I can, at times, be quite pessimistic.
Actually, that’s not fair… at times, I can be very pessimistic, particularly when it comes to my view of the future.
As part of that assessment of the world, I am not at all convinced about my ability to afford a home or to have children, regardless of whether or not I want to have children.
However, my thinking is shared by more and more people, particularly by those younger than I. A recent report in the Guardian indicated that the current birthrate of 1.58 in England and Wales is far below the 2.1 replacement level needed. In fairness, the birthrate in the United Kingdom has been below the replacement rate since the early 1970s, according to a series of reports complied by the World Bank.
From that same set of reports, Australia has not reported a birthrate higher than 2.1 since 1976. China dropped below 2.1 in 1992, while Germany last had a birthrate above 2 in 1970. If you look at countries like Ireland (1991), Japan (1974), and Thailand (1991), all these countries have had low birthrates for a long time.
At the same time, South Korea is having enormous problems. They dropped below a birthrate of 2.1 in 1983, and in 2019, had a birthrate of 0.918. Similarly, Singapore was last above 2.1 in 1976, with a 2019 birthrate of 1.14. The United States, on the other hand, recorded a birthrate of 1.709 in 2019, its lowest since 2018 of 1.73, with the previous lowest of 1.738 in 1976.
Why focus on birthrates? Well, there is a lot of evidence to suggest that people just don’t want to have kids. One study indicated that four in ten young people are unwilling to have children because of the impact of climate change. A different study showed that 96% of 27-45 year olds were very or extremely concerned about the wellbeing of their potential future children in a climate-changed world.
It’s not only climate change that is impacting the decision. The cost of education continues to rise, particularly when 34.4% of Australian primary and secondary students are enrolled in non-government schools. The Futurity Investment Group found that in 2021, a 13 year education (K-12) at a public school in Sydney is $90,122 versus a Catholic education of $128,828 or a private education of $448,035.
Then what if your child develops a sporting interest? Some sports have incredibly high registration fees, although work is being done to reduce that cost to families. Having said that, if your child is interested in music, dance, art, robotics, or any other after-school activity—additional costs come into play. The less said about the cost of child care, the better – with an average daily cost of between $70 and $188.
Once your child is at school, there is still the question of what to do when they return home for school, or during school holidays? Can a parent use their limited free time or personal leave to look after a child? Do they send them off to a holiday program for the duration of the shorter school holidays? Which parent (if there are two or more) is responsible for those duties? What about everything else that needs to be done in the house?
Now let’s switch it up and look at housing affordability.
Firstly, anyone who says it was different in their day, needs a reality check.
The reality is that house prices have risen dramatically and income has not gone with it. A report from the Grattan Institute in 2018 examined housing affordability, and highlighted the ever-growing gap between average full-time earnings and dwelling prices.
Further to that, wage growth is barely keeping up with inflation, as shown by this report from the Indeed Hiring Lab in 2018.
So if people’s wages are basically the same year on year, and house prices keep going up, how on earth can they afford to buy a home? Reuters reported in August 2021 that house prices would rise through the remainder of 2021 and into 2022, saying that the supply-side problem of affordable housing has not been solved yet.
That statement is very true. Homelessness Australia is now dealing with nearly three hundred thousand people a year who seek out their services, a near 15% increase on 2013. The stocks of affordable and social housing have been decimated over the years by state and territory governments selling off properties in prime areas and not replacing them. Only now are they seeking to build new properties to solve the problem. This takes a significant amount of time, and NIMBYs work as hard as possible to allow more social housing in their neighbourhood. It results in certain areas being full of social housing.
At the same time, developers seek to build more property on the outskirts to cities, where land is cheap and infrastructure is largely non-existent. People can buy their 4-bedroom, 2-bathroom properties that require long commutes into the city, large electricity bills, and have no public transport. It increases the carbon footprint of these groups without solving the other problems.
So now what?
I don’t say I have a solution. That’s not my job.
I’m certainly not going to tell anyone whether or not to have a child. That’s an incredibly personal decision – that’s for them to make. In my opinion, it should be well thought out, with all the implications for not just you, but for that child for the rest of its life. A child is not just a baby for a few months, but it grows into an adult, with all its foibles. It learns from the environment around it. They are like sponges, picking up all sorts of things – good or otherwise. Okay, maybe this lesson from Russell Peters isn’t the best thing they can learn, but still, it’s kinda funny.
To be honest, I was looking for a different clip, but I think it’s an audio-only piece from a different special. The point is that kids learn from everywhere… and are you ready for that? The medical bills, the events, the parent teacher evenings, the tears, the food, the clothes – everything that comes with a child? At the same time, a house requires constant maintenance, there are bills to pay, various problems come up with it.
There is so much uncertainty in life. It raises the question – can I really do both, in this economy? In an economy where my job is not as secure as it used to be, where my salary is not increasing like it used to, where I may have to work multiple jobs with insecure hours to earn the same income… can I afford BOTH a child and a home?
Let me know what you think in the comments.