Sunday, August 19, 2007

Parenting Paybacks!

Parents have to have help to have children

In 2003, with a mandate to initiate the Global Outreach Programme at our B-school, Prof. A.Sandeep and I visited the Ivy League Schools in US. During the course of proceedings in a meeting with one of the senior faculty members in one of the most recognised B-schools, she informed us that she is on her family way and was expecting her first child. In fact, gauging her age (which by our calculations would have been around 40), we could not hide our collective surprise. It became so evident that she went on to clarify as to why in the US couples on an average, decide to go the family way, so late in life. She went on to explain that couples generally tend to settle down with their careers first, even before thinking on those lines, as according to her, bringing up a child in the US costs anywhere between USD 2 to 3 million!

Well, that is the case with US. But the economic pressures behind child-raising have become a global phenomenon. Way back in 2002, bringing up a child in London could set the parent back by £300,000. In fact, a similar phenomenon is also being observed in Western Europe, so much so that population growth has been negative in some parts of Europe. Even after living in economies that boasts of superlative human development indicators, the Americans and Europeans are deciding to settle down late in their life, with the coincident demographic distortions. No wonder then, that the scenario is even worse in all economies that score low on the human development indices.

Back home, owing to lack of education and other related incapabilities, there was no appreciation of how much it costs to raise a child, on the part of parents. Financial planning at family unit level is completely nonexistent and the unprecedented economic pressure is resulting in blatant killing of foetuses.

And it is no hidden truth that the foetuses which do not get to see the light are mostly those of girls as for most of poor Indians the economic pressures of bringing up a girl child and getting her married are exorbitant. It is these ill-omened economic pressures that have made poor parents kill a staggering 10 million girls in the womb, in the last couple of decades! Though all this while the male child has a better chance of survival, for his expenses are considered an economic investment: once grown up, would ease the parents from the economic pressures. Even that phenomenon seems to be changing. Recently it has been reported that in Orissa, of the 137 foetuses unearthed by the Nayagarh district authorities, some were males.

While foeticide has been happening for the last so many decades, the state still fails to address the innate structural problems looming at large: the failure to provide free education and public health services. If one were to budget the child’s expenses, a substantial amount is allocated under the heads of education and health costs. So if the state can mitigate the costs by creating more conducive factors like provisioning of free education and public health infrastructure, and thereby reduce the child raising costs, some more foetuses can see the light of the day.


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