Sunday, March 27, 2005

Family Values? Culture of Life? Try Sweden, or Canada, or Cuba, or ..


For a number of years now, Sweden has been working on the project of improving men’s parenting. Despite the generous paid family leave policy, there is still room for improvement in the number of men who actually take time off from work to spend time with a newborn or a newly adopted child.

Sweden offers a year of paid leave to new parents. The compensation is 80% of salaries. With a view to encouraging men to spend more time with children, the Swedes are considering an “equality bonus,” which would bump the compensation up to 90% of salaries. The bonus would be available to families in which moms and dads split the parental leave equally.

There are only six nations in the world that do not mandate some form of paid family leave. The U.S. is one of six, and as we all know, it is the only industrialized nation without a policy of healthcare for all. And then there's childcare. Forgive me for not providing a link, but I can tell you that there are so-called third world countries that do better than us in the childcare department. In many parts of the world, the idea of sending women to work without providing a safe place for her children is simply unacceptable.

In the absence of such family supportive policies, it’s no wonder our infant mortality rate is not as good as Canada’s, or Cuba’s, or China’s. Little wonder that there are 41 countries in which babies have a better chance of surviving their first year of life than in the U.S. If we can’t afford to take care of our babies, it’s sure not because we’re spending the money on their mothers. American “women are 70 percent more likely to die in childbirth” than are women in Europe.”

If we could catch up to Cuba, we'd have 2,212 more American babies a year. If we could catch up to Singapore, we’d have 18,900 more babies a year.

Family values? Culture of life?


This is a culture of life:

It is hereby declared that the primary objective of Canadian health care policy is to protect, promote and restore the physical and mental well-being of residents of Canada and to facilitate reasonable access to health services without financial or other barriers. Canadian Health Act


Oh well, at least our lawmakers are hard at work protecting marriage from gays. Too bad if all those gay people who are raising children can't offer their kids the benefits of marriage.

At least our lawmakers have succeeded in forcing poor women to carry pregnacies to term. Too bad if so many of their babies die before the age of one.

Bin Laden can sit back and wait. Our leaders are going to bring this county down all by themselves.


31 comments:

  1. Queen Latifatass5:42 AM

    Just think what the mortality rate would be if abortion were illegal. I'm just saying...

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  2. Yeah, good point. If Dubya has his way, we'll find out.

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  3. Queen Latifatass6:16 AM

    Hey, either you want to save kids or you don't...

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  4. Anonymous6:44 AM

    I'm a bit slow on this, but remind me again. Why do people need to be paid for work they don't do?

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  5. Anonymous1:07 PM

    Why do people need to be paid for work they don't do?

    Uh, this might be a newsflash to you, but raising children is work!

    It's past time for the States to recognize the importance of the work that has fallen traditionally on women's shoulders: housework and child care. What nations like Sweden are doing is not only putting a value on rasing children properly, but also encouraging parents to view it as something they should share equally.

    And if I, a childfree (as in never wants kids, ever) woman, can see that, then you should be able to as well - regardless of your age, gender, or childed status.

    -ADR

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  6. Anonymous4:51 PM

    Great post Egalia, I've been saying this for years. WHO has the comparative stats, so does the CDC for that matter. (At least they used to before the Stalinist information management of the current BushCo. term). But we've been moving backwards in the stats. on maternal and child health ever since Bush came into office. It's the money or the lack of attention to public health, and it shows! Culture of life my ASS! Cheers, VJ

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  7. Hello Tennessee Guerrilla Women:
    Very impressed with your blog. There may be hope for America yet. In terms of health care, the Canadian system is far from perfect, but at least everyone is covered, which is far more than be said for the richest nation on earth. Perhaps if you spent less on bombs and missles and more on raising your infant mortality rate -- those lucky ones "chosen" to live -- it would be better for everyone. But I don't expect that conundrum to be resolved anytime soon, eh.
    Just the thoughts of a hoser . . .

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  8. Anonymous7:03 AM

    OK, let me rephrase that. Why should anyone get paid by someone else to raise their own children?

