When Siim was prime minister, we had a very hot discussion in the party before the 2003 elections, what were the largest challenges the society was facing and how to solve these. By the way, with Jürgen Ligi as engine, we arrived to the conclusion that with parental benefit it is possible to provide families with a feeling of security and to create a hope for turning Estonian population into growth again. Looking back, the birth-rate did a considerable jolt upwards and, in 2010, a miracle happened – natural increase was even a little pit in the positive –, but now it is negative again.
Thinking further ahead than the four-year election cycle, there is the matter of principle, whether we will remain as a nation, whether we are a growing or a shrinking nation. Whether we accept the demographic developments as something inevitable or try to break these.
We need a step that would make people think, a shaking step, so that we would have more children.
First of all, we need to deal with childcare as there simply aren’t enough kindergarten places for all; and the second [thing] we arrived at was that we need to significantly increase support for such families that have three children or more. With that, we need to send a clear signal that the third child is very much welcome in the family, very much needed. That a child is not just a joy to the family, but it is also very important that, in a beautiful dream, we would still be a growing nation. We decided to forcefully raise child allowance since the third child.
We calculated and calculated and we arrived at [the conclusion] that this year’s €100 allowance needs to be tripled, thus sending the signal that as the parental benefit ends, the families with many children will not run into economic difficulty.
Yes, €300 a month starting with the third child after the parental benefit period runs out. I hope that after this allowance there will no longer be three children in every tenth family, as now, but ... I want to hope that three children would become a positive norm in the Estonian society.
The plan is not risk-free and the opponents will surely criticise that this is too generous, but unless we undertake something grand we will not break the natural increase trend. This is intentionally setting a national goal. That we would remain after centuries, and that we would have who to bequeath the state to.
How much will the step cost?
Yes, it is costly, this is almost €70m in additional expenditure in 2019. But if we would raise allowance for every child by about €20, the cost would be almost the same.
Our plan is not so much to go by the social benefit approach, but by what would help bring three children into Estonian families. First and foremost, this is to support such families as have two children and who are considering the third. This is a goal of principle, for the nation to continue.