Family Support Policy – EU Member States and Georgia

News | Research | Good Governance | Publications | Analysis 22 February 2016

According to UN surveys and the preliminary results of the census conducted in Georgia on November 4-19, 2014, the Georgian population stands at 3,729,635 people, which is 14.7% lower than the results of the 2002 census - 4,371,535 people. Despite a somewhat positive birth rate in recent years, demography experts expect a sharp decline in the near future. This prediction is supported by the fact that the generation born in the 90s, a period in Georgia with an extremely low birth rate, is expected to reach reproductive age in 2017-2018. It is therefore important that the Georgian government develop appropriate policies for tackling demographic problems and improving the situation.


This study aims to analyze the family support policies developed by EU member states and specific measures employed by these countries to solve demographic problems. The study will examine the Georgian legislation and the state policy on family support, as well as the large family assistance programs used by local governments. Finally, the study will present recommendations on developing the family support policy and strategy in Georgia based on best European practice.


The study considers two main areas of the family support policy - financial assistance and a labor environment conducive to work family balance. Financial assistance includes the following measures: financial assistance to families, birth grants, childcare allowance, and tax benefits. The study presents the analysis of all financial assistance measures employed by EU member states and the evaluation of financial assistance programs used in Georgia. The study compares the duration of and financial assistance during maternity leaves in Georgia to EU standards.


The study also examines the social benefits and financial assistance provided to large families by local governments. Our research shows that the regions in Georgia use very different standards of supporting large families. In 2015, a number of municipalities (for example: Dmanisi, Sagarejo, Kareli, Chiatura, Terjola, Baghdati, Tianeti, Mtskheta, and Gardabani) did not run any programs dedicated to supporting large families. Unlike the leading EU states, Georgian state programs tackling demographic problems do not employ birth grants. This type of assistance is only found in a few local government programs.


Based on the analysis of family support policies employed by EU member states, IDFI presents the following recommendations for improving the Georgian demographic situation:


1) The Georgian government should approve a new state program aimed at improving the demographic situation, which will include the following components of family/child support:

  • The state program of family/child financial assistance should be modified into a complex assistance program, which, in addition to financial assistance, will also include other family support measures (benefits on taxes and utilities, improved health insurance package, co-funding of child healthcare expenses, etc.).
  • The state program of family/child financial assistance should be modified to focus on low and middle income families and cover the entire country. This will ensure that the limited resources allocated for the program are spent most effectively, increase the amount of financial assistance to individual recipients, and better answer the needs of children. The government should also try to increase program funding through promoting the culture of corporate social responsibility, developing new mechanisms of public-private partnership, setting up a social responsibility fund, so that willing companies have the ability to contribute to improving the country’s demographic situation.
  • The state program of family/child financial assistance should cover the entire country, even those regions that had a positive average birth rate over the previous 3 years. Based on our analysis of the data gathered by the National Statistics Office, such an expansion of the program would cost a total of GEL 38 million annually. The program would cost an additional GEL 10 million with the introduction of birth grants on the 3rd and each subsequent child (3rd child – GEL 800, 4th child – GEL 1,000, 5th and subsequent children – GEL 1,500). These calculations assume that the program will cover all Georgian citizens. If the program includes only low and middle-income families, its budget will be reduced accordingly.
  • Families should be qualified to receive the family/child financial assistance with the birth of their first child, and the amount of assistance should increase with the birth of every subsequent child. In addition, the period of assistance should be extended to cover the period until the child's adult age.
  • The state program should provide single parents or families raising children with special needs with additional financial assistance guarantees.

 

2) Local governments should coordinate their policies for supporting families/children with the state program. More specifically:

  • Local governments should provide the kind of financial assistance that is not already covered by the state program.
  • Local governments should mobilize their financial resources under a unified standard, so that families of similar needs in different regions receive the same level of assistance.
  • Local governments should provide large families with social benefits on utilities, municipal transportation, and other public services connected with childcare

 

3) The Ministry of Finance should develop a draft law on introducing tax benefits for large families in accordance with EU standards.


4) The Ministry of Labor, Health and Social Affairs should modify the universal healthcare program to provide better conditions and health insurance guarantees for large families.


5) The Labor Code should be amended to set the state financial assistance during maternity leave (due to pregnancy, childbirth and childcare, as well as adoption of a newborn) at 100% of the previous month’s salary, and cancel the current upper limit of GEL 1,000.


We believe that the Georgian government should start taking the necessary measures for implementing the above recommendations, and reflect them in a strategic document. These recommendations can be implemented gradually through a several year-long plan, in order to maintain the achievements already made, and reduce the risks of the expected worsening of the demographic situation starting 2017.


The full report can be found by clicking the following link: Family Support Policy – Georgia and the EU Member States.

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