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  9. Can I agree with you and still say that we need to respect the life in the womb a bit more? Can I say; I'm all for maternal/paternal paid leave, I'm in fact for parents to be paid X amount per child per year during the first 18 years (as they do here in Israel) in amounts sufficient to make it possible to live on one salary or 2 part-time jobs, better health care for all (including dental/eye care) etc. etc. and still say I think we ought to encourage birth over abortion?

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  10. Anonymous9:12 AM

    But why should taxpayers pay people to raise their kids? It's their personal responsibility. No one should pay me to raise my children just because I may have a tough time, how is that fair to them? And why should employers pay people to not work?

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  11. Good question, Anonymous. Let me take a stab at that:

    1. Childcare has always been paid for by more than just the parent. Traditionally, as in before the Industrial Revolution, children were cared for by mother+ extended family. Children are expensive in terms of time, effort and money. Especially when one wants to give them every opportunity in life to succeed.

    2. After the Indusrial Revolution started, you had a break up of the extended family model which put a lot of pressure on people to very carefully balance their time between kids and even survival. It wasn't immediately obvious to people that society as a whole would have a vested interest in what had been once an extended-family affair and the consequences were horrendous with thousands of children being abandoned yearly. Check out 'Mother Nature' by Hrdy for an overview on what the scale was like. It was mind-boggling.

    3. Not having proper childcare provision and maternity leave (paternity leave too) hurts society a lot more than providing it. This it does in several ways:
    a. As there is less leeway for the unplanned baby (which is the case for fully half of all pregnancies if not more), then there's less incentive to have kids. Besides a lower birthrate, it also increases the demand for abortion. Contrary to popular imagination, fully half of women seeking abortions are married with children. They're often people who simply cannot balance having another child with their current obligations. Making those obligations more onerous will only increase the number of abortions. Which isn't a good thing, whether you're pro-life or pro-choice (as I am).
    b. If things go wrong for the family, it is more likely that the children get abandoned or abused. Countries that help parents to look after their kids have much lower rates of abortion, child abuse and abandonment than those that do not.

    c. As childbearing falls exclusively on women, knowing that there will be no support for having children means they'll either have to make some difficult choices about finding sub-standard childcare so they can keep working or else drop out of the labour force altogether.
    Losing part of the workforce needlessly costs society in terms of productivity and also costs society in having to provide welfare longer term than would have been the case. Employers lose out too -- who wants to invest in employing a person who is simply going to stop working? Which means that fewer women will get employed, particularly for jobs that pay well. Which will increase demand for society to help look after kids... see, you aren't really saving money here.

    4. The question ultimately is: are children worth raising properly? Yes they are. Most people will do just that if the opportunity is there. A year's leave and a safe place to leave them (if need be) isn't going to break a nation's bank balance.

    The choice is between paying a little (relatively speaking) money upfront for a great benefit or keep paying money in an uncontrolled manner for no benefit.

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  12. Anonymous1:23 PM

    But still, I axe. Why are others financialy responsible for some people's actions?

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  13. Queen Latifatass1:28 PM

    Will single women participate in this plan? If so, how is this any different from welfare? At least under welfare we were giving poor women money to have babies. Looks like now we're going to start giving money to the rich ones too. I guess that is equality, isn't it?

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  14. Anonymous2:46 PM

    Why are others financialy responsible for some people's actions?

    Because most, if not all, of us reading this blog live in societies that value equal opportunities for all people.

    We are already financially responsible for some people's actions because we participate in a tax system.

    In an environment where it's every person for her/himself, only the few are able to get ahead because they are able to use the weak to climb the ladder. The ideal goal, I would argue, would not be that, but would rather be finding a system that would allow everyone to get ahead in life.

    Our governments are all flawed, but the solution is to find ways to make things better, not throw out the system entirely.

    And, on that note, I want to ask a question for you nay-sayers:

    Why should these women and men not be paid for their labour? Is childrearing somehow less valuable than, say, making a video game?

