Last Updated on 2023-05-30 , 10:03 am
A company is typically profit-driven. Given that employees are the drivers of a company’s productivity and profits, it is no surprise that some employers are willing to go to extreme lengths to squeeze the most out of their employees.
However, the top executives of a particular institution may have taken this profit-focused mindset too seriously by trying to regulate the birthing periods of three of their employees.
Here is the story of what happened.
Three Women Working in a Government Institution Where Asked to Stagger Having Children
The protagonists of this story are three unnamed women working with a government institution. All three of them had coincidentally planned to have children at around the same period.
This caused what one would classify as a “personal issue” to turn into a “work issue”.
The executives of the institution the women were working at called the three women up for a meeting upon learning about their pregnancy plans overlapping with each other.
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During the meeting, the senior executives advised the women to “get pregnant in rotation to minimise inconvenience for the firm”, according to an article written by the South China Morning Post, quoting local media.
Unsurprisingly, this request was met with astonishment by the three women.
What might be more surprising is that cold-hearted men alone did not deliver the news.
One of the executives involved in this decision was female, and she reportedly asked the trio to “abandon their original plans for having children around the same time as the firm could not handle being left short-staffed”.
All three of the women who were faced with this strange situation were married, but not all of them were of the same age. One of them was 28 years old and had recently gotten married before she joined the firm. She reportedly had every intention of getting pregnant this year, even if she did not manage to land her current job.
The other two women were slightly older. One of them was 37 years old and doing a similar job as the 28-year-old woman. She had also just gotten married and wanted to have a child “as soon as possible”.
Not inconceivable, given the societal pressure for women to have children while they are younger. After all, the risk of having children increases with the mother’s age.
The last woman in question was also 37 years old and wanted to have a second child.
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Netizens Were Divided in Response to This Request
The plight of the women was brought to light when one of the women took to Weibo, a micro-blogging site and China’s answer to Twitter, to ask for advice. The woman was puzzled as to how to respond to the executive’s requests that the three women stagger their birthing periods.
The post went viral on the platform and garnered over 10,000 comments.
Netizens, however, were divided in their response to the women’s situation. Some were supportive of the women, while others were empathetic to the institution’s seemingly insensitive request.
Within the camp of those who supported the women, some said that women who hold jobs have it difficult.
Those who sided with the company left comments saying that they would not have liked to work in a company where three of their colleagues were missing at the same time. The workload would be unthinkable and overly stressful.
The Birth Rate in China Is Lower Than Usual
Perhaps the reason why this situation drew so many eyeballs is not just because of the ridiculous request by company executives purporting to overstep their professional boundaries.
This rotation requirement that the company suggested seems to be at odds with China’s overall aim to increase its birth rate. The irony that a government institution made this suggestion is not lost on us.
Since the strict “one-child policy” ended at the start of 2016, China has been finding many different ways to try to increase its birth rate. In fact, some senior health officials in China are encouraging the state to take “bold measures” to ensure that the Chinese people can replace themselves at a sustainable rate.
Some of these “bold” measures include having local governments encouraged to explore and innovate to reduce the cost of childbirth, childcare and education. This was a suggestion made by one Mr Yang, who is in charge of China’s Population Monitoring and Family Development department, in an interview with a state-backed health magazine (as reported by BBC).
The other measures would also have to target the cost of childcare and help women to balance careers and families so that the latter does not suffer disproportionately.
These concerns are rooted in various factors, including the fact that China may be facing an ageing population in the near future if its citizens fail to birth enough children for the country to replace itself at a sustainable rate.
Japan is an example of an ageing population with its own set of struggles, including the pressure to take care of the ever-growing older population. If the younger generation is forced to invest resources, time and effort into caring for their older parents, how will they find the time to care for their young?
Also, it seems that China’s top executives are right to be concerned about the country’s birth rate and are not just jumping at shadows. Statistics which China recently reported at the start of the year suggest that China’s population could start seriously shrinking in the near future if nothing is done to counteract this trend.
China had reported at the start of the year that its population had recently fallen. This decrease was the first time in a whopping 60 years. The last decline was around 1961, when China faced the Great Famine.
According to the National Bureau of Statistics, China’s total population dropped by 850,000 people to 1.41175 billion in 2022. In 2022, there were only 6.77 births per 1,000 people in China, a marked decrease from 7.52 births per 1,000 people in the year before that.
While the optimists amongst us might attribute the drop in the population in recent years could be attributed to issues such as the COVID-19 pandemic (which also shaved some time off from the average life expectancy of Singaporeans), there may be a very real population problem facing China if top officials continue to take the stance that women should prioritise their work over having children.
That’s especially if these women are getting older, which makes it biologically more difficult and risky to have children.
Also, as Chinese policymakers may know, it is challenging and time-consuming to change the mindset of a population. Just ask those who are working hard to pull the population out of its “one-child policy” mindset. Some economists have predicted that China’s reversal of its policy was almost three decades too late, which has caused China to veer towards a shrinking and ageing population.
Making it difficult for women to have children whenever they want to may also be counterproductive to China’s efforts to reverse their citizens’ mindsets. After all, putting hurdles in place to achieve something you want does not seem to encourage one to continue going after that thing.
In the meantime, we’re sure to keep our eyes peeled to see if the government institution retracts its statement about having the three women rotate having children and taking time off as new mothers. Perhaps what they suggested was simply a poorly articulated statement and not meant to be taken for real. What do you think?
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