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?
Life is tough in the Rio de Janeiro slum Pope Francis visited on Thursday. Huge strides in pre- and postnatal care in an otherwise precarious public health system means Jorginho (Little Georgie) now has a far better chance of reaching Brazil’s life expectancy of 73 years – so long as he survives his dangerous teenage years.
The country is one of the most violent “peacetime” societies in the world, especially if you are young and black. As a teenager and young man, Jorginho is more than 50 times more likely to die violently on streets fought over by violent drug gangs and one of the world’s most lethal police forces than if he had been born in the UK.
Statistically, Jorge will be born into a smaller family than his parents were, with the average Brazilian family now about two children. Such numbers hide fragile family structures in slums where many children do not know their absent fathers.
If his mother has regular work as a cleaner in what favela residents refer to as “the street” – the formal city – he could spend his childhood roaming Varginha’s alleyways unless extended family can help out. This is because public schools in Brazil take children for only a half day each day, for instruction by low-paid and often poorly trained teachers.
With little chance of social mobility in a city with huge racial and social barriers to advancement Jorge will probably be tempted to abandon school as soon as possible and start earning some money as a delivery boy perhaps dreaming of becoming a bus driver. He could though come under the wing of the small but growing number of favela residents who demand a better life and struggle against enormous odds to make it to university. If he did that, in 20 years, Jorginho could even become one of the articulate community leaders who are demanding a better deal for communities like Varginha.
in Rio de Janeiro
A child born in Ireland this week is in good company. About 200 children are born every day in the country with he highest proportion of children in the EU.
If he’s a boy, his name is unlikely to be George (or Alexander). Jack is consistently the most popular boy’s name these days, while Emily tops the poll for girls.
Despite all sorts of social upheaval in recent times, family will most likely consist of a married mother and father and two children. Both parents, increasingly, are likely to be working, or seeking work, earning an average of €40,000. The youngster can expect to spend time in childcare, of which childminding, rather than a creche, is the most popular form.
Education will more than likely involve a primary school under the patronage of a religious denomination. Some 90 per cent of national schools are owned and under the patronage of the Catholic Church.
The child’s parents would do well to get their name down for a secondary school. The second-level school-age population is set to increase by anything up to 20 per cent by 2026, according to projections by the Central Statistics Office.
Skills and education will be key in the new economy. Most students are likely to progress to third-level by the time the teenager finishes school. A job in the knowledge-based industry seems likely, according to future-skills reports.
At least the economy should be in better nick by the time our young man (or woman) considers entering the workforce, in 2033 or later. Strong population growth and a shrinking population in parts of Europe mean our workers are likely to be in demand. The CSO suggests our working- age population may increase by about 8 per cent over the next 15 years; the EU’s is set to decline by 3 per cent.
On the downside, work will go on for longer than previous generations. Pensions won’t be payable until at least the age of 70. But then again, retirement will be longer. Children born today are more likely to live well into their 80s or early 90s.