Money is the biggest concern preventing young adults in the UK from starting a family, according to a new survey.
More than half (59 per cent) of respondents cited financial worries as the number one reason why they would consider delaying or deciding not to have children.
The research, commissioned by Apryl, a Berlin-based fertility benefits company, found that the biggest barrier to parenthood was the rising cost of living, cited by 29 per cent of respondents. It was followed by the cost of childcare (13 per cent), not having met the right partner yet (12 per cent) and not being able to afford to buy their own home (11 per cent).
The survey, conducted by Censuswide among 2,000 UK adults aged 18-35 this month, also revealed that two-thirds of respondents would consider freezing their eggs, sperm or embryos to prolong their fertility if they could afford it.
These countries will pay you to have babies
A toxic cocktail of ageing populations and falling birth rates across Europe is already throwing into question the sustainability of social security systems.
The average fertility rate in the EU, at 1.50 live births per woman in 2020, is far below the replacement level of around 2.1 live births per woman needed to ensure a broadly stable population in the absence of migration.
European countries have come up with different strategies to encourage women to have more children. One of the most common is to give families a “baby bonus” – a cash reward for every child they have.
The UK itself offers various benefits to encourage couples to have children. Child benefits, for example, provide £21.80 (€24.87) a week for the first child and £14.45 (€16.48) a week for any children after that.
Citizens can also seek the Sure Start Maternity Grant, a one-off payment of £500 (€571) to help with the costs of having a child. Parents or guardians can also claim tax credits and universal credit, a benefit allowing them to claim back up to 85 per cent of childcare costs.
Elsewhere in Europe, Finland is known for being among the most generous. Between 2012 and 2022, one of the country’s smallest municipalities, Lestijärvi, became famous for granting €10,000 for every newborn in a desperate call to invigorate the town’s birth rate.
Its acting mayor, Markku Vehkaoja, told Euronews Next that the scheme had ended last year because many of the families receiving the financial aid were cashing the money in and then moving elsewhere.
In Hungary, fertility clinics are considered “of national strategic importance” by the country’s far-right Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.
Young married couples in Hungary can also seek from the bank a loan of up to 10 million forints (around €30,000), stop paying any interest on it if they have a child within five years, and see the loan entirely written off if they have at least three children. Women who have four children, meanwhile, are permanently exempt from paying income tax.
In Greece, a €2,000 bonus is granted to every mother who gives birth and is legally and permanently residing in the country. In Italy, parents can claim a childbirth allowance of up to €192 per child per month, depending on their household’s income.
In Spain, the draft budget bill for 2023 will include, among other measures, a monthly €100 allowance for mothers with children under the age of three.
France too is known for its lavish spending on family policy, with about 4 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) devoted to benefits such as paid parental leave, family allowance and subsidised childcare.
The country offers several types of support. Depending on their income, households with three children may receive up to €594 per month in family allowance. They also receive financial aid to pay for childcare. The sum, based on the yearly gross earnings of the parents or single mothers, can go up to €647 per month.
Interestingly, France is also the fertility champion of Europe, with 1.83 births per woman.
Egg freezing, a medical practice for preserving a woman’s fertility, is known to be pricey – and its use is tightly restricted in some countries like France. The typical cost of a single egg-freezing cycle across the UK and the EU starts at around €3,000, to which one needs to add the cost of later thawing the eggs for in vitro fertilisation (IVF) – procedures which can reach a total of €10,000 or more.
Apryl assists European businesses – including Soundcloud – in giving employees access to fertility benefits such as egg freezing, adoption, surrogacy and IVF.
“By supporting family-forming and fertility needs at work, employers demonstrate that they recognise people’s family commitments outside of work,” Apryl co-founder Jenny Saft told Euronews Next.
This, she said, can foster a work culture “where seeking fertility treatment, being pregnant and requiring time off of work for family needs won’t impact your career progression – and won’t be met with conscious or unconscious bias”.