The need to breed in Europe
Europe should follow Russia by encouraging women to have babies, says Daniel Hannan MEP
Russia is to revive the tradition of decorating mothers who have plenty of children. The news has been reported sneeringly as a return to Stalinist practice.
But look at it from the point of view of the Russkies. According to UN statistics, their population will decline from 142m to 114m by 2050. Over the next 15 years, 22m Russians will disappear: more than died in the Second World War. It's getting to the stage where the Kremlin might as well sell Siberia to China, Alaska-style, and cash in while it can.
Nor is it just Russia. Europe is heading for an unprecedented population void. Demographers say that the magic figure is 2.1 babies per woman. The only European country to reach that level is Albania; continent-wide, the average is 1.5. The problem is especially acute in the former Soviet countries and, paradoxically, in the Catholic countries of southern Europe, where illegitimacy carries the greatest stigma.
Fifty years from now, there will be 130m fewer Europeans. Their places, if we want to keep our economies working, will have to be filled by settlers. But migration on such an unprecedented scale will carry problems of its own.
What to do? Several governments, including Austria, France and Estonia, pay women to breed. But small handouts rarely compensate for lost income. So how about this: anyone with a child under three should pay no income tax whatever. The tax break should be transferable so that married women could pass it on to their husbands.
Yes, I realise that it would be colossally expensive - but no more than is proportionate to the gravity of Europe's predicament. The dearth of babies is every bit as serious a threat to our way of life as the Soviet Union was. We should accord it a similar priority. ·
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