We understand how the program of financial support for maternity (family) capital works in Belarus and what conditions negatively affect the birth rate in the country; we know with BEROC, an independent economic research center in Belarus, expert Katerina Bornukova.
Maternity or family capital is a state program of financial support for large families with three children, which has been in effect in Belarus since 2015 and is about 10 thousand dollars in equivalent. Families can use this assistance with the birth of a third child at age 18. The support has increased to Br30,336 in Belarus since 2023 and Br4,341 more than last year. The program has been in effect since 2015, but only since 2020 was there an opportunity to use the maternity capital before the 18th birthday of the third child.
Families can spend this capital on urgent medical needs, education, and improving living conditions. According to the expert, this is a limited list of conditions under which you can get this money early; otherwise, you must wait until 18.
How does this affect the birth rate?
According to the expert, the conditions were even stricter when this monetary aid was introduced in 2015. It was only possible to use it for medical needs, but to do this; doctors had to say that it was necessary. The poor availability of the maternity capital did not affect the birth rate. There are no good studies on Belarus, but there are studies on Russia.
“This maternity capital had the effect of just shifting the birth rate a little earlier in Russia. A woman, for example, was going to give birth in a few years potentially but gave birth a year earlier. As a result, after introducing this measure, there was a temporary surge in the birth rate of third children, and it seemed that this measure works”, says the expert.
Katerina Bornukova emphasizes that in Russia, maternity capital was immediately more accessible, which was not the case in Belarus. For example, it was possible to pay off part of the mortgage from this amount, which is essential for young families with many children.
Nevertheless, we reported that the birth rate of the third child increased in the first year after introducing this measure. It is quite surprising because it’s hard to imagine that the decision to have a baby is influenced by the amount of money, which, although solid by Belarusian standards, will only be paid in 18 years and is, in fact, unaffordable.
The number of third children born increased.
The number of third children born in Belarus increased in 2015 because there were more potential mothers in the demographic structure, Katerina points out. These children would have appeared anyway, even though the government introduced this mechanism precisely that year. Because the number of women aged 30 to 40, when usually the third child is born, peaked in number.
Impact of the maternity capital on fertility
When the maternity capital was allowed to be used early, there was no increase in the birth rate, only a drop.
“We see a drop in the birth rate because it’s all superimposed on the crisis years, starting in 2020 – COVID, then the event of 2020, now the war. This is not conducive to fertility growth”, says the economist.
The demographic decline in the current circumstances is natural because the economic crisis and war are much stronger than any material incentives.
According to the economist, there was a big question when the government introduced this program, what is this money for, and what needs it close financially, which would eventually lead to an increase in the birth rate. The allowance for up to three years of age partially replaces the mother’s lost income because she is on maternity leave and takes care of the child. There is an understandable mechanism of work. The maternity capital mechanism is extraordinary, both in the amount itself and the term of its payment. It needs to be clarified how technically it should work and encourage people to have a third child or solve some social problem.
“In Belarus, the problem does not have a third child; the problem we have is having a second child. Most families who do not have problems with the physical ability to give birth have at least one child, and the second one is not the majority at all”, says Katerina Bornukova.
The expert emphasizes that the first child is seen as socially necessary because of the culture and public opinion, so many people have their first child. “Now, a standard family in Belarus is two parents and one child, not even two. Belarus is now facing the problem of encouraging the birth of a second child.
Why is this allowance being spent now?
Katerina Bornukova thinks it is normal when large families need money. They think about how to cover their current needs. As soon as access to the maternity capital was made easier, the number of families who started using it immediately increased.
Now they allow people to use the capital for construction, which is a step forward from what it was. First of all, it is another incentive for those same large families who already have a lot of support in preferential construction. Secondly, in the same construction, you have to somehow live with two children in this apartment, then give birth to a third, only then get some of the money and repay at the expense of this bonus. Of course, the bonus is nice, but it is hardly decisive.