I got together with Rogers M. Wanambwa and Connie Dia to address the question of how many children we can have to meet substantial financial safety of some sort against the social narrative that is set.
In the Ugandan society however diverse it prevails, there is one issue that is never mentioned that is the number of children one can have. In fact, in some societies, if someone doesn’t have children in their lifetime it never goes down well with the lineage. Am not using singular yet. But it’s time we talked about the unsaid.
Universally a small family is two parents and one up to four children, this has subsisted for the last 40 years and clearly, it can’t apply to millennials.
Today we are getting jobs late, income inflows barely make sense before we make 35 years. We are faced with uncertain economic policies and however much we may have continued political administration.
The real estate sector is not regulated so owning a house is a fantasy of some kind. If we start families furthermore we have to take on the financial responsibilities that come with the height.
So how many children can one have to enjoy their life and for the children not to feel like they were a mistake.
When I look at my own life from a humble background my parents both were working and they approximately spent US$10,000 on my education before university, and this was just school fees, about US$4,615.30 on health insurance, and US$2,307.69 on clothing.
There were outings education that cost about US$5,000 and then holiday programs that included things like swimming lessons, music, and soccer that cost another approximation of US$5,000. Bringing a total of US$26,923.07 at this point when I got to this number mum was telling me this should not be central to my decision but as an accountant, she knows the realities too well.
University costs about US$5,641.02 at Kyambogo University without hostel cost because I was staying home. I have grown up with people who went to better schools who used to fly out of the country for educational trips. My estimations don’t encompass vacations and other things that are involved in bringing up a child. We all want our children to have better than what we had. So how many kids can I possibly have in my gig economy?
I have worked downtown with those Ugandans that make up the informal sector. They think of their children first. Working in a money lending agency made me realize Ugandans work, for one thing, the lives they bring into this world.
China has revised it’s one child policy and allowed for a second child but no one can risk venturing into that path. And we look up to them in very many aspects since they are an economic miracle.
It’s a fact societies that are getting richer have drops in their fertility rates. Children are no longer an economic asset but a clear financial liability. So what are we waiting for if we are to have serious financial in roads!?
According to scientists, the need to give birth to many children was ingrained in our genetics as a mean of survival because of the high mortality rates especially in infants. Out of ten children given birth to, maybe three would survive.
This created the urgency and need to have as many children as possible.
Another school of thought looked at the need to have labour and who else but your family would be of help? The one that had most children had the biggest workforce.
Whatever the reason, children have always been the pride of their parents and their success reflects on their parents.
As we look at the issue of having children, we cannot rule out the fact that parents in the olden days did not have to pay money to feed, educate or clothe their children. The food was grown at home or bartered from a neighbour, the education was orally given by elders in the family and the clothing was made by hand at home.
Even homes were built with the help of family members and neighbours, not to mention the fact that medicines were gotten from herbs which were dried, crushed or brewed to form concoctions. Clearly, none of these activities needed a lot of financial input if any at all. This was true for the majority of the world.
Enter the age of industrialization
In the recent past, and yes in only 200 years, things changed dramatically for the entire world. This was because of the industrial age. In the 1800’s through the 1900’s, a drastic change happened.
It was no longer necessary to rely on human labour for everything because of the development of machines. Things have only looked forward from then.
However, something else happened during this period. Capitalism took hold of the world with it communal lifestyles perished. This implied that everyone was increasingly left to labour alone and life became more and more competitive instead of the way things were helping each other ensured survival.
Now new terms like, “survival for the fittest” were coined.
It is all these and a combination of other factors like loss of land especially family land, increase in the cost of living(an example of which was given in Benjamin’s personal story), rural-urban migration and so on that led to the giving birth of many children a costly and unnecessary venture.
Statistics from the World Bank continue to show that countries with high fertility rates like Uganda which has one around 4.8 this year(having declined from 5.1 in 2017) as compared to Japan’s 1.37 this year still.
Japan’s product purchasing parity or ppp(also per capita income) is around US$45,000 while Uganda’s ppp is expected to reach a measly US$860 by the end of this year(and this estimate was before the Coronavirus pandemic, it may be less).
As my colleague illustrated in the example of expenditure on a single child in what is termed as “ordinary school system,” when you compound that to the many children produced by Ugandans, it becomes a real struggle for these parents.
Remember, in order to grow and develop, there needs to be investment which can only happen when people work, and are able to save part or most of their income. This is then invested and the money grows, hence having more money to spend and ultimately, invest more.
From these, governments can tax develop and offer public goods and so on.
Our economies as countries that still produce many children therefore find themselves in a never ending spiral of poverty. A vicious cycle of poverty, to correctly term it.
It is our duty therefore, as the next generation to deliberately have fewer children and spend most of our finances on building ourselves and our nation, and subsequently, our continent.
The Global average fertility rate is at 2.5 per woman.
The number of fertility rate continues to drop continually around the globe thou its seems to be a different case for Africa .
Uganda unfortunately seems to linger at the top of the tables.
It’s interesting to note that Uganda rose from the 4th highest rank to the 2nd highest rank of highest birth rate which is at 6 children per woman.
It was something we looked down on when we heard of countries having policies regulating child birth and in Africa it could cause a war of sorts if they dared approach this territory but it’s something we need to consider today.
We need to go back to the round table, so we have had children but are we thinking of the future.
I especially love how the Gentlemen broke down the different realities that affect us today and will definitely speak into tomorrow.
An observation was done that fertility reduced in certain countries because of increased access to education, increased labour market participation which is right if you think about it.
Just the other day I came across an article of a lady who gave up her job to look after her children but still very worried of her children’s future because she didn’t know how to work and still ensure her child’s upbringing. At the same time another lady was crying aloud for someone to come carry away her children she could not afford to look after them. These are two different scenarios but with one constant, the children and their future.
It is a much broader context on its own but it’s something we ought to consider henceforth.
Today millennials are more strategic than fulfilling the requirements laid upon their shoulders ,they marry much later in life and wait to acquire financial stability to be able to start to have children. Do i blame them? Definitely not.
Faster decline in fertility rate is shown in women who live in the urban areas than the rural areas and it’s something that cannot be ignored.
We cannot run away from the rural sectors in our countries who are still married off young, use less of contraceptive methods they are stuck in a vicious cycle.
This reminds me of a lady who once sought help from someone i knew she had five children and was still giving birth, when they asked her why and yet she couldn’t afford to look after the rest ,she said the children are for her husband. Till today I don’t get that but it’s a sad affair to imagine.
A certain president to quote made a statement referring to Africa“Present me the woman who decided that being perfectly educated to have seven, eight, nine children.”
It stsrted off on a negative note but in the end the studies showed that by 2050 Africa will be double it’s population and if percentage of poor people is cut in half it will remain the same by then.
We seem to have a higher fertility rate than our development and the problem is having a certain number of children when you look back years from now they should have been less.
We know Africa can’t afford to lose any rights to their hold on child bearing especially with aspects like culture, different pressures from different angles but it’s something we who can project ahead to be responsible for building what will last.
Children are imitators give them something great to imitate.