While supporting families is important, the government's family benefits bill is so poor as to defy common sense. Passing the bill would create more problems instead of solving them, which is why I will be voting against it as a right-winger (belongs to the Parempoolsed party – ed.).
Draft legislation to hike family benefits does not put families with children in a place of honor, instead treating those with at least three children as victims of bad choices who would be helpless otherwise. Whereas all families with many children are treated the same, irrespective of their circumstances or needs.
This manufactures social injustice in that next to large families that do need help, considerable additional sums are paid to wealthy families that require no assistance coping, with less fortunate families with one or two children and single-parent families left at a disadvantage.
Of course, every new child brings additional expenses, including those one might not have been aware of or planned for before. As a father of five, I know well how every new child means a reduction in income per family member.
However, social policy should go toward sending support in the direction of those who really need it, while making sure use of funds is correct, fair and sensible for the taxpayer. That is one principle the new family benefits bill does not observe and is, quite frankly, at odds with it.
For example, we have MPs who are looking at over €1,000 in social benefits on top of their salary. The same goes for top executives, entrepreneurs and millionaires. All are looking at extremely generous benefits irrespective of their salary and financial situation.
Another absurd situation will be created that is best showcased in an example.
Let us presume that a family that has two children aged 19 and 18 gets a third child. After 24 years, the children are 43, 42 and 24 respectively. Now, these middle-aged "children" can be millionaires and the youngest "child" not have to go to school and also earn a decent income.
But their parent(s) will still be paid the large families benefit which they will have been receiving for the last 24 years. Moreover, support sums are indexed to match price advance. While this example family will not get the full benefit, this is largely the scheme that the government is proposing to the Riigikogu in all seriousness. And to really maximize the level of absurdity involved, we will have "families" where a parent will be paid the benefit for their adult "children" who will in turn be paid the benefit for their own children.
Because a society's wealth comes from work done, states need to motivate their residents to earn a salary and make sure going to work nets a person more than relying on benefits. We are now looking to violate that principle.
Social benefits paid to the parents of three children (including 24-year-olds) will exceed what many people make working eight hours a day and five days a week in Estonia and paying taxes to the Estonian state. Many of them are much worse off today than many of those looking at the new benefit.
We must also keep in mind that the benefit is extended to foreigners living in Estonia. Even though the proponents of megabenefits often like to style themselves as nationalists, the risk of creating an immigration pump has been ignored with this law.
Once our child-related social benefits become the most generous in the EU, and in the conditions of free movement, I'm sure more than a few families that have migrated to the EU will consider moving to Estonia. The opportunity of immigration needs to be aimed at people who wish to contribute to Estonia's development through work and who love Estonian culture, as opposed to those who come just for the benefits and without caring for Estonia.
As a father of five, I'm glad to see that the reputation of large families has improved in Estonia. It has been my dream as a member of the Estonian Association of Large Families to have Estonians take pride in having more than the average number of children and for others to listen to them with a hint of positive envy.
The increasingly widespread use of the term "wealth of children" also points to the special prosperity of such families, instead of suggesting they're in need of rescuing. It is also true that I have felt – as have many other representatives of large families – that a family with many children should start at four kids. Having three children should be the measure of an ordinary Estonian family.
Supporting large families is a matter of honor for the state and hopefully increasingly for our NGOs and entrepreneurs. Signs saying "Discounts for large families" should hang in every service enterprise. This allows the entrepreneur to demonstrate their positive disposition and respect where the government should not be seeking to treat citizens differently.
I firmly believe that all benefits paid for by the taxpayer must be necessity-based and fair. That is why I will be voting against the family benefits bill and hope I will not remain the only MP to prioritize my sense of justice over populism.
Editor: Marcus Turovski