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A new report calls on the Government to look into how to reverse the falling birth rate, including tackling the high cost of childcare.
The government should convene a cross-departmental working group to examine how different policies, including cheaper childcare, might affect the falling birth rate, according to a new report.
The report from the Social Market Foundation also calls for the establishment of a House of Lords special inquiry committee on pronatalism in 2022.
It says it is reasonable to suppose that declining fertility rates will shrink the workforce, stifle demand and slow innovation, suppressing GDP growth and stretching the public finances.
Policies which could make a difference include payments to parents, greater parental leave entitlement and cheaper childcare, but the report says it is unclear how much they could change the declining birth rate trend and they acknowledge that any policy which could significantly alter the fertility rate is likely to cost tens of billions of pounds.
Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Early Years Alliance, said: “It is utterly shameful that so many parents are having to choose to have less children – or none at all – because childcare costs in this country are so unaffordable. Worse still, the situation is now so bad that we’re seeing a worrying decline in birth rates as a result.
“There should be no doubt that this is the consequence of a complete failure of government policy. Nurseries, pre-schools and childminders have been grossly underfunded for years, leaving them with no choice but to increase fees for parents, or be forced out of business.”
He added: “With the Spending Review just weeks away and a new team in place at the Department for Education, it’s not too late for the government to reverse the concerning trends that the SMF has identified, and recognise that adequately funding our childcare and early education system is one of the wisest investments it can make.”