    -ADR

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  15. Everyone participates in the plan, including women with children. The world isn't divided into taxpayers and mothers. Your typical woman with a kid *is* a taxpayer and has been a taxpayer for several years and will be a taxpayer for several more years. She's getting benefits for something she helped pay for, just like she helped pay for roads she'll never drive on, hospitals she'll never go to, parks she'll never walk in, but that you might. And vice versa. That's society -- we all give a little to get something back we can all use.

    Now the beauty of the give something for the kids system is that it enables women to go back to being taxpayers sooner and to hold jobs that pay more and lead to more taxes being paid too. Why shouldn't we want that?

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  16. "OK, let me rephrase that. Why should anyone get paid by someone else to raise their own children?"

    I'm going to devote more time to this question as soon as I get time, but for now...

    If you want to live in a world where greed and selfishness are not the number one values, somebody is going to have to spend more time on the WORK of raising children.

    If you want to live in a world with fewer criminals, fewer mentally ill persons, fewer shoot-outs in the schools, someone is going to have to spend more time with children and less time making money.

    The number one reason for women's world-wide poverty is that women do this WORK with very little support or compensation.

    Women do this WORK for all of us.

    As to why women (and the few men who also do this WORK) are not paid to raise children, it's very simple.

    Women did not write the rules. Hell we weren't permitted to get an education, we weren’t permitted to vote (thanks to men's bigger muscles and guns) and we certainly were not permitted to write any portion of the constitution. It took 72 years of begging and demanding just to get the vote.

    It's about time we started demanding compensation for the social contribution, or WORK, of raising children.

    When women are finally compensated, adequately, for this valuable WORK, you can be damn sure that large numbers of men will start doing it.

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  17. Anonymous7:39 PM

    True, we value equal opportunites, but it is impossible to guarantee equal outcomes. How many know formerly poor people who hauled themselves up by their bootstraps without a handout? Plenty of us do. You don't get out of the hole by taking off and expecing others to pay your way. You get out by working hard and doing it yourself. If you're too lazy, don't expect others to pay your way!

    "Your typical woman with a kid *is* a taxpayer and has been a taxpayer for several years and will be a taxpayer for several more years."

    Good! Then she can work hard, save a year's salary, take off and pay her way herself without having to rely on anyone else. Why burden strangers with her lifestyle choice?

    "If you want to live in a world with fewer criminals, fewer mentally ill persons, fewer shoot-outs in the schools, someone is going to have to spend more time with children and less time making money."

    WOW! A year off work is going to solve all those problems?

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  18. Anonymous9:04 PM

    If you're too lazy, don't expect others to pay your way!

    See, there it is again; the idea that raising a child isn't real work. Parenting is hard work. Hard work that the caretakers, primarily women, are not compenstated for.

    And you still haven't answered my question:
    What makes other forms of work more important than raising a child? Why don't these women and men deserve to be compenstated for their hard work?

    -ADR

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  19. Queen Latifatass3:46 PM

    I never said it wasn't! I agree 100% that parenting is the hardest job on earth. But why should anyone pay me if I choose to have a family? I take it that I'd be paid out of revenues garnered from taxes, right? That means I'd be paid by the government. I thought government wasn't supposed to be associate with my womb and my reproductive rights?

    I also never said other forms of work were more important, I believe this is a matter of opinion. I never said these men and women don't deserve to be compensated, but just why should someone else compensate them? Why can't they do it themselves? If they need money they can take a loan or get a 2nd or 3rd job. I, and no one I know wants to be a bum with their hand stuck out to Uncle Sugar.

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  20. Anonymous7:02 PM

    Can my dad get back-pay for all the years he mowed the yard?

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  21. Anonymous9:24 PM

    Queen, I was actually referring to the quote by the other anonymouse implying that stay at home parents were "too lazy" to get a job.

    But why should anyone pay me if I choose to have a family?

    Well, I can't say anything about a government "domestic wage" or whatever it would be called. Any arguments I've heard about for that have been second hand, so I have neither the access to materials nor the knowledge of how it would work in practice.

