Long work hours get in the way of family life

These days, many mothers work full time out of economic necessity, as it is more difficult to support a family on just one income, unlike 50 years ago ("Fewer sold on incentives to start a family: Survey"; Tuesday).

Perhaps, that is why everywhere in the world now, birth rates are lower than when mothers could afford to stay home for the first 10 years of their children's lives.

I was lucky to have a stay-at-home mother, and a father who was home before 5.30pm on most days, when I was growing up.

But today, with mothers forced to work and both parents pressured to work longer hours, what kind of family life can one have if parents see their children briefly in the morning before work, and briefly at night before the children go to bed?

Hours of undivided attention that mothers once gave to children are now being given to corporations, which frequently work women with children late into the evening.

No amount of money can make up for the effects of lost time with one's family. Until this issue is addressed - and society again considers it "normal" for only one parent to work, from 9am to 5pm, no amount of money or incentives will successfully push up the birth rate.

This may not be the solution to the low birth rate that corporations and policymakers want to hear. But perhaps it is the only solution that is in line with human nature, and its effectiveness can be seen in countries where it has been tried out, such as Sweden.

Eric J. Brooks