In today’s volatile times, couples have become very careful about bringing children into this world. It takes some financial planning and career stability to have children and be able to provide a good life to them. Although it does sound a bit ungrateful to analyze a child’s expenses with such scrutiny, we need to accept the fact that raising a child until he/she is ready for college is equal to or more than buying a house in some cases! The physical, recreational and educational needs of a child are not what they were a decade ago; they have refined into something quite exclusive and luxurious; which of course can be hard to achieve especially in middle-income families of Pakistan.
Even if we keep the financial aspect aside; raising children to be respectful, honest, mentally stable and following the religion you believe in is an even tougher task. With the explosion of media, internet, mobile phones, and other gadgets; it has become almost impossible to know exactly what a child is up to and whose company he is and if he/she is into the wrong addictions.
It is difficult to put a cost to the subjective aspects and difficulties of raising a child. However, the financial cost involved is more objective and can be listed down but not given an accurate amount as it varies household to household, city to city and area to area.
Birth and 1st year
People may feel that the highest costs they incurred are during the birth of their children due to the many things that are needed for a newborn these days. The gear, clothes and feeding supplies, diapers, formula, and other accessories reach quite a high amount along with the doctor visits, tests, and hospital charges. In countries like Pakistan, where the citizens have to pay for everything from their pockets, this initial cost is also worth a few lacs! However, the reality is that these costs are not as high as the ones you will face in the future coming years with your child.
A child, of course, needs a place to live in, and more space and better living conditions than we adults can compromise with. Mortgage or rent, taxes, household repairs, utility bills, and any other things your home comes in housing costs. It is hard to estimate the amount but around 25-30% of a child’s expenses are taken up by housing. However, don’t be disheartened as the amount does not raise at this same rate if you have more than one child.
The housing costs, of course, depends firstly on the city you are residing in. Comparing Karachi to Multan will not be a wise decision. Secondly, the cost of living and housing also depends on the area you live in. Karachi Defence and Karachi Khalid bin Waleed road housing expense cannot be the same and neither can they be compared.
Childcare and education
Private education has become more of a money-making tactic in Pakistan than any other industry. Those working in the education sector know that it is one aspect in which parents do not want to and will not compromise. Hence, the fee structure is made to exploit the hard-earned money of parents. Moreover, there are other costs involved in education for books, materials, uniforms, non-refundable security deposit, events, activities, etc. If you are both working parents then daycare expenses are even higher than school expenses which you have to incur for the first few years of course.
Another thing I feel in the education sector is glorifying everything in return for the sky-high fees. The new schools and campuses are spick and span, modern, colorful and big. However, education is still not up to international standards and is quite a book based. This is also a cost that parents pay as eventually, they will have to think about upgrading their child’s skills through foreign education or extra-curricular classes to gain a real-world, practical skill.
Food expenses of children are not to be missed out as they are a lot. Children need good nutrition and a diet that incorporates all the food groups. They need healthy snacks and they need unhealthy snacks. They want to dine out with family and they want to dine out with friends.
In Pakistan, even the most basic food items such as wheat, grains, vegetables, and fruits are not controlled for their prices. High or low, people have no other option but to purchase the basic food necessities at the inflated price. For instance, recently, tomatoes touched Rs250/kg. This was an all-time high amount for such a basic vegetable that is required in almost all Pakistani dishes.
Hence, the cost of even putting a basic meal on the table is quite high and hard to attain for parents. Add to it some insta worthy foods like burgers, lasagna, fish, etc. as well as some basic dining outs per month. Your budget is now over the roof!!!
Of course, clothing is a basic right of every human being and you want your child to always look good in the best clothes that your money can buy. However, this world has become so wasteful and unmindful of the carbon footprints they are putting on the planet. Hand me downs are not acceptable anymore. Re-using old clothes is an ideal way to reduce waste and pollution but the children of today sadly frown upon it. Neither do they want to use anything that does not have a brand tag and label attached to it.
Gone are the days when children happily wore what their grandmothers sew for them or whatever their parents got for them. Children of today have their own choice and know how to impose that choice also. Hence, the clothing cost of children is quite high than it used to be previously due to inflation as well as a wide influx of brands and awareness.
As soon as your child’s school and activities start, the cost of transportation adds up exponentially. Fuel, car maintenance and even a separate car these days certainly do not come cheap! But it is all required for the safe pick and drop off your child to and from school and other activities. School bus service is also available which is a cheaper option but often security issues have been reported. The harsh summers of Pakistan also make air conditioning in cars a necessity that increases fuel costs.
Children get sick -a lot! And you feel scared initially to administer any medicines on your own. Doctor trips are very frequent in the early years of raising a child while their immunity develops. Neither are doctors nor are medicines cheap in Pakistan.
If your child is seriously sick and needs to go to the hospital; the bills add up even more!
The above-mentioned expense is of course fixed and there is little you can do to change them as all our basic needs. However, miscellaneous expenses also add up from time to time like a birthday party or vacation.
No doubt raising a child is no short of a victory in today’s times. It is even harder in developing countries like Pakistan where each cost for raising your child is solely your responsibility. I do feel having supportive government policies like developed economies would help parents and remove the stress of bringing a child into this world. Countries like Canada offer healthcare and child care benefits as well as a free education that makes it easier for Canadians to raise a family. Some of these policies should be implemented by the Pakistani government also.