Incentive

Poland approves monthly benefit for families to bolster low birth rates

Polish shop owners hold a protest in front of parliament against a government plan to raise taxes on retailers to pay for child benefits, on February 11, 2016 in Warsaw. (JANEK SKARZYNSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

Lawmakers in Poland have passed a new benefit plan that will provide 500 zlotys ($125) per month for all second and subsequent children in a family. The new legislation marks the fulfillment of a key promise put forth by the conservative Law and Justice Party — currently the largest party in the Polish government — to bolster births in a country with one of the world’s lowest birth rates. The benefit program is slated to launch in April, and will apply to second and subsequent children under the age of 18. Poor families with only one child will also be eligible to receive payments.

Poland’s Prime Minister Beata Szydlo hailed the law’s passage as a momentous occasion for the country. “This is a very important day for Polish families,” Szydlo told lawmakers. “This is the day when we can finally say that Poland has joined those states that know that a wise pro-family policy is a matter of the national interest.”

The new child benefits plan is one element of Law and Justice’s efforts to increase social spending in Poland — a pushback against previous pro-market policies that left many Poles subsisting on low wages. Critics of the plan, however, say that it discriminates against millions of children in single-child families, and could prove to be a drain on state finances.

Some business owners held demonstrations in protest of the new law in Warsaw on Thursday. An estimated 5,000 Polish shop owners held a protest in front of parliament against the plan to raise taxes on banks and retailers in order to fund the new benefit. Poland’s government had intended to levy the tax foreign supermarkets, but entrepreneurs there reportedly worry they will be hurt by the tax.

According to The Telegraph, the new law threatens to add costs for Britons under British Prime Minister David Cameron’s proposed European Union economic deal. Cameron in the past has spoken out against paying child benefits and curbing benefits to workers.

Other countries have experimented with so-called “baby bonuses” and child benefits to varying degrees of success. Australia has discontinued its baby bonus after about two decades. In Sweden, parents are eligible to receive a child benefit payment of about $125 a month until the child reaches the age of 16.

Read the full story at The Associated Press.

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