In 2007, the then prime minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, announced that the government would pay 2,500 euros, the so called ‘baby-cheques’, to parents of newly born or adopted babies. The move was designed to increase the birth rate, but it was not supported by opposition politicians and it was cancelled in 2010 as part of the cutbacks to combat the economic crisis. Now, the measure is to be reintroduced in Malaga province, but it will only apply to new parents who live in the smallest muncipalities. A similar measure was recently introduced in the region of Extremadura.
The children who come into this world in 2014 and whose parents live in places in Malaga province which have fewer than 5,000 inhabitants can benefit from this scheme. The sum will be lower than before: 1,000 euros will be paid by the provincial government , but other conditions also apply. Not only must the children’s parents live in small municipalities, but they must have been on the population register there for at least three years and the payment will only be made to those whose family income is less than 12,000 euros a year.
Apart from the different sum of money involved, this new form of assistance differs from the previous ‘baby-cheques’, because it is not universal and it only applies to births, not adoptions.
According to figures from the National Institute of Statistics (INE) for January 2012 - the latest figure available - 138,079 people live in municipalities with fewer than 5,000 inhabitants; this is 8.5 per cent of the total population of the province. Five villages will just miss out on this measure because their populations are slightly higher: Alameda (5,504 people on the population register), Benahavís (5,980), Casares (5,610), Mollina (5,239) and Villanueva del Trabuco (5,482).
The figures from the INE also show that in 2012 there were 16,667 births in Malaga province, although they do not reveal how many of these new parents lived in the small villages. With respect to family income from earnings, figures from the Technicians Syndicate of the Ministry of Finance and Taxation show that, in Malaga, 46.5 per cent of people who present income tax declarations show earnings of less than 12,000 euros.
As well as helping families who are suffering because of the economic crisis and unemployment, this measure aims at preventing the depopulation of rural villages, as the president of the provincial government, Elías Bendodo, explained at a press conference held recently to detail the social measures which will be carried out from next year’s budget.
The provincial government plans to spend 29.5 million euros on social policies in 2014, which is an increase of five per cent (1.4 million euros) compared with this year.
The new baby-cheques are part of a plan to support families and young people who live in rural areas and need help to pay for transport to attend secondary school or professional training, to train people in languages and IT, to support young people and children with disabilities and to help adolescent mothers.
The support plan for families and young people is one of four social measures drawn up by the provincial government. The other three involve extending the grants programme so that students at Malaga University and the UNED can benefit from work experience in companies (the number of beneficiaries will rise from 50 to 200); grants totalling 270,000 euros to encourage self-employment; and 472,000 euros of European funds will be used to support employment for young people who have no training.