Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Children as a financial entity

As a result of the discussion our pollies have been having about paid parental leave, bluemilk put together a very nice post responding to the "why should we have to pay for other people's kids?" type arguments. This resulted in a long and interesting discussion including a comment today from a woman who has decided not to have children because it would jeopardise her financial security. There are a million aspects of US life that contribute to her feeling she has to choose "between my own financial safety and a constant and unending struggle to provide for my family" which I don't feel like ranting about now.

But it made me very sad to think that financial considerations are dictating decisions about having (or not having) children. In my world, where I grew up, children were a financial factor, but ultimately children influenced financial decisions, not the other way around. I know this is a privileged world, but I don't think I have ever really thought about how privileged it is.

The total lack of social support services and public health in the US makes the decision to have a child a genuine financial gamble, not just a drain on the finances. And I know this isn't the case for the whole population, but I doubt it is the odd one or two either.

And so my mind wandered to other ways in which children are the outcome of financial decisions. In China, only rich people get to have more than one child. I always knew about the one baby policy, but I didn't realise what happened if you did have that second baby. At school we were told that tax breaks and social support were taken away. The reality, that heavy fines are imposed, which the wealthy simply pay and carry on, was not divulged. The even worse reality that the only option if you cannot pay the fine is to sell that second child is nothing short of mind boggling. And you don't have to have been naughty and had a second child, if your spouse dies and you can't support your kids, you have to sell one or more of them then too. I still can't get my head around a government that allows the buying and selling of children right now - like not 200 years ago - and not on a black market, but legitimately. Of course this allows for a delightful trade in stolen babies as well (where there is a market, a black market is easy to hide).

And then there are the people for whom the only possibility of ongoing support and survival is to have as many children as possible. Children are an essential resource, rather than financial sink, but I doubt that it helps their quality of life.

I just don't think you've managed anything resembling a fair and equitable society while children are so desperately at the mercy of money. And just don't get me started on the Chinese Olympics....

1 comment:

  1. Where I come from, people here say you should have 2 children - prepare just in case one has an accident and at least one who will look after you in old age and inherit the house. For me, we decided on 2 as we were so old when we started that we couldn´t imagine having teenagers when we were really old and incontinent. But I think that more has to be done on inforcing policies within the workforce as well as changing the policies: It´s all well and good if you work for a large or Government organisation which will have to enforce any policy, but the ones which are mainly affected are those working in lower paid, insecure jobs where the employer puts pressure on them going back too soon.