitors, as long as these love each other and chose being with each other freely, is a healthy child. A healthy child can become a healthy contributor to her/his society when she/he grows up, and bring up other healthy children who in turn will do the same.

    Having Governments to provide free childcare for working parents is not the solution to the low natality rates we have in Europe, it is a very bad patch that will contribute to low paid jobs and large organizations making large profits… It will move the parent’s assets into the pockets of those who do not parent any child, ergo it shall not increase birth rate, it will actually do the opposite. Let people see having children with joy and without the constraints of having to pay for diapers or children clothes as if these were luxurious articles… work out the simple common sense in parenting, you who practice rule making, spend some time making children and bringing them up.

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