REALity  Volume XXXVI Issue No. 7 July 2017

We can endlessly lament the instability in our troubled society or we can point out some reasonable approaches that could possibly address some of the challenges.  For example,

Providing Mothers With Choices

Many women return to paid employment after the expiration of their one-year maternity leave.  Most women say they do so because of financial necessity.

What then, would be the effect if the mother could be funded for choosing to raise her child at home rather than placing the child in substitute care?  According to a 2013 poll by Albion Research, of 2,022 Canadians, 69% of parents, who currently have children under six years old, would prefer to remain at home with their child.  This is understandable since it is not easy to work in paid employment and raise a family at the same time.

Recently, a proposal was made in New Zealand to pay New Zealand mothers to stay at home if they wished.  This proposal was endorsed by a major newspaper, The New Zealand Herald, which published an editorial stating that paying women to stay at home with their babies:

… would find plenty of support among those who believe babies and toddlers are being put in daycare too soon.  If a parental care payment can keep one of them at home for much longer, it would be well received.  With the Budget now showing a healthy surplus for the next four years, National [the governing party] might find it hard to refuse.

Providing some compensation to mothers who stay at home to raise their children would also have a benefit of giving recognition to the value of a mother’s contribution to society.  Unfortunately, society today encourages women to put education, training and careers before motherhood – often at the cost of infertility among those who actually want to have a child later on.  That is, we seem to be teaching our young people that there is no value in motherhood and that homemaking is an outdated, misogynistic concept.  We do this through the promotion of professional progression as a marker of success, while completely devaluing the contribution of parents in the home.  Our culture simply does not value the family or motherhood.  Perhaps, it’s time it did.

Finland has already implemented a policy to provide financial support to parents, equally through a home care allowance or by a subsidized childcare system.  About half of Finnish parents choose the home care allowance.  This may be a possible reason that Finland’s education system consistently outperforms others in European countries.

Tax Incentives for Marriage

The growth of cohabitation today is creating chaos in society for a number of reasons:

(i) According to psychologist, Pat Fagan, at Marriage & Religions Research Institute, an analysis of the National Survey of Family Growth 2006/2010 indicates that American and European children whose parents are living together, but not married, are far more likely to see their parents separate by the age of twelve.  According to this report, legal marriage is a far more stable union than a common-law union.  The study reports that in the U.S. and seventeen European countries, children born to cohabiting couples are 96% more likely to see their parents split by the time they are twelve.

In the United States, between 2002 and 2010, births to cohabiting couples jumped from 41% of all non-marital births to 58%.  In France and Sweden, one in four adults aged 18 to 49 is cohabiting, while in South America, families based on non-marital “consensual unions” are a longstanding tradition.

The United Kingdom has one of the highest levels of family instability in the Northern Hemisphere.  According to the report, a third of children in the UK are not living with both biological parents.  Children born to cohabiting parents are “94% more likely to see their parents break up before age 12”, compared to those whose parents were married at their birth.  In Canada, according to the 2011 census, there were 5.587 million children under 14 years of age living in private households.  910,708 or 16.3%, of these children are living within a common law union.   Not a very happy situation for such children.

(ii) In December, 2016, a study was released by researchers at the US Bowling Green State University indicating that cohabitation results in a much higher level of violence than occurs in legal marriage.  One of the reasons for this higher level of violence in cohabiting relationships is due to a risky combination of low commitment and a high level of ease in ending the relationship.

(iii) In February 2017, psychologist Patrick Fagan Marriage & Religions Research Institute, released a study correlating the number of past sexual partners with subsequent marriage stability.  According to this study, of women who were monogamous with no other sexual partner than their married spouse, 95% remained in an intact marriage after the first five years of marriage.  However, for women who had one other sexual partner, other than their husband (almost always prior to marriage), the percent drops to 62%.  In the case of women having two other sexual partners prior to marriage, the percentage of stable marriage after five years drops to 50%.  Thereafter, it plateaus.  For men, it takes five previous sexual partners to reach the same level of break-up.

Unfortunately, cohabitation has become common in contemporary society.  If couples are not concerned about the stability of a future marriage when they enter into cohabitation, then perhaps one way of curbing common-law unions would be to provide generous tax incentives to couples to encourage them to enter into legal marriages.

On every outcome measured, for adults and children, those in an intact family do best on all the positive outcomes: education, income, savings, health, longevity, happiness, sexual enjoyment, intergenerational support.  They also have the least incidence of all the negatives such as: crime, addictions, abuse-both physical and sexual, poverty, illiteracy, exclusion, ill health, unhappiness, mental illness, lack of sexual fulfillment.

Thus, family structure is exceedingly important to society and a return to intact marriage is necessary for a nation set on rebuilding itself in order to create stability.

Caring for the Elderly

Politicians in the western world are apprehensive about the rapidly aging population that is careening towards them.  It means that a lot more money will be required to care for this elderly population.  More retirement and nursing homes with greatly increased demands on the healthcare system.  Increased pension payments are also inevitable, because individuals are living much longer today, well into their eighties and even nineties, instead of conveniently, for the state budget, dying off in their late sixties and early seventies, as was common previously.

This may be why some insensitive politicians are looking fondly on assisted suicide, which could alleviate some of their “problems”.  A cost analysis of assisted suicide, in fact, was published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, in January, 2017 claiming that assisted suicide could save the country’s health care system as much as $138.8 million a year, depending on the number of people who choose to hasten their death with the help of a doctor or nurse.  It is worrisome that the cost of looking after the elderly is a consideration.  An elderly person must live in dignity, with respect, and be valued because he/she is a part of our human family and not be regarded as merely a statistic.

One approach to caring for our aging population is for the family, not the government, to take more responsibility for aging parents.  This is not a new idea, of course, as it is a common practice in Europe, Africa and South America.

The family cannot carry out this responsibility, however, 24/7 without some support.  This is where the government can step in to at least provide generous assistance for home caregivers.  Eventually, it may be necessary to transfer that family member to a nursing home/hospital because of the extensive care that is required.  This would be a far less costly approach, than the one we are providing now, where the aged are deposited in nursing homes far too soon.  Employers must also be more willing to provide the benefit of compassionate care leave of absence to employees who wish to care for their aging loved ones.  Fortunately, there is now a tax deduction for caregivers to look after dependent family members.

Canada is already witnessing a quiet evolution in household composition  This is evidenced by children no longer leaving homes in their late teens and early twenties and forging their way independently.  Instead, the delineation between childhood and adulthood has become blurred, as children often “boomerang” back to the family, even after university.  This is mainly because of the economic situation whereby it is difficult to obtain a foothold in the world by way of steady employment and affordable housing.

Under such circumstances, perhaps, it is not unreasonable for children who are saved the expense of a mortgage and the inconvenience of running a home themselves, to assume more responsibility for their aging parents than they do at present.