Do it for the kids!

For­eign­ers from dif­fer­ent coun­tries talk about how many chil­dren they would like to have

Global Times – Metro Beijing - - FRONT PAGE - By Wang Han

The Duke and Duchess of Cam­bridge an­nounced their third child re­cently, which raised a dis­cus­sion about child­birth in the UK. Ac­cord­ing to a CNN re­port in April 2018, due to ris­ing costs, Bri­tish women av­er­agely tend to have 1.8 chil­dren each, while in the 1960s most had three chil­dren on aver­age.

The trend of hav­ing less kids is not lim­ited to the UK. In re­cent years, China’s birth rate has also wit­nessed a sim­i­lar de­cline.

China’s new­born pop­u­la­tion in 2017 was down by 630,000 from 2016. The ma­jor rea­sons are ris­ing cost of rais­ing chil­dren, a lack of child­care ser­vices and pres­sure in the work­place, news por­tal zjol.com.cn re­ported in Jan­uary 2018.

To glean in­sight into how many chil­dren peo­ple world­wide are will­ing to have, the Global Times re­cently in­ter­viewed a num­ber of for­eign­ers in Shang­hai from dif­fer­ent cul­tural back­ground.

Ju­liana and Mariana, both in their 20s, are Brazil­ian trav­el­ers in Shang­hai. Nei­ther have chil­dren. Ju­liana said she might have one child, while Mariana said maybe two.

Anne from Ger­many has two chil­dren and she plans to have an­other in the next few years. “Nearly six years ago, when I was 31, I had my first baby. I al­ways want to have a baby, and six years ago there was a time for me,” she told the Global Times.

Like­wise, Bruno from Spain said he may only have one child in the fu­ture. An­other Ger­man in­ter­vie­wee, Leon, said he plans to have one or two.

How­ever, some in­ter­vie­wees have no will­ing­ness to bring chil­dren into this world. For in­stance, Brazil­ian Ma­yara told the Global Times that she does not ever want to have a baby. Sim­i­larly, Ital­ian Antimo said he does not know whether he will have one.

When asked about how many chil­dren peo­ple in their coun­tries gen­er­ally have, most in­ter­vie­wees said one or two. Ma­yara, for in­stance, said to­day’s Brazil­ians nor­mally have one or two chil­dren, but the ex­act num­ber de­pends on a cou­ple’s so­cial class and fi­nan­cial ca­pac­ity.

Ju­liana and Mariana added that the cost of rais­ing a kid is in­creas­ing, so most Brazil­ians only have one or two chil­dren, while in the past they tended to have around four or five.

Mariana also pointed out that a grow­ing num­ber of Brazil­ian women tend to re­ceive higher ed­u­ca­tion and fin­ish school­ing at an older age, so many do not give birth to their first baby un­til around 30.

Sim­i­larly, Bruno and Leon pointed out that most cou­ples in their re­spec­tive coun­tries nor­mally have fewer chil­dren than in pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tions.

“Be­fore, peo­ple liked to have five or even six. But the num­ber is de­creas­ing,” Bruno said.

Leon said that in Ger­many there are peo­ple who de­cided not to have any chil­dren and oth­ers who want to have a lot. “But the num­ber of peo­ple who want a lot of chil­dren is de­creas­ing,” Leon said.

Antimo told the Global Times that most Ital­ian cou­ples tend to have less than two chil­dren. “I think it is 1.5, but def­i­nitely less than two,” he added.

Fac­tors that mat­ter

What are the ma­jor fac­tors for­eign­ers con­sider when de­cid­ing the num­ber of chil­dren to have? Most in­ter­vie­wees said fi­nan­cial con­di­tion is the big­gest vari­able.

Anne, for in­stance, thinks fam­ily and fi­nan­cial sit­u­a­tion are the two key fac­tors to con­sider when de­cid­ing the num­ber of chil­dren to have.

“My par­ents and also my boyfriend’s par­ents are not liv­ing in our city. This some­times is a lit­tle bit dif­fi­cult,” Anne said. “But maybe if we moved to my par­ents’ city, then we will con­sider a third baby.”

As for Antimo, he said he can­not think of any fac­tor that would af­fect his de­ci­sion. “But I think for most peo­ple it might be fi­nan­cial rea­sons and also time,” he said, adding the abil­ity to pro­vide time, en­ergy and re­sources to chil­dren are things to con­sider.

“I think tak­ing care of a kid to­day re­ally re­quires a lot of ef­fort. Most peo­ple who work to­day find it not easy to give nec­es­sary care to their kids. So it might ac­tu­ally im­pact the num­ber of kids they want to have,” Antimo told the Global Times.

As for Ju­liana, money is the most de­ci­sive fac­tor. “We [Brazil­ians] need to pay for school and stuff that is free in other coun­tries,” she said, adding that se­cu­rity also must be con­sid­ered.

