OPINION - Taxing the childless would unfairly punish people like me

·2-min read
Jessica Morgan  (Handout)
Jessica Morgan (Handout)

According to a man, the UK needs to introduce a “negative child benefit” tax for those who do not have children. In a piece published in The Sunday Times, demographer Paul Morland had some ideas to prevent crippling workforce shortages, and combat plummeting birth rates and an ageing population. He suggested we adopt a “grow our own” policy, create a “pro-natal” culture, have the Queen send a telegram whenever a family has a third child (woohoo!), retarget child benefit to “incentivise families to have children” and educate people that getting pregnant becomes more difficult with age.

I’ve got a better idea: let’s all collectively bash our heads against a wall. Yes, the UK’s birth rate is at a record low, with fertility rates for women under 30 at their lowest levels since records began in 1938. But there are some very valid factors behind this. Many people struggle with fertility. Some make a personal choice not to have children. Others decide against it due to the climate crisis. But there’s one issue rarely taken into consideration: finances and the rising cost of living.

As a woman edging towards my 30s, I am sick to death of being condescended to by men when it comes to reproduction. I have lost count of the times friends, family and strangers have asked if I plan to have children. And just recently, I was told by my male gynaecologist that having a child would alleviate my endometriosis symptoms, as though having a child right now would solve all of my problems. I’m a young professional living in London, paying out of my ears for a flat I don’t own. And with the inability to get onto the property ladder, coupled with more than a decade of wage stagnation, I don’t plan on adding any offspring to my life any time soon. Quite frankly, it’s impossible. But does that mean I should be punished for my choices?

The notion of adding a new tax is ridiculous. The tax you and I pay is used to provide funding for public services, which includes the NHS, education, and the welfare system, as well as investment in public projects. Those who are childless, like me, are already heavily subsidising such things for families living in Britain. So why on earth should we pay more?

Especially in light of the recent overturning of Roe v Wade in the United States, we cannot expect to put in place breeding policies to encourage people out of the workforce to reproduce, just so we can increase the future working population. No, the answer to a birth rate issue is not penalising the poor. It’s allowing foreign workers to live and work in Britain. It’s respecting women’s rights to their own bodies. Tax the childless? Not on my watch.

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