Third 2021 International Family Dialogue Focuses on Work & Economics

On Sunday, August 15, 40+ people from at least 18 countries — including El Salvador, Mexico, Trinidad & Tobago, USA, Italy, Nigeria, Ghana, Burundi, Uganda, Egypt, Turkey, Palestine, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Bangladesh, China, Indonesia, Philippines — joined us for the third of six live international family dialogues via Zoom focused on the question: how do work and economics impact family safety and health worldwide?

The six-dialogues series is part of the Family Diplomacy Initiative, Learning Life’s flagship program devoted to connecting families across borders to share and learn together. The August 15 dialogue started with a brief video about the dialogues, then some context from Learning Life’s founder, Paul Lachelier, then a series of questions participants discussed:

  1. Over, under, and unemployment: Some people work too much, others too little.  How common are these in your country, and how to they affect people’s health?
  2. Economic growth brings better health and longevity, but also more pollution, more processed foods, sedentary lifestyles, etc.  Do you see economic growth improving or worsening family health in your country?  How so?
  3. Gender and work: Women and men often do different work.  How do you see this affecting the health of men, women and families in your country?
  4. Age and work: Are children and the elderly forced or encouraged to work in your country?  Should they be encouraged to work?
  5. Workplace safety: Some jobs are a lot safer than others.  What threats to workplace safety do you see in your community, and/or country?
  6. Slavery/human trafficking: Do you see or hear about it in your community or country?  What are the consequences for family health and safety? 
  7. Work insecurity/instability: When economies decline, many people lose their jobs. Also, some employers prefer not to keep their employees even in good times to maintain a fresh, motivated workforce. Has work insecurity affected the health of yours or other families you know?  How so?

Open dialogue followed, starting with Marvin, a teacher from China, who explained that while living standards have increased greatly overall in China, only a relatively privileged few, like government workers, work 40 hours a week. Many others work 9am to 9pm daily, and employees are given higher-pay incentives to work more. Ana, a university student from Mexico spoke of water and land privatization, and how these are making life more insecure for families. Steve Ault, a professor in the USA, noted that most people around the world do not have a choice of what work they do, other than perhaps whether to work for themselves or someone else. Alisa from Mexico spoke as an immigrant trafficked into the USA about some of the difficulties immigrant families face, especially if they do not have the right to work yet still have a family to support. Saif, a Jordanian working in business in Egypt contrasted traditional slavery where the slave owner gave food and shelter in exchange for bonded labor versus “contemporary slavery” where families are not ensured food and shelter, and have to make a life from the often insufficient wages employers pay, including foreign companies that move to places where they can get cheaper workers. Saif accordingly called for a global minimum wage. Begum, a Ph.D. graduate from Turkey, and Rashmi, a Ph.D. and part-time university teacher in India, both spoke of the oversupply of educated people and the undersupply of jobs. They spoke of being underpaid and overworked for many years despite their higher degrees. She also noted how richer families can in some ways escape the health problems of poorer families because they can pay for better health care in their country or a foreign country.

A number of participants spoke of the impacts of the pandemic. Job, a government worker in the Philippines, spoke of how Filipino families during the pandemic are relying on community pantries that have spread to provide food and other essential goods. Nusrat, a chemical industry worker recently laid off in Bangladesh, noted that unemployment spikes have led to what have been called “suicides of despair.” Rossella from Italy remarked that women, often employed in more casual, part-time and temporary jobs, have been more likely to lose their jobs during the pandemic, aggravating gender inequalities. Brenda and her sister, university students in Mexico, echoed the gender unequal challenges women face, including having to at once work for an employer and do more work than men at home, and how paid parental leave would help in some ways. Bahira, a professor and expert on families in the USA, noted that women have had to take on more work during the pandemic, including wage work, and caring for children and elders.

Then, the conversation turned to human trafficking. Sridev, a filmmaker in Nepal, discussed various forms of contemporary slavery or bonded labor which ensnare too many Nepalese men and women, including domestic servants and construction workers at home and abroad. Tenille, a graduate student from Trinidad & Tobago noted that some people are abducted without explanation to be turned into slaves, or for their organs to be “harvested” for sale at a high price on a global black market for needed human organs. Alisa from Mexico spoke of her human trafficking experience, and the difficulties it presents in gaining legal employment.

To view the full video-recorded dialogue, click here.

All six family dialogues are free, and are held, in English, on Sundays, 12:00-1:30pm EST (New York time) via Zoom. Each dialogue has a different date and topic as follows:

June 27: Global Trends in Family Life: How are families changing worldwide, and how does this impact family health and security?  Topics might include global patterns and trends in family demographics, parenting, childhood, family life, aspirations and viewpoints, etc.

July 25: Health Care Systems: How do health care systems shape family health and security?  What exists and what’s lacking in local-to-global health care institutions? What are some of the major global health trends, threats, and some of the most promising large-scale solutions? 

August 15: Work & Economics: How do economic forces affect family health and security?  Topics might include work and unemployment, workplace safety, automation, income and wealth inequality, economic migration and remittances, work-life balance, etc.   

September 12: The Environment: How do natural and man-made environmental conditions, local to global, impact family health and security?  Topics might include home and neighborhood crime and safety, community life, green space, housing and segregation, transportation, pollution, climate change, etc.  

October 10: Politics: How do local to global politics influence family health and security?  Topics might include government service provision, leadership, civil society, governmental power inequalities between and within nations, immigration and refugee policy, war, human rights, rule of law, corruption, legal discrimination, etc.

November 14: Education & Leisure: How do education and leisure time activities influence family health and security? Topics might include formal and informal education, leisure patterns and trends, literacy, early childhood education, gender and class inequalities, etc.   

To participate in the dialogues, please complete this pre-dialogues survey. The survey offers more information plus the Zoom link for all the dialogues. Note: Because these are family dialogues, you should participate with one or more members of your family in the same room, whether siblings, parents, grandparents, cousins, in-laws or other family members. If family members are not available or willing, please invite one or more friends or housemates. Everyone who plans to attend at least one of the six family dialogues should fill out the pre-survey linked above.