Th­ese ideas were echoed by an­other Brazil­ian, Ma­yara, who said salary is the most de­ci­sive fac­tor. “In my coun­try, you have to pay for ev­ery­thing, like school, health care and clothes. So I think you must have a great salary to have kids,” she added.

As for Bruno, he thinks time and money are the keys to de­cide how many chil­dren he will have. “We have to work a lot and we don’t have the time to raise chil­dren,” Bruno said. “Also, I will only have chil­dren if I have enough money to raise them.”

Help from the gov­ern­ment

Bruno added that he may con­sider hav­ing more chil­dren if there is more help from the gov­ern­ment.

He told the Global Times that in Spain, when a cou­ple has more than three chil­dren, they re­ceive some dis­counts like cheaper univer­sity tu­ition fees; if a cou­ple has four or more chil­dren, their univer­sity fees are free.

Like­wise, in­ter­vie­wee Anne said par­ents in Ger­many can get a sub­sidy of 1,800 eu­ros ($2,146) for 12 con­sec­u­tive months or 14 months if a hus­band also stays at least two months at home.

Anne said that with­out such sub­si­dies, there would be only one in­come from one fam­ily mem­ber. “But not ev­ery­one will get 1,800 eu­ros per month; it de­pends on your in­come be­fore,” she added.

Leon said that, “For ev­ery child you get money ev­ery month. If the num­ber is re­ally high, you get dis­counts, like univer­sity is free for the third one and stuff like that,” he told the Global Times.

Leon said car­ing cen­ters for chil­dren are also widely avail­able in his coun­try’s com­mu­ni­ties and com­pa­nies. “I don’t know how it is in China, but in Ger­many you have lots of pos­si­bil­i­ties to get help. You can go to work and they will look af­ter your chil­dren,” he said.

How­ever, some in­ter­vie­wees said their coun­tries do not of­fer any tan­gi­ble sup­port for fam­i­lies with chil­dren. Mariana and Ju­liana, for ex­am­ple, said their gov­ern­ment does not pro­hibit cit­i­zens from hav­ing chil­dren, but it does not pro­vide any fi­nan­cial sub­si­dies to those with kids ei­ther.

Brazil has free pub­lic schools and health cen­ters, but the qual­ity is not sat­is­fac­tory, so most par­ents have to pay to give their chil­dren pri­vate ed­u­ca­tion and health care, Mariana and Ju­liana ex­plained.

A global prob­lem

Statis­tics from the UN and the World Bank in­di­cate that the to­tal num­ber of live births is de­creas­ing world­wide, in­clud­ing in de­vel­op­ing na­tions, ac­cord­ing to World Eco­nomic Fo­rum in 2018.

Ac­cord­ing to a 2017 re­port by The Bei­jing News, more than half of one-child fam­i­lies sur­veyed by the All-China Women’s Fed­er­a­tion were un­will­ing to have a sec­ond child, even though the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment im­ple­mented a com­pre­hen­sive two-child pol­icy in 2016. A 2016 sur­vey made by Zhaopin.com said that many post-80s and post-90s gen­er­a­tion work­ing women in China pre­fer to have one or even no chil­dren.

Anne thinks liv­ing pres­sure and work pres­sure is a huge prob­lem for young peo­ple in China, so if they do not get any sup­port from their fam­ily or their com­pa­nies, it is def­i­nitely a prob­lem to have more than one child.

“It is a global chal­lenge for young peo­ple to start a fam­ily and have kids. I don’t think this is nec­es­sar­ily only a Chi­nese is­sue,” Antimo said. “I don’t think you need a lot of kids to be a happy fam­ily. We al­ready have so many on the planet.”

“China has so many peo­ple, and if young cou­ples are de­cid­ing to have only one or no child, it will be very hard in the long term, like 50 years from now, to keep this stan­dard of liv­ing. Be­cause peo­ple are get­ting older and there will be less la­bor, and that could lead to prob­lems,” Leon said.

Like­wise, Ma­yara said that if the pop­u­la­tion keeps de­creas­ing, it will pose a so­cial prob­lem in the fu­ture, like in Ja­pan. She thinks if young peo­ple do not have kids, when they get old they will lack a la­bor force.

But she does not sup­port the Chi­nese giv­ing birth to too many chil­dren, as too much pop­u­la­tion tends to put pres­sure on the gov­ern­ment. “With a smaller pop­u­la­tion, the gov­ern­ment could put money into other fields, like health care,” she added.

Mariana and Ju­liana pointed out that grow­ing up with sib­lings will give ev­ery kid an­other opin­ion and new point of view, help­ing them be­come more open­minded and learn how to

share things with oth­ers.

Pho­tos: VCG and Lu Ting/GT

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