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Who’s For Better Family Planning?

9 November 2011

Who’s For Better Family Planning?

Gavin de Malmanche suggests the only way New Zealand can reverse its dramatic OECD social and economic decline is via incentives that deliver smaller better educated families.

Over the last 50 years or so, higher birth rates and shorter generation gaps, both imported and locally grown, have helped deliver New Zealand with an exploding, disproportionate, less educated population segment. History reveals, in the same time frame, Government focus moved away from encouraging productive investment towards high cost unproductive welfare. This in turn helped deliver New Zealand’s dramatic decline on the OECD list of real GDP per capita wealth. We were once near the top of the world’s developed countries. Now, we are recorded at 22nd on the list of 30 countries measured.

To help address the negative social and economic outcomes of this scenario, the Progressive Party and the Greens, just before the election in 2008, announced new Family Planning policies. Both parties evidently believed their new policies could help control the numbers and reverse the depreciating OECD value of New Zealand’s less educated, less privileged peoples.

The thrust of the Green’s Family Planning policy was reported in the New Zealand Herald 18 October 2008 as “Setting a level of population New Zealand could sustain and leaving room for climate change refugees from Pacific Islands.” Their policy explained parents should be “educated about the impacts of population growth when they are planning the size and how far apart to have children.”

In response, Mrs Tariana Turia the Maori party co-leader was reported as saying “Tell them (the Greens) to go to China where there is a One Child Policy. But don't start trying to control fertility and social engineering like that here."

As the population policies announced by the Greens did not refer to “fertility” or “social engineering” and had no resemblance to China's “One Child Policy” it is difficult to understand Mrs Turia’s retort. The idea that Governments throughout the world can influence population and family size has been around for years.

In 17th century France after the 30 Years War the country suffered from a significant population decline. To help solve the problem the country’s finance minister Jean Baptiste Colbert introduced incentive-based legislation which according to historians Will and Ariel Durant in their Story of Civilization “gave tax exemptions for early marriage and rewards for large families; a thousand livres to parents of ten children, two thousand livres to parents of twelve.”

Fast forward to New Zealand. In 1946 our Government doubled the Family Allowance incentive to 10 shillings a week per child with no means test and an option to capitalize. This incentive-based scheme was readily accepted as responsible Family Planning to help increase the country’s post war population.

After the breakup of the USSR in the 1990’s the Russian government introduced an incentive-based Family Planning policy to help reverse their country’s population decline. According to London based independent journalist Gwynne Dyer, Vladimir Putin’s Government “doubled the State benefit for a first child to $80 a month, while women who have a second child will get an extra $160 a month plus financial help with childcare. Have three children and you will get close to the minimum wage…”

Just as there have been policies to influence population increases so the process has been working in reverse. Most major developing countries in the world are now supporting increased Family Planning initiatives to reduce population numbers, boost education and help raise their standard of living. Governments in Buddhist China, Hindu India, Muslim Iran and Catholic Brazil are all in it one way or another.

In democratic India, an incentive-based Family Planning pilot project has “proved a success.” An article in the Observer UK newspaper noted in the State of Maharashtra “thousands of Indian couples who agreed to put off having babies for at least two years after their wedding will receive cash payments on August 15 (2009.) If they wait another year they will receive a further 2,500 rupees.” The article explained multiple children put “people under greater financial pressure and exposes them to malnutrition and disease and they do not have the money for education and clothes.”

Africa recognizes the advantages of responsible Family Planning and is trying to restrict family size and educate but as most of their 61 countries are “third world” progress has been minimal.

Developed countries have little need for Government incentives to lower birth rates because most of their citizens are developed enough to do their own Family Planning. New Zealand is possibly the only exception to this position because it is probably the only OECD developed country with such a high, disproportionate number of less educated families/mothers who are less inclined to make responsible Family Planning decisions and do not have the wherewithal to raise multiple children.

World-wide, there is enough evidence to suggest smaller families, amongst less privileged populations, will minimize parental stress, free up family income and time, reduce health risks, deliver better child literacy and numeracy skills, better child education, less crime and more productivity.

As New Zealand’s future is at stake, every eligible voter should lobby their local MP candidate to encourage bipartisan political support for a new, targeted, incentive-based
Family Planning policy.


Gavin de Malmanche is a retired Auckland Advertising and Marketing Company Director. He now writes on a freelance basis.

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