    In terms of what was discussed in this entry, I think that paid child leave is a first step towards recognizing that parenting - and not just by the woman, but by all people involved - is valuable. I would think that the "equality bonus" considered would show that it's not just about letting women "be like men" by keeping their jobs, but showing that raising a child is important for both women and men.

    That's not to say that I'm not interested in ensuring equal rights for childfree and childless people. I mean, no sense in screwing myself over in this, is there? I just don't see any reason to do nothing about how people who choose to engage in "women's work" (ie. childrearing) are taken for granted simply because a perfect system doesn't exist.

    And if you're wondering about "be like men" and "women's work", I use them in quotations to highlight the fact that I think that this is part of the male = normal, women = lesser ideology that still pervades many societies. I want to work, yeah, but I think that should be just as valued as my sister, who has chosen to give up her career in order to raise her children.

    And, for the record, while I do believe that we should find ways to put a value on traditional "women's work", I am in no way advocating promoting people to rely on "Uncle Sugar" for the rest of their lives.

    I don't have any solutions here. This isn't even one of the things I consider to be a "cause" of mine; you're more likely to find me ranting about the childfree people being shafted by the babynormative culture I live in. But I still think that it's important to think about the issue and try to find compromises. I think that the solution Sweden has offered is not by any means perfect, but I don't think it's too awful of a first step.

    -ADR

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  22. brightblue4:38 AM

    Geez people it is pretty simple, we are part of a community. Do you want children to be better cared for, or not? That is what it all boils down to, the future of our families, or you could care less. Your views depend on which you value more.

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  23. Anonymous7:07 AM

    If mothers TRULY wanted children to be better cared for, they'd do it for the principle of the matter and not expect a handout from people not involved in the matter.

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  24. "How many know formerly poor people who hauled themselves up by their bootstraps without a handout?"

    That's a nice myth and you bought it, eh?

    NO ONE makes it without "handouts", everyone has to depend on someone else for help.

    YOU were dependent from day one, nine months in some else's womb and then god knows how many years you were dependent afterwards. How about a little payback? Or do you just like to take?

    And no, one year of paid maternity leave isn't enough, that's only one of many changes that will eventually be made, unless of course all you mean people who think we should all live in a dog- eat-dog world, where it's every mother and baby for herself, blow the planet up, and you might.

    Glad you are so happy with the way this world is, but you don't sound all that happy to me.

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  25. Anonymous8:41 AM

    Antigone:

    This doesn't seem like a handout to me- from what the article says and what I've managed to dig up from the internet is that you have to be employed BEFORE you get pregnant. You're not getting welfare or money for having children, you're simply getting 80% of whatever salary you're making. And, most of these same countries have next-to-universal childcare for working parents after the first year of devolupment (google it, the first year is the most crucial for bonding).

    Second, anoynomous's comments have shown EXACTLY why the US doesn't have any of these things: raising a family has next to no value in this society. Which is sad, I think.

    Third, on why "I" should have to pay for "Someone else's life choices" is because it's better to pay them now instead of having them shoot me later. Raising productive, moral human beings is more difficult than one might imagine (something I will not even going to try). It is simply "the mother should do it because that's what she should do" bullshit. We should all support it because we need a healthy society. I don't expect you to work because "society needs" it, you shouldn't expect a mother to either.

    We all pay for stuff we never use. Hey, I don't like my taxes going to a stupid sports stadium or another fighter jet, but I pay them every April just the same.

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  26. Anonymous3:09 PM

    Second, anoynomous's comments have shown EXACTLY why the US doesn't have any of these things: raising a family has next to no value in this society. Which is sad, I think.

    But if these whiny women would just get back into the kitchen and bake me some pie, then we could return to the good ol' days where men were men and women were house slaves! [/sarcasm]

    Seriously, am I the only one who thinks it's sad when people like me, who don't want children, have to stand up and defend the validity of raising a kid?

