Throughout the ages, reproduction has been one of the most important functions in life. Nature has taken a hand in the reproduction process, and species that are small and live in a dangerous environment, such as flies or mice, reproduce in large amounts. A female fly, for example, or certain fish lay hundreds of eggs at a time because only a small amount will survive. In contrast, humans or an elephants, which live in a more sheltered environment, reproduce more slowly and in much smaller numbers. Governments encourage reproduction because demographic numbers can be translated into power – political, military and economic. Some scholars believe that the decline of France during the first half of the 20th century was caused by a falling birth rate.The falling birth rate in Europe is causing long-term problems because countries such as France and Germany have to import foreign labor due to the lack of manpower. At these times, many European countries are promoting population growth by granting generous financial benefits.Israel is also encouraging the reproduction process. A high birth rate makes economic sense in the long term. A low birth rate means an aging population, a larger percentage of elderly people in the total population. That means fewer people are productive and more are on pension. In practical terms, pensions at any period of time are paid for by the contributions of the working population, whose size in the long term is determined by the birth rate.In Israel, the government is well aware of the economic importance of the birth rate because of its geopolitical situation. A large population has political and military importance. So what is the State of Israel doing to encourage its citizens to have children?Governmental financial aid is provided through the National Insurance Institution (NII), better known in Hebrew as Bituah Leumi. The NII helps finance the cost of bringing a child into the world, as well as the cost of raising the child.Etty Nimrodi, head of the Maternity Department at the NII, says, “When a working woman gives birth, she is entitled to a maternity allowance to compensate for the loss of salary during the time when she has to care for her newborn. The maximum maternity allowance is for 14 weeks, or 98 days.” To be entitled to a maternity allowance, a woman must have worked for at least 10 months in the 14 months before giving birth and must have made contributions to the NII. If the mother worked for only six months, she is entitled to half the maternity allowance.Self-employed women are also entitled to a maternity allowance, provided they have made payments to the NII on the same order as an employed woman. To be eligible, one must be a salaried employee or a self-employed woman who is working in Israel and is making regular payments to the NII. This includes women who are not Israeli citizens. An Israeli woman working outside of Israel can benefit, provided that she and her employer are Israeli residents and the employment contract was signed in Israel.Women who are taking vocational training are also entitled to a maternity allowance. They must be at least 18 years old and take vocational training at a school or institution certified for that purpose. The course must include a weekly syllabus of at least 35 hours.The NII also give an allowance to a pregnant working woman who has been ordered by a doctor to stay home and have bed rest.The NII also pays for maternity leave if the working woman gives birth to twins, triplets or more. It is based on 21 additional days for each additional child. For example, 21 extra days for twins; 42 for triplets; 63 for quadruplets; and 84 for quintuplets.