SANTIAGO, Chile — In an effort to reverse the country’s low birth rate, President Sebastian Pinera of Chile has announced a proposal to offer financial incentives to couples who have three or more children.
The measure, announced on May 21, would benefit all women regardless of income level and would entail a one-time payment of approximately $200 for a couple’s third child. It would increase to $300 for the fourth child and $400 for the fifth.
Catalina Siles, a researcher at the Institute for Societal Studies, told CNA the proposal brings to the forefront an issue that has been absent in the public debate and in the priorities of the government.
“The credit is not intended to solve the underlying problem and much less oblige families to have children, but, instead, it is a step, a positive measure,” she said, labeling criticism of the bill as “a bit unfair.”
“This is an attempt to reverse the problem, and, obviously, it should be part of a broader set of policies in support of the family,” Siles said.
“It’s an issue that concerns the government since Chile’s birth rate has been in continual decline since the 1960s, reaching 1.8 children per woman, one of the lowest in Latin America. We find ourselves amidst what experts call the ‘generational winter,’ an increase in the aging of the population.”
She added that the connection between family and personal fulfillment is often overlooked in the country.
“The polls in Chile show that the family is one of the main reasons for personal happiness. A society that only seeks professional success and material well-being will produce a generation that is sadder and less fulfilled,” she stressed.
Chilean Minister for Social Development Joaquin Lavin said the new proposal would join a series of initiatives the Chilean government has already adopted to help encourage couples to have children, including extended maternal leave, free day care and other tax credits.
The new proposal must be sent to the Chilean Congress, and, if approved, would go into effect on Jan. 1, 2014.