    -ADR

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  27. Queen Latifatass4:39 PM

    Who keeps saying that it's invalid? I can't find that anywhere above!

    "YOU were dependent from day one, nine months in some else's womb and then god knows how many years you were dependent afterwards. How about a little payback? Or do you just like to take?"

    That's between me and my mother, keep the government out of that relationship. She says the same thing.

    "And no, one year of paid maternity leave isn't enough"

    How many would be enough? Three years of free time off? Four? Twelve? Twenty-eight? Fifty-six?

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  28. Who keeps saying that it's invalid? I can't find that anywhere above!

    Just for you, Queen, I've compiled quotes (all from one or more anonymice) of where childrearing has been belittled.

    Why do people need to be paid for work they don't do?

    Meaning: Childrearing isn't work.

    Why should anyone get paid by someone else to raise their own children?

    Meaning: Raising children isn't worth a dime.

    You don't get out of the hole by taking off and expecing others to pay your way. You get out by working hard and doing it yourself. If you're too lazy, don't expect others to pay your way!

    Meaning: Stay at home parents are lazy, the only people who do REAL work are those who get a job and get PAID.

    Can my dad get back-pay for all the years he mowed the yard?

    Meaning: Parenting is no harder, and no more valuable, than mowing the lawn.

    If mothers TRULY wanted children to be better cared for, they'd do it for the principle of the matter and not expect a handout from people not involved in the matter.

    Meaning: Childrearing (aka. "women's work") should be it's own reward.

    So, what, exactly in those above quotations doesn't say that "men's work" is more valuable than "women's work"?

    (forgive me if this double posts)

    -ADR

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  29. Queen Latifatass3:24 PM

    Why do people need to be paid for work they don't do?

    "Meaning: Childrearing isn't work."

    Keep it in context! Why should an employer pay an employee for not being at, and not doing a minute of work at the place they were hired?

    Why should anyone get paid by someone else to raise their own children?

    "Meaning: Raising children isn't worth a dime."

    I never said it wasn't worth anything, I merely asked why someone else should pay for another person's choice.

    You don't get out of the hole by taking off and expecing others to pay your way. You get out by working hard and doing it yourself. If you're too lazy, don't expect others to pay your way!

    "Meaning: Stay at home parents are lazy, the only people who do REAL work are those who get a job and get PAID."

    Nope, not even close. As I said, being a parent is very tough. I just don't know why anyone would be willing to either pay for someone else's parenting or why anyone would accept payment for their own responsibility.


    Can my dad get back-pay for all the years he mowed the yard?

    "Meaning: Parenting is no harder, and no more valuable, than mowing the lawn."

    Oh! Suddenly you can find a case where you're NOT in favor of taxpayers paying someone to conduct their own personal choice! What happened?

    If mothers TRULY wanted children to be better cared for, they'd do it for the principle of the matter and not expect a handout from people not involved in the matter.

    Meaning: Childrearing (aka. "women's work") should be it's own reward.

    Sorry for the bad wording, let me rephrase that. If parents TRULY wanted children to be better cared for, they'd do it for the principle of the matter and not expect a handout from people not involved in the matter.

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  30. Ok, I'm just going to say that we have to agree to disagree on this matter. I just simply don't have enough background in the subject to effectively debate the issues.

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  31. Back in the olden days, when I was a child, families used to be able to live on one salary. Women's work was in the home. Now many if not most women MUST work outside the home just to survive. And since we have imploded the extended family that used to help women to the nuclear family that doesn't, I am afraid the community must take up the slack. Either employers start paying enough for women to save money, or live on their husband/wife's salary and stay home to care for the children, or we pay through our taxes. The trouble with the US is that everyone wants the services, and no one wants to pay the wages/taxes necessary to provide them. Just as they don't want to provide decent healthcare, which would probably save money in the long run. I don't understand it. I have never understood why it is better to pay for prisons, nursing homes and premature babies than it is to pay for prenatal care, family leave or flexible working hours, and other healthcare and family care solutions, many of which are less expensive by far than what we are paying for.

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