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Small Ostrobothnian town wraps up 10,000-euro baby bonus project

Back in 2012, officials in the small town of Lestijärvi in western Finland introduced a 10,000-euro baby bonus after just one new baby was born. Now at the end of the four-year project, officials have concluded that the 400,000 euros pledged for newborns so far hasn’t been an effective tool for stimulating population growth.

Muutaman tunnin ikäinen poika ihokontaktissa äitiinsä. Image: Riikka Pennanen / Yle

The small central Ostrobothnian town of Lestijärvi will be tightening its municipal purse strings after paying out more than 400,000 euros in bonuses for newborn babies. The four-year programme resulted in a total of 41 new residents in the four years since the project was launched in 2013.

In 2012, statistics showed one solitary child born in the municipality. That prompted city officials to take action: they decided that from the beginning of 2013 they would offer a 10,000-euro payment to each local newborn – but the programme would only last for four years.

In the first year, 2013, the municipality offered the windfall to just one family. But 2014 proved to be a record year in the town, as 14 newborns took their first breath in the city.

Lestijärvi population stable at around 800

Over the next two years Lestijärvi welcomed two new residents, and in 2016, the last year for the experiment in incentivising childbearing, townsfolk are looking forward to adding another 10 people to the city census. The most recent data available at the end of March put the population at 804.

However expectant parents didn’t receive the full 10,000-euro payout upon producing proof of procreation – the city hands out the funds over a period of 10 years.

After totting up the figures, city officials have concluded that the baby bonus has not effectively increased the population, which has varied slightly on either side of 800 over the years.