Support 110 years of independent journalism.

  1. Quickfire
11 October 2022

Cutting taxes for women who have more children is farcical

Women contribute more to the economy than babies.

By Alona Ferber

If you were thirsting for more signs that we are edging towards dystopia, the Sun on Sunday was there to prove it this weekend. In an exclusive report – tastefully sub-titled “Bonk for Britain” – a cabinet minister told the paper that to shore up the British economy, the government ought to take inspiration from Viktor Orbán, the right-wing nationalist prime minister of Hungary.   

“Look at the labour shortages we are suffering from,” the anonymous “Top Tory” told the Sun. “We need to have more children. The rate keeps falling. Look at Hungary – they cut taxes for mothers who have more children.”  

The paper drooled that the “wacky policy already exists in Hungary”, as if this were a piece of salacious gossip. The measure in question was announced by Orbán in 2019 to boost the country’s birth rate and cut immigration. His “Family Protection Action Plan” included a lifelong income tax waiver for women who have four or more children.

The Sun article raises many questions. Who, for example, is this mysterious cabinet member? What about some context on the Hungarian government’s anti-immigrant and anti-democratic ways? But at the very least it gives us a solid example of how women’s bodies can be pawns in political projects.

Hungary is not the first country to try to encourage women to get pregnant in the service of the nation. Women’s bodies are often treated like public property, as the site of repression or a way to salve wounded national identity. Right now, Iran is on fire with protests following the death of Mahsa Amini, 22, in police custody after she was arrested for “violating laws” related to wearing the hijab. In the US this year Supreme Court justices overturned the decision in Roe vs Wade that had guaranteed the right to abortion across the country since 1973. In both cases it is women’s bodies that have been in the line of fire.

Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday - from the New Statesman. Sign up directly at The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. Sign up directly at Stay up to date with NS events, subscription offers & updates. Weekly analysis of the shift to a new economy from the New Statesman's Spotlight on Policy team.
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.

And in the seemingly flippant suggestion by this unknown member of Liz Truss’s cabinet, women’s bodies are on the table as we search for solutions to our economic woes. There is something chilling about seeing the precious human ability to create life tossed around in the service of fixing, say, labour shortages. This is particularly acute, of course, for women, especially those who have had children and know exactly what is involved, blood and guts and all.   

Wouldn’t it be better if, instead of ruminating about whether women couldn’t just rustle up some more babies for the economy, cabinet members came up with more novel solutions? Women’s contribution to national productivity might be better harnessed by proper childcare provision, the development of a care economy, or the redistribution of unpaid labour.   

Content from our partners
Planetary perspectives: how data can transform disaster response and preparation
How measurement can help turn businesses’ sustainability goals into action
How UK ports are unlocking green growth

And ultimately, that a cabinet member is looking to Orbán, who erected a fence to keep immigrants out, for inspiration should concern us all. Let’s hope they start looking elsewhere for ideas.

[See also: How John Cleese became a hero of the right]

Topics in this article : , ,