The small right wing TMRO party, part of the Macedonian government, has retreated from its idea of taxing unmarried people as a way of boosting birth rate.In a written statement issued on Monday the head of TMRO, Vanco Sehtanski, withdrew the proposal and apologised to “all concerned”.
“The idea for bachelor tax has been badly received by the public,” wrote Sehtanski.
A day earlier, Sehtanski insisted that the country should introduce an annual tax in the amount of one average monthly salary for unmarried males above 35 years of age and for females above 30.
All main political parties, as well as many local NGOs strongly criticised the idea.
On the social media sites some users described the proposal as “barbaric” and a “Taliban concoction”.
The main ruling centre right VMRO DPMNE party of Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski on Monday briefed media that the proposal “will not be accepted”.
The idea coincides with a recent speech by Gruevski who, at the end of October, said that the country was facing demographic crisis that poses a greater existential threat than the global economic crisis.
Following the Prime Minister’s speech, Social Affairs Minister, Spiro Ristovski, announced a new set of measures to combat falling birth rate including “activities in the education system, migration and infrastructure policies, economic development and the fight against poverty and social exclusion”.
According to Gruevski, the current fertility rate in Macedonia is 1.4 children per mother, far below the minimum of 2.1 needed to maintain the population.
He also noted that only 22,000 children were born in 2011, as opposed to 40,000 in 1980, a drop of almost 50 per cent.
Gruevski said the population was also rapidly aging, with a ratio of employed people to pensioners of 1.7 to 1, as opposed to almost 5 to 1 in 1980.
In 2009, the Gruevski government launched an attempt to boost population growth by paying cash bonuses to mothers with more than one child.
In April that year the court scrapped that provision on the grounds that it was discriminatory because it envisaged state help only for mothers living in mainly ethnic Macedonian areas with a low average birth rate.
Meanwhile, a coalition of local NGOs dubbed “Coalition for Life” announced on Sunday that it organises a march in Skopje on October 18, aimed at “raising awareness amongst the youth about the importance of marriage and child birth”.