In Estonia, the bigger the family, the better.

On top of individual child benefits, the state pays $335 a month to families with three or more children.

The approach seems to be working. Estonia’s fertility rates are rising, and in 2018, the country had 600 more births than the previous year.

Immigration is also boosting the population, with more than 6,000 people of working age moving to Estonia between 2017-2018, and fewer leaving the country.

In Estonia, government support is encouraging the growth of families.
Image: Sami Keinänen

A global decline

The world’s population is continuing to grow: by 2030, it's expected to hit 8.6 billion people. The majority of that growth is concentrated in just a handful of nations, including India, Nigeria, Pakistan and Ethiopia.

In most countries, women are having fewer children, for all sorts of reasons – from concerns about the environment to the cost of childcare.

Gender equality also plays a role in family planning. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), there is a more positive birth-rate trend in countries with better workplace equality, such as Sweden.

The World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report shows the gender gap currently stands at 68%.

The population replacement rate – the fertility rate needed to maintain a society’s population size – is 2.1 children per woman. Although fertility rates vary from country to country, on a global scale, they are declining.

In Europe, the fertility rate in 2017 was 1.59 births per woman. If that trend continues, the European Union will not have enough workers to pay for its growing population of elderly people.

Global fertility rates are in decline.
Image: Statista

Baby bonuses

Several countries are now offering government subsidies for building a family.

In 2013, the municipality of Lestijärvi, on the Finnish coast, began to address its own population gap by offering women a “baby bonus” of $11,000 per child, paid over a period of 10 years.

Since then, nearly twice as many babies have been born in Lestijärvi – a significant advance as Finland is experiencing its lowest-ever birth rates. The country has not reached population replacement levels since 1969.

France spends more public money on families than any other Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) country – and with those benefits linked to the tax system, the larger the family, the lower the taxable income level.

Alongside a monthly child benefit allowance and state-subsidized daycare, France gives parents a $1,000 ‘birth grant’ for new babies.

While French birth rates are declining, they remain the highest in Europe, with 758,000 babies born in France in 2018.

Meanwhile, Estonia isn’t letting up on its efforts to maintain birth rates. The country is due to release a long-term strategy for the sustainable development of its population, which Minister for Population Affairs Riina Solman has called Estonia’s most important issue.