FAMILIES DESIRING MORE CHILDREN FACING FINANCIAL, SOCIAL CHALLENGES
By Jenique Belgrave
Inflexible working arrangements, a lack of access to affordable daycare facilities, and expensive fertility treatments were identified as some of the main hindrances faced by people who want to have children.
These were among the financial and social challenges discussed at Monday’s National Population Commission Town Hall Meeting, held to allow the public to make submissions on the draft Barbados Population Policy.
“I do not know what is keeping us boxed into the regular hours of a working day. I think we need to get out of the 8:15 a.m. to 4.30 p.m./9 to 5, so we can get a lot more flexibility where parents can get to be with their children…. I think the process to allow children to be homeschooled could encourage parents to have another child or so,” audience member Vicky Whittaker suggested to the panel of commission members at the Alexandra School in St Peter.
She also pointed out that many low-income earners find it difficult to get their children into public nurseries and the price of private nurseries was prohibitive for those parents.
Chairman of the commission Roberta Clarke agreed that less stressful ways must be found for parents to find a work-home life balance.
“I certainly take your point that some prioritisation has to be given to those who are at the lower income end of the spectrum because the needs are greater and the capacities are less. So I think that is something that we can take into account when we do the revision of the draft policy. We’ve also recommended child benefit subsidies for low-income parents and, in particular, single parents, whether women or men, for subsidised child care. We’ve talked about subsidised housing as well for people with children, and then we’ve made a few recommendations of what we call family-friendly workplace policies,” she stated.
Clarke also highlighted that during discussions that led to the draft policy, many people said they wanted to have children but were unable to do so due to social and financial concerns or fertility issues.
“We heard quite a lot in our consultations of men and women who are saying that they would like to have children but fertility technology is too expensive for them. So, we also address those who want children that there may be some ways that the state can support,” she said.
Questioned about whether Barbados’ infrastructure had the capacity to support a larger population, chartered town planner Yolanda Alleyne acknowledged that any increase would have an impact on water, transport, and sewage systems.
Speaking in particular about the implications for the housing sector, the commission member stated that one of the policy recommendations is a mix of residential and commercial buildings.
“The aim in the future is to suggest a framework that is far more integrated, where we see rather than dormitory settlements of several houses with no kind of services, you see housing developments that actually integrate places of work, and basic services, like your shopping, your daycare, your medical facilities, and things like that, and then that starts to have a very different look on the landscape,” Alleyne said.
“It may take a little getting used to, but that is the idea in terms of going forward. Infrastructurally, the policy also recommends creating an environment which some people in Europe call a 15-minute city, which means that within 15 minutes you can walk efficiently to any basic need,” she added.
The commission member also suggested that with this island’s limited land resources, the construction of multi-storey residential complexes should also be considered.
The next town hall meeting will be held on Wednesday at the Princess Margaret School and on Friday at the St Michael School.