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Monday, May 05, 2008


The Western disease

"I am considering having children in a few years. Hopefully by using my long service, which I have earnt by working solidly for the last seven years. I earn about #48 thou, my partner the same and I don't think either of us can afford to stop work.

"So I will be a parent with a child in childcare and very little of my pay will survive after paying the costs of that. Maybe I can start a small business to work on at home and bring in some more money, but I would have to go back to work eventually or loose my job. My parents and his parent work, so there will not be any free child care.

"And people wonder why the birthrate is dropping? All females face the same choice and studies have found that women sacrifice career and promotions in favour of family commitments. I will be no different."

The above was published as a comment on the ABC online news in relation to the suggestion that the new Australian government is considering means testing the baby bonus payment. When considered in the light of what I see in places like Cambodia this attitude is amazing.

I often said to my students in Cambodia that they were just as happy as the average person in Australia. They found this hard to believe. 'Why wouldn't Australians be happier than us, they are rich?'

The average income in Cambodia is about $US50 per month. Life is indeed a struggle. If a Cambodian family got a baby bonus like we do in Australia the bonus would more than double the family income for the year.

Somehow, life is apparently still a struggle in Australia for a couple, without children, with a combined income of around $96,000. This is what I refer to as the Western disease. It seems no matter how much we have it is never enough.

Now that I'm in Thailand, living in Bangkok, I'm seeing symptoms of the same disease here. It seems once people get an education and a better job they get a taste of what wealth can do for them and they become more and more busy trying to acquire more. But do they acquire happiness? I doubt it. That's not what I'm seeing here and it's not what I see in Australia as the article above shows so well.

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