With rising living costs in many countries, such as the United Kingdom, Norway and Singapore, it is no surprise that there seems to be a negative correlation between living cost and birth rates within countries. As the cost of living goes up, it gets tougher to support our own needs, let alone supporting the needs of a newcomer to the family.
Many couples choose not to have kids, simply because it is getting too costly to raise one. Birth rates in Britain have dropped to a historic low, with women having an average of 1.64 children, while Germany’s birth rate has slumped to the lowest in the world, prompting fears that the labour market shortages will damage the economy.
So what happens if I wish to raise a family? I would have to take maternity leave to deliver a baby and to get ample rest after the birth. I would probably need to take extra time off too by taking further unpaid leave. Not all countries make it compulsory for companies to provide paid maternity leave.
When a woman doesn’t receive paid maternity leave, research has shown that she is more likely to drop out of the workforce, therefore losing income for herself and for her family. About 43 per cent of women with children leave work voluntarily at some point in their careers. On the other hand, a woman could go back to work too quickly, which could be harmful to the mother or the baby’s health. That gives her less time to bond with her child, thus increasing the risk of postpartum depression. Approximately 25 per cent of women go back to work just 10 days after having a baby.
Though unspoken, it is widely known that women who leave the workforce with the intention to return, will face a harder time securing a job than a single woman would. In terms of Female Labour Force Participation, only 52 per cent of women in Singapore aged 40 to 49 are employed, compared with 76 per cent of women in United States and 79 per cent in the United Kingdom. This implies that a substantial number of women in Singapore who have left their paid employment, for one reason or another, are not yet returning to the workforce. The reason for this could be caused by several factors, whether getting out of touch with technology or simply losing out on experience to their competitors.
Governments should develop caregiving infrastructure that provides adequate care for children as a heavily subsidized good that is made available to all in need. More caregiving services would mean less personal sacrifices for women in the workforce. Employers can also do their part by implementing family-friendly policies, like an adequate paid maternal leave, and conducting skills training/upgrading for women who are re-entering the workforce. Until then, many of us will stay unmotivated to start a family, as the declining birth rate in our country continues to fall.
By Rahmuna Abdul Samad, delegate representing the Singapore at the G(irls)20 Summit 2015 in Istanbul, Turkey. Rahmuna studied at the Singapore Institute of Management, where she is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Accounting and Finance.
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