Should child-free adults pay extra tax?

It’s been suggested ‘radical ideas’ are needed to avoid workforce shortages.

Taxing the childless has been proposed as one way of addressing the country’s employment gap.

The case was argued by Paul Morland, a demographer at St Antony’s College, Oxford, in an article in The Times, in response to 2021 census figures for England and Wales showing a slowing-down in population growth. His analysis finds that while older generations are still increasing in size, the number of under-fives is lower than it was a decade ago.

“We need a national demographic strategy … for incentivising families to have more children and to have them when they are younger,” Morland wrote.

The most headline-grabbing of his suggestions was to tax those who can’t or won’t have children, and “use the funds to fix the UK’s broken, expensive early-years care system”.

Of course, tax-payers already pay towards others’ children – for example, the costs of running state schooling – as befits a functioning society. This idea would go further still by placing more of the costs at the door of those without offspring, though it’s unclear whether this rebalancing of costs would be a sufficient incentive leading people to choose, if able, to procreate.

Finances alone are just one of the factors in starting a family, and not necessarily most at the forefront of potential breeders’ minds. More pertinent issues for younger generations in deciding whether having children is right for them, now or in the future, may include their careers, work flexibility, and housing situation.

Were the childless tax to have the intended outcome of increased birth rate, the benefits wouldn’t be seen until those newborns reach working age in some 16 years or more down the line. Long-term solutions are undoubtedly important, but the question remains how to plug the gap we face today.

Should we tax the childless? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below for the chance to be featured on the ES website.

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