When I wrote my diary yesterday about expectations of parents for their children’s lives, Ramona and I also talked about financial expectations and about the question which expectations are natural and justified. As you can imagine, our conversation turned to the differences how the elderly live in society here in India and in the west.
Here in India, the so-called ‘intergenerational contract’ works whereas in the west, it is not anymore in place. This means that here in India, it is normal that parents take care of their children while they grow up and then, when they are old, their children take care of them. It is a concept that everybody naturally relies on and it is also connected with living together in joint families, which I wrote about last week. Children grow up in a family where their parents take care of them and at the same time take care of their own parents who are not working anymore. It is thus natural for them to do the same for their children and parents, too.
People in the west have a fully different perspective on this. They ask whether that would not put a lot of pressure on the children and say that you should provide for your future yourself and not rely on your children. In the west, or at least in Germany and some other countries I have visited, the whole system is prepared in a way that children don’t have to take care of their parents financially. You pay your whole working life for being able to live after leaving your work. You have a pension that you created for yourself. You are independent, as you have been ever since your left the home of your parents.
I actually don’t think that it is wrong when old people expect their children to take care of them. It is not wrong of course, if you are able to, to make provisions for the time that you will not be working and people here in India do that, too. They want to contribute to the expenses of the house also in their old age. But what should the poor do?
What about labourers, the parents of the children whom we give food and education in our school? They are working wherever they find work. It is not an organized job in a company and not a regular income. They earn their money for one day and then go and buy food from that money. With that, they first feed their children and parents before they eat themselves. There is not much money and if there is something extra one day, they will use it for buying a new set of clothes for their children even though their own clothes are also torn. They don’t have a possibility to put money aside for later. For maybe fifty years of their lives they have worked and in that time they have fed and clothed their children from the money they earned. They slept on the floor themselves and gave the only mattress that they had to their children. Now when they are old and they cannot carry bricks in construction work anymore or they cannot pull a bicycle rickshaw anymore, why would it be wrong of them to expect their children to feed them? I cannot say that this is wrong.
I know that there are many old people in Germany whose pension is not very high and whose children thus help them financially, too. It is just that the whole system and the thinking of society is completely different and I believe there are additionally a lot of differences in the emotional expectations in the old age, too. That is another aspect though which I would like to write about tomorrow.