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Australia's Baby Bonus Plan has Increased the Birth Rate

Australia's birth rate has risen since the government sang from the "one for Mum, one for Dad and one for the country" song sheet and began paying out 3,000 Australian// dollars ($2,100) for every new baby born, figures released Monday showed.

But Treasurer Peter Costello wants to hear the pitter-patter of more tiny feet and is urging citizens to "procreate and cherish" in order to reverse the declining fertility rate that is the bane of Australia - and most other rich countries.

"Let's just see if we can stabilise the decline and turn it back up - it would be a great thing for our country," Costello told reporters.

"It's hard to maintain living standards in a country where population is declining."

Australian National University demographer Peter McDonald said figures to be released in November will show that the number of live births per female has risen from the current 1.76 to 1.82. The rate peaked in the 1960s at 3.55.

The baby bonus was introduced in 2004 to halt the decline in the fertility rate.

The bounty, which increased at the start of this month to 4,000 Australian dollars ($3,000), is not means-tested and goes to married and unmarried mothers alike. It is also tax-free.

Australia isn't the first rich country to try and perk up its sagging birth rate.

France was the first European country with a financial incentive to address population decline.

Italy has been followed by Poland, and Russia has put in place incentives to reverse a trend that has seen the population decline by 700,000 a year.

All 25 European Union countries have birth rates below the generally accepted replacement level of 2.1 births per woman.

Twenty percent of Australia's 20 million population is under the age of 15, compared with 19 percent in Britain, 18 per cent in France, 17 percent in Belgium, 16 percent in Germany and 14 percent in Italy.

Costello said the country should not look to immigration to make up the baby deficit. He urged fathers to take a bigger role in looking after their children.

"I think fathers are probably doing better, but I think the mothers of Australia will tell you there's room for improvement," he said.

"Dads can take more responsibility in relation to children and minding them."

(Source: IANS)
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