NOTE: Population Matters has previously spoken in support of limiting child benefit and tax credits to the first two children ( with safeguards in place to prevent hardship) as a mechanism for encouraging smaller family size. Our current policy is to advocate for a more comprehensive sustainable population strategy, rather than specific policy positions in isolation, and we do not currently advocate for those policies.

13 April 2018

Immediate use

Population Matters statement on limiting child tax credits to the first two children

Issued in response to call by religious leaders to end tax credits limit, April 2018.

“No policy which tips children into poverty can be defended – but nor should the notion of a limit on state support for larger families be condemned on principle. Larger families come at a price. A child born in the UK will contribute sixty-five times more to global warming than one in Niger. And they will be born into what the UK’s leading conservation bodies describe in the 2016 State of Nature report as, “among the most nature depleted countries in the world”. The rate at which we consume resources in the UK is already three times greater than the planet can provide – if everyone sought to live like us.

“Children bring great joy to us as individual families, but as parents we have a responsibility to consider the impact of large families on our wider society – for the future of those children themselves. That requires a more nuanced analysis than blanket statements from religious leaders about children being, “a public good”.

“Many people from all backgrounds, religions and cultures are choosing to have smaller families – despite the lack of leadership and ecological literacy of some religious bodies. There is no point in the latter expressing concern for the environment whilst not addressing the fact that population growth underlies our current crisis – as a growing consensus of scientists confirms.

“The UK needs an integrated, evidence-based, population strategy to bring our population to a level consistent with everyone’s good and in balance with our planet’s ecosystems. Promoting and incentivising smaller families forms part of that strategy. But not by penalising the poor – indeed, recent evidence shows that the most affluent, with the greatest ecological footprints, are having larger families.

“Choosing to have smaller families brings proven public good, and it is right that government should promote that positive, public-spirited choice. But as part of an evidence-based broader strategy, that includes considering how the tax and benefits system can incentivise smaller families without harming the wellbeing of children now or in the future. The current policy does not appear to be framed with those broader objectives, does not appear to have been evaluated for its effectiveness in achieving that goal and as implemented, the risks it poses regarding child poverty cannot be ignored. The government should make a more thorough evaluation of all its potential consequences.

“Nevertheless, with our population projected to reach 73 million over the next 25 years – 25% more than it was 25 years ago – a comprehensive, fair and effective policy framework is urgently needed.”



Alistair Currie, Head of Campaigns and Communications


T: +44 (0)208 123 9170


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