“A preoccupation with the slow rate of population growth induced the Soviet Union to impose a tax on childless citizens on this day in 1941. The tax was originally titled the tax on ‘””bachelors, single people and small families,”” and was later re-titled as a tax on “”bachelors, single people, and childless citizens of the USSR.””
Childless men between the age of 20 and 50 were liable to a 6 percent tax on their income, as were childless married women aged between 20 and 45. Citizens who were paid less than 91 rubles a month were eligible for a reduced rate of taxation, and those who were paid less than 70 rubles avoided the tax altogether.
A number of different groups were exempt from the tax, including those physically unable to bear children, those whose offspring had been killed in the Great Patriotic War (the Russian name for World War II), as well as students up to the age of 25 and decorated war veterans. As with many of the less popular obligations imposed by the state, those with the right connections or finances were able to circumvent the policy. It was often cheaper to bribe a physician into certifying your infertility, than it was to honour the levee.
Tax demands were lifted once a citizen either had their own or adopted a child, but, somewhat controversially, the tax was re-introduced if the child should die. The overall effects of the policy are not clear, but demographic statistics show that the population grew steadily, if slowly, throughout most of the Soviet era. However, other factors, such as increased life expectancy, have to be taken into consideration.
The Soviet Union was not alone in introducing measures designed to control demographic trends. The most high-profile measure was arguably that introduced in China, the controversial One-Child Policy. In an effort to reduce the exploding birthrate, the Chinese premier Hua Guofeng introduced the policy in 1978, limiting families to one child each. It is credited with slowing the growth rate drastically, with an estimated 400 million births avoided since its inception. The measure is not without its critics, who argue that it represents an infringement on human rights, has led to an increase in infanticide, and is partially responsible for the alarming imbalance between China’s male and female population.
In other countries, while direct taxes on childlessness have not been imposed, other measures have been implemented to encourage population growth. These include tax breaks for those with children, as well as other incentives, such as increased access to housing and social services.
The Soviet Childlessness tax remained in place until the collapse of the Soviet system, although the amount demanded from the state was gradually reduced over the years. The prospect of a reemergence of the policy was mooted in 2006, when a number of politicians called for the reintroduction of the policy. But despite the fact that the Russian population has been falling since the early 1990s, the proposal was largely condemned and the tax has not been reinstated.”