The following article was written by Rachael Krinks during World Childless Week 2018. You can read the original article and follow Rachael on her LinkedIn page here.
Policy makers and business people might want to check out the new social movement on the block as a demographic group of interest. The growing numbers of childless adults in Australia, the UK, the US and around the globe are making themselves heard. They have disposable incomes, they have a growing sense of themselves as a collective and they are starting to organise across borders thanks to the web and social media. And yes, they vote.
Last year it was reported childless couples were on track to be Australia's most common family type. What does this mean for ageing in place policies? For retail and service offerings by small and big business? For technology developers? For Parliament? Maybe it's time for the 'working families' schtick beloved of politicians and Budget Nights to be thrown into the dustbin of history?
This week is World Childless Week (10-16 September) and if you'd like to get know some of the people who are childless not by choice with a view to better understanding their needs, pop over and look around that website. You can also find World Childless Week on Facebook.
You will not however get access to the many popular closed Facebook groups of childless women and men and the perspectives and aspirations contained within, without being one of them yourselves. Hence, the inaugural World Childless Week in 2017 to bridge the gap between these private conversations and the rest of the world.
I wrote a piece for last year's World Childless Week on how I came to be childless by circumstances and it was published on their Facebook page. It's pretty personal so I haven't yet published it on LinkedIn but one day I may. Women from around the world wrote pieces and commented on each others stories. In 2018 there are more men's voices: childless men have emerged from what seems like a silence, to share their perspectives this year. It is incredibly moving and fascinating to hear their stories because it is simply not something that comes up in conversation with men unless you ask.
It's no surprise that childless men and women are frustrated by employment practices that privilege colleagues with children for holiday periods because the assumption is childless workers have nowhere special to be. It can also be hard for us to fit into work cultures that are female dominated where most of the conversation in lunch rooms and team meetings and rapport-developing interactions is based around sharing stories of children or grandchildren. That's a tough nut I haven't yet managed to crack, part of the reason I'm pivoting to roles and industries that are less female dominated.
We are also frustrated by policies like Peter Dutton's short-lived thought bubble of a subsidy for 'working families' electricity bills. That thought bubble, short lived as it was, made me quite cranky. It was like every childless Australian adult had instantly been rendered invisible and left to battle the rising cost of living on their own. Our government is there to govern for all of us, I thought. Not some of us.
Finally, the question of ageing without children. Social services continue to assume 'carers' - adult children - will be the main support with services patching gaps. For many childless adults, greater than that frustration is fear: ageing without loving family support and family advocates to protect us from neglect or abuse by paid carers either in our homes or in care, is our greatest concern.
Make no mistake: this is a building movement, emerging from the UK and blossoming around the world. Like all emerging social movements, this movement right now is focused on raising awareness, making connections, discovering its numbers, commonalities and providing support to group members. But just wait till it finds its feet. It will lift its gaze, raise its voice and get political, lobbying for budgeted policies that recognise the existence and needs of this growing demographic. It will demand changes from service providers and any business wanting this cohort's wallets to open will have to make an effort to render them visible, to understand them.
Check out World Childless Week. If you've got skills to give them a hand to get the message out and develop this movement, lend a hand!