The childhood of King George
Not yet a week old, the tiny heir to the British throne has already caused a frenzy with his arrival. So what will his life be like?
Boys are preferred in the countryside, where female infanticide still happens, because girls are considered less useful in the fields. But the increased migration to the cities and a stark rise in female participation in the labour force has seen a change in attitudes to girls born.
China’s national fertility rate is about 1.7, way below the replacement level of 2.1. Couples who break the one-child policy rule have to pay a fine, the “social maintenance fee”, but lose education and health benefits.
With the Chinese population greying, the government is moving to make the one-child policy more liberal, allowing urban residents to have more than one. For example, Beijing couples made up of two who were only children, who have a second child, will be charged fines only if the mother is under 28 years old and the second child is born within four years of the first.
The baby we met has no name yet. Her parents both work and live in Changchun in Jilin province. Their child will go to a regular kindergarten that is not too expensive: fees in Chinese cities can be about €2,500 a month, which is far more than the average monthly wage. Once the child goes on to primary school, costs come down. Chinese state schools in a city such as Beijing cost about €5,000 a year; international schools typically cost a lot more, about €23,000.
The parents we spoke to want their daughter to learn music and will be happy if she gets into Chinese university, with the aim of getting into college in Beijing.
The future of a child born in Johannesburg this week would very much depend on who their parents were, given the level of inequality that exists in South Africa’s two-tier society, 20 years into democracy.
A senior researcher with the Children’s Institute at the University of Cape Town, Katharine Hall, says if the child was born to relatively wealthy parents they could expect to enjoy “many of the same comforts that the latest addition to the British royal family will experience as he grows up”. If, like the majority of children, they are born on the wrong side of the social divide, the first 20 years of their existence will be extremely difficult.
“The difference in the standards of living between poor and rich people here is vast,” says Hall. Statistics show the average South African child has a 5 per cent chance of dying before their fifth birthday, a reality linked to poor public healthcare and the fact only 50 per cent of children have access to adequate sanitation and clean piped water.
Those who survive past five years of age are expected to reach 60, on average, but the hurdles they face during their teen and pre-teen years are daunting. According to the Children’s Institute, 35 per cent of South African households have no adults in employment, which plays havoc with early childhood development and education. In addition, nearly one in four children grow up without either parent, due either to HIV/ Aids or to the need for adults to migrate to find work.
A total of 97 per cent of South African children are enrolled in primary school, but fewer than half of them make it to the end of secondary education. The few who make it to university also struggle. Data recently published by the Council on Higher Education shows that 46 per cent of all students who started studying three- and four-year degrees in 2005 had dropped out by 2010.
There is hope for South Africa, though, says Hall. “There is a willingness among academics, civil society and government to explore and use innovative models of intervention in relation to health, education and societal development.”
in Cape Town
If Jorginho Alexandre Luiz wanted any proof that life for a “moleque” born this week in the favela of Varginha will be very different to that of a British royal, he need only do the maths. One of his parents on Brazil’s minimum wage of €250 a month would need to work for almost two years before being able to afford a night at the Lindo wing of St Mary’s hospital in London.