The decline in birth rate is a problem many developed nations are facing today, which is why they are incentivising motherhood for working women. According to the BBC, Hungary is planning to boost its birth rate by offering life-long tax exemptions for women with four children or more. The country’s population is falling by 32,000 a year. Not only are Hungarian women choosing to have lesser children, but the number of women of child-bearing age is also going down fast too. Also, some days ago Japan’s deputy PM Taro Aso blamed the country’s shrinking population on “those who didn’t give birth.” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he wants to get more women out of the home to compensate for the country’s shrinking workforce. There is this fear in developed countries with shrinking populations today, that of having more mouths to feed than more hands to work.
- The birth rate is falling across many nations in the West and East.
- Countries like Hungary and Japan are desperately struggling.
- They are looking at a fast-approaching future with more mouths to feed than more hands to work.
- But before pushing women to have more kids, these nations need to understand why they are actually avoiding it.
Naturally, the burden to fulfill this deficit falls on a woman’s uterus. But is anyone asking them what they want?
While the shrinking population isn’t a problem in our country, we are not unfamiliar to the pressure of having babies. From our families to religious leader the society constantly reminds women that the survival of civilization rests on their wombs. Pregnancy is an agenda which is pushed quite forcefully on us. Though it has become a question of survival for developed western countries, in India it is patriarchy’s obsession with the propagation of clans which becomes our undoing. Whatever may be the reason, it is clear that for women there is no escaping the pressure to have more kids across the globe. Especially, on women who postpone or turn down motherhood to make a career.
In our country the solution patriarchy has laid out for us is simple. We have enough men to sustain our workforce. So stay at home and breed children. In countries like Japan on the other hand, since there aren’t many men to work, women are needed in the workforce. So Japanese women must work and then also contribute to raising the nation’s falling birth rate. It is quite too much to ask for, considering how patriarchy has always sidelined them, only pushing agendas on them as per its convenience.
If countries want working women to embrace motherhood, they first need to understand why they don’t want to.
Today, Indian women are where Japanese women were at one point in time. Even today they are asked to make professional compromises for the sake of motherhood by their families. While we may still be boasting a robust fertility rate, women are increasingly reluctant to get pregnant, because parenting comes with a cost for them. Women still are prime caregivers to children and also responsible for performing the majority of household chores across the world.
So when they become mums, they have zero or little help from their partners in caring for kids, an unending pile of housework, and professional duties breathing down their neck. Many women thus put careers on hold or switch to being housewives to be better mums. So for millennial women, motherhood is career suicide or a perennial struggle to find that elusive work-life balance. The easy way out? Postpone or decline motherhood or just have one kid for the sake of it. Pushing them to embrace motherhood without addressing these issues is both unfair and ineffective in the long run.
Attractive incentives like tax exemptions etc do not solve the actual issue of lack of aid, when it comes to parenting.
Instead of telling women that they need to embrace motherhood for the sake of the country, governments should be encouraging men to be more cooperative. Peers should have a more liberal gaze towards working mum, coming to their help with rearing children and maintaining homes, instead of constantly judging them on outlandish parameters. It is not women, but men who hold the key to countering declining maternity rates in both east and west. The question is, do we dare to tell them to change their ways? Or do we continue pushing more duties on women?
Picture Credit: Telegraph
Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.