Wednesday, March 19, 2014
Strike Against Having Children
"To encourage those families with three or more children, many rights and privileges will be given to them. Marriages are also to be encouraged between the noble class and ordinary citizens, and divorces will be regulated."
In the Peace Column of the Peace Weekly, the writer asks his readers to guess where and when these words were written. They happen to be the policy of the Roman Empire over 2000 years ago, issued by the Emperor Augustus. The statutes of the law were rigorously carried out because the young people of Rome at that time were avoiding marriage and children. Those who were not married were assessed heavier taxes. Our situation here in Korea, says the columnist, is worse than it was in Roman times.
This year there has been another decrease in the number of births, which the writer says does not augur well for the future of the country. Korea now has over a hundred schools with no students enrolled for the first year. The cities are no different and in one of the most famous schools in Seoul, in existence for 120 years, there were only 21 students entering their first year of schooling.
This also can be seen in our churches. The places that the children used to occupy are now empty. He notes that it is because the children are not being born that they are not going to church. The numbers of those entering college will decease and also the numbers for the military. The government knows the seriousness of the situation, and has increased the number of day-care centers, provided financial incentives to parents for the birth of a child, lengthened the period of time-off from work and increased the budget to assist mothers. The government has also tried the policies of countries like France, Finland and even Japan with little success. Numbers remain the same and young people continue their strike, as some call it, to not have children.
With the situation remaining in this serious state, with little likelihood that the policies will change, marriages and births will also not change. The columnist believes that the government is not listening to the young men who will have the job of providing for the children they will bring into the world.
Young people are facing the obstacles of expensive weddings, competition within the workplace, the difficulty of supporting a family and the children that come.
The Roman Plutarch (46-120) has left us a few words about the avoidance of marriage in his day in his book On Affection for Offspring (De Amore Prolis). "For when poor men do not rear their children, it is because they fear that if their children are educated less well than is befitting, they will become servile and boorish and destitute of all the virtues. Since they consider poverty the worst of evils, they cannot endure to let their children share it with them, as though it were a kind of disease, serious and grievous."