Estonian Minister of Social Protection Riisalo (Reform) sent a draft law for approval on Tuesday, which will reduce monthly allowances for large families by €200. The draft will also see an end to both the indexation of allowances and the gradual exit from the family benefits system.
According to Riisalo, despite the planned changes, families with three to six children will still receive €150 a month more in allowances than they did in 2022. For families with seven or more children the monthly amount received will also be higher than last year, by €250 according to the Ministry of Social Affairs.
“The support measures for families with children have triggered a broad debate in society about who should be supported by the state and how much. The sense of fairness for parents with one or two children has also been undermined. It is important to remember that benefits alone will not increase the birth rate. We must aim to create a family and child-friendly environment more broadly and provide people with quality needs-based services.” said Riisalo.
The measures to reduce support for families with children, along with ending indexation and the gradual exit from the benefits system is expected to save €5.1 million from the state budget this year and €151.8 million by 2027.
Letter to the Prime Minister by the President of the Estonian Large Families Association
Dear Prime Minister of Estonia, Kaja Kallas
We will always remember last week’s Saturday, because that’s when you announced the agreement with the coalition partners who will soon form the government, the content of which is, to say the least, startling. Your voters could not have foreseen such a large-scale tax increase and the taking away of what was already promised to the people. Demographer Professor Ene-Margit Tiit has said that the best family policy is one that should not reduce anything, but add more.
2022 was a very exciting year for families with children – it was the year of family benefits. The debate surrounding family benefits divided the country quite extensively. However, there was a debate about how long children should be supported, to what extent it should be done, and how unequal it is for parents raising one and two children.
It was a year when many families, as well as politicians, came as a surprise that there is a provision in the Constitution that families with children are under the special care of the state. Yes, several successive crises had left a deep mark on the ability of families with children to cope, as well as on the birth rate of children. Families with children, demographers and people who care about the Estonian nation were worried. We swallowed a lot of messages insulting mothers, from the country’s top politicians and public opinion makers: from buying children, stuffing money into women, to the fact that a modern educated and responsible woman does not give birth to children anymore, and for a woman who stays out of the labor market for seven years, higher education is free waste of public money. You remember all this, it was still there?
We endured all these painful insults in silence. When the decision was made, we received a message: an Estonian woman can consider our own country in addition to herself and her husband when planning a family. The Estonian state is waiting for children and provides long-term material support to families with children. It means a sense of security for moments when the family is having a hard time. At least you can get food on the table, at least you won’t lose your home.
Yes, just three months ago you promised us, perhaps families with many children, that you would support us and that you could rely on your country. In reality, however, you have given families a clear signal that the state can never be trusted, no decision is guaranteed to be followed. During the proceedings of the law, which was adopted three months ago with one dissenting vote, it was confirmed that the money had been found and that it could not be returned. The same prime minister, the same minister of social protection.
In the new coalition agreement, families with children earning an average salary will be hit the hardest. And this at a time when we are ravaged by the highest inflation ever, including rising food prices, consumer goods, energy prices and housing loans. After all, you are also planning to increase the VAT, which will make the food basket at least 10 percent more expensive in addition to prices that are already beyond the means of many of our families. At the same time, you raise income taxes, which lowers the monthly income of families. Eliminating the promised tax hump is only illusory, because in reality a person earning a monthly salary of up to 1,300 euros does not gain anything from it. Car and home land tax are added. In addition, you will take away families’ additional tax benefits for both children and housing loan interest, which today add hundreds of euros to the family budget every month. For families, they are an opportunity to offer children a decent growing environment, enable interest education and participation in class excursions. We cannot enumerate everything in which life has to be cut short under the baton of the new government. In lovely little Estonia, there are not many opportunities left for families with children to feel human.
Did you know that half of the children in our country today come from families with a lot of children, despite the fact that there are only a scant fifteen percent of these families in the country? What does it mean? That in a couple of decades, our country will be held up by a child born from a large family, who should have an all-round legitimate expectation of being supported by his country at a time when he himself needs it the most. Taking away support from families and children and robbing them of confidence in the future is completely unacceptable and despicable.
It is embarrassing to mention it here, but please do not forget that the country can only exist with the help of taxpayers. However, today’s families with children bring us taxpayers. The family you want to bring uncertainty, disappointment and poverty into. A life with fewer opportunities awaits him.
We do not stand with our hands in front of us and expect sympathy from the state, not even free public transport or free kindergarten places. We are just waiting for a feeling of security for tomorrow. In the current situation, this is exactly what has shaken, because the promise made three months ago has been broken. It was broken by our own country, which we are ready to support and whose leaders we have voted into the government. But certainly not with such a task.
As an explanation, you have said that the state cannot fulfill its obligations and that you will put the state’s finances in order. Really? So do you accept the responsibility that, as the head of the government, you have made decisions harmful to the country as a conscious choice? The claims that there is a big deficit in the budget and that it can be patched up at the expense of families with children seem all the more implausible that since April 1, your own salary increased by a full 14 percent, or from 7,303 euros to 8,318 euros. This means that you receive more than 1,000 euros more in professional salary every month, but you want to take an additional 200 euros a month from a family with children, whose net income is on average 1,500 euros per month according to the Statistics Office. You earn as much in a few months as a household with children makes in a whole year. Your salary depends on the index of the Ministry of Finance, but you consider the indexation of allowances for families with children too burdensome for the state. What do you say to Estonian big families without words?
You claim that there is a provision in the constitution that taxes cannot be put to a referendum. However, there are also provisions that talk about the special state care of a family with children, the inadmissibility of the arbitrariness of the state power, and also about how the family as a whole is under the protection of the state as the foundation of the nation’s survival and growth and society.
Dear Prime Minister, as of today, there are 259,338 children living in Estonia, all of whom, together with their families, still believe that they can rely on you as the head of the government. You are the woman who has publicly promised to keep us in your safe hands. An Estonian family rich in children does not feel that way today.
Do not let our children down, because mistakes made at the expense of family confidence are irreversible, and trust once lost can never be regained. You can only lose trust once.
On behalf of Estonian families with children,
Aage Õunap, President of the Estonian Association of Large Families