With falling fertility rates in many developed countries, the concept of a baby bonus continues to be deferred to as a default way to boost rates of births.

In Australia, since 1976, the average number of babies born to a woman throughout her reproductive lifetime in Australia hasn’t been enough to maintain the current population. In 2001 the total fertility rate sank to 1.74 and in July of that year the first child tax refund was introduced.

In May 2004 the Australian government announced a cash maternity payment, offering parents A$3,000 on the birth of a child. This was increased to $4000 and $5000 a couple of years later and was removed altogether in 2014.

The payment seemed to affirm that Australian society valued children and bigger families and that there was a need to reduce the financial barriers for those wanting to start or expand their families.

In the US, pronatalism continues to rear its very ugly head with proposed policies like those from GOP state Rep. Bryan Salmon, who has proposed tax cuts based on the number of children you have.

But the policy is only for married, straight people. No one else. Starting at four children, you get a 40% tax cut. Ten kids? 100% tax break. No property taxes at all. “With this bill, Texas will start saying to couples, ‘Get married, stay married, and be fruitful and multiply,” Slaton said in a statement.

In order to qualify for the tax benefit, couples need to be heterosexual, never divorced, and their children born or adopted after their date of marriage. LGBTQ couples, single parents, divorced parents, and blended families will not qualify for full benefits. Be fruitful and multiply, but only if you meet a very specific and narrow requirement of what a family should look like.

In 2024 it is beyond my comprehension that archaic, discriminative policies like this could possibly be passed.

Most baby bonuses we have seen across the world, are too small to make any impact on the real cost of having a child. Amounts of $3,000, $4000, or $5000 would barely cover the initial outlay needed let alone raising the child for 18 years.

The fact remains that these types of incentives often encourage people who shouldn’t have children for socioeconomic or psychological reasons.

The way I see it, the negative impacts of a baby bonus scheme far outweigh the positives.

Baby bonuses multiply negative societal realities for women in many ways. Here are a few:

  1. Reinforces gender roles: They reinforce traditional gender roles, where women are expected to bear and raise children while men are the breadwinners.
  2. Inadequate support: While baby bonuses may provide some initial financial support, they do not address larger structural barriers that women disproportionately face when trying to balance work and family life, such as inadequate childcare and paid parental leave. And they certainly don’t help with the massive costs of raising a child over their lifetime.
  3. Increases pressure: Not all women feel financially or emotionally able to have children. Baby bonuses increase societal pressure on women to have children which can lead to feelings of guilt, anxiety, and stress, and may even result in women having children they did not want or are unable to care for.
  4. Devalues women: Baby bonuses reinforce harmful concepts that devalue everything about a person except their womb. By framing motherhood as the most important role for women, we create a culture that devalues women’s professional, artistic, creative, and intellectual selves.

Baby bonuses are designed to increase the fertility rate amongst fears that falling birth rates will mean less taxpayers in an aging population.

But global sustainability is not just about the number of people and it seems that more women are seriously concerned about the state of our planet and its future, which is impacting their choice to have children.

I was recently interviewed for an article for ABC, addressing the failing fertility rate and why the fertility rates are falling in Australia.

This is a global trend and baby bonuses will do little to impact our changing views of the world. It’s time to ditch these dated cash bribes once and for all.