Monday, June 25, 2007
MAKING BABIES OR MAKING MOTHERS
I cut this article from my weekly email from NB Women’s News. I often disagree with them, it is a 50/50 thing...but this was very interesting!
… Although child rearing is a job, which, if done properly, benefits the family and the nation, the bulk of the responsibility for undertaking it sits on a mother's shoulders. Even as we bemoan our plummeting birth rate … everything is designed to force women to choose between work and kids - and to penalize them if they choose kids. These days, it's not just a matter of a woman wanting children; it's a matter of wanting them at the expense of everything else she's worked for. To date, women have tried to cope with this impossible framework by (having) everything at once. But younger women are … focusing in their 20s on career and deferring family until well into their 30s (when) they'll have enough cash and job-related goodwill socked away to "opt out" of work for a few years. (But) a highly educated woman is less likely to take that route once she hits her 30s …
Faced with a … crisis in which the suppliers (women) have the capacity to meet demand (for babies) but are opting not to … about every country in the developed world has implemented some policy or incentives. … The most successful policies have one thing in common: they don't try to pay women to procreate. Rather, they facilitate the careers of mothers: the more value a society places on women's work inside and outside of the home, the more likely she is to want to contribute meaningfully in both spheres. Take some of the load off of her shoulders so that children become everybody's responsibility. Who would have thought that the most economically sound solution to a fertility crisis would be rooted in good old-fashioned feminism?
The most promising recent case study is that of France, where the government has successfully sparked a baby boom by implementing a series of generous incentives for parents. The more children a couple has, the more money they keep in their pockets; a monthly $400 allowance is bumped up when the child reaches 11; a state-run crèche system where parents can leave toddlers at a moment's notice. Families with 3 or more kids are eligible for zero income tax, subsidized rent and transportation, parental leaves can extend for years. In 2 years, France's fertility rate has gone from 1.8 to 2. Almost 80% of French women work. France is on track to become Europe's most powerful economy by 2035. …
The countries that have the worst work-life policies have falling fertility rates. The countries that are doing reasonably well have an attitude that it takes a community to raise a child. Our model in North America is, ‘You decided to have a child … don't expect us to help you.' But we extol family values …' The one exception is Québec …that has been trying to boost its population with progressive policies ($7/day child care, non-taxable child benefit, expanded employment insurance).
- Making moms, Lianne George, Macleans, 28 May 2007