However, research has repeatedly demonstrated that the contributions of cash incentives (in the form of the Baby Bonus) and the previous PPL scheme to Australia's fertility rate have been relatively insignificant (you can find that research here, here and here). Cumulatively, the research shows that the costs of implementing these policies is exorbitant and their effectiveness in driving population growth is low. After all, they fail to adequately address the long term costs associated with bearing and rearing children.
In addition to these shortcomings, I maintain that there is an additional, equally important factor missing from the debate regarding the efficacy of these policies--intended family size. No one has asked "how many children do people intend to have?".
Using data from the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey, I question how many children Tasmanians' want--and importantly--whether or not they are having them. The HILDA survey questions individuals on how many children they intend to have, as well as the numbers of children they have already born--this allows for the creation of measures of 'intended family size' (children born + additional children intended).
My findings are surprising and question the efficacy of Abbott's PPL scheme increasing fertility in Tasmania (where we already have the nation's highest fertility rate at 2.17 births per woman).
As shown below, in 2011, on average, the current family size (children already born) of Tasmanian men and women actually exceeded the numbers of children Tasmanians reported they intended to have (intended family size). Put simply, Tasmanians are already achieving (and exceeding) the family sizes they intend. This is a unique position for Tasmania. The 'gap' between intended and actual family size is well documented throughout Australia, however, no where else are Australians achieving their childbearing goals in the same way as they are in Tasmania.
Given this context, it is unlikely that the current PPL scheme will entice Tasmanian women (and their partners) to increase their family sizes.
This is not to say, however, that the PPL scheme should be abandoned. Until the previous Labour Government's introduction of a federally funded PPL scheme, Australia was only one of two countries (out of 34--the United States is the other) in the Organisation of Co-operation and Economic Development (OECD) that did not offer its' citizens paid parental leave.
Under Abbott's new scheme, Australia will be brought into line with the vast majority of other OECD countries that pay parental leave at replacement level wages.
Policies that support Australians in having children, and (initially) alleviate some of the financial burden associated with bearing and rearing them are of national importance, and in the country's best interests. However, in order to affect the birth rate, effective policies that address the long term costs--both opportunity and financial--of having more children are required.