That contract was built on the premise that parents would do almost anything to care for their children — in recent times, depleting their life savings to pay for a good education — and then would end their lives in their children's care. No Social Security system was needed. Nursing homes were rare.How Capitalism Creates The Welfare State
But as South Korea's hard-charging younger generations joined an exodus from farms to cities in recent decades, or simply found themselves working harder in the hypercompetitive environment that helped drive the nation's economic miracle, their parents were often left behind. Many elderly people now live out their final years poor, in rural areas with the melancholy feel of ghost towns.
[T]he forces that free market capitalism unleashes are precisely the forces that undermine traditional forms of community and family that once served as a traditional safety net... in South Korea, the shift has been so sudden and so incomplete that you see just how powerfully anti-family capitalism can be...Dying Alone Becomes New Normal as Japan Spurns Confucius - "Itoko Uchida, 82, was counting on the nephew she raised to support her in old age. He refused, forcing her to pay for a sponsor to join the 420,000-long queue of Japanese waiting for a nursing home bed."
The result is a generation of the elderly committing suicide at historic rates: from 1,161 in 2000 to 4,378 in 2010. The Korean government requires the elderly to ask their families for resources if they can pay for retirement funding – forcing parents to beg children to pay for their living alone – a fate they never anticipated and that violates their sense of dignity. Hence the suicides...
We see the consequences far beyond the suicides of elderly Koreans. And in my bleaker moments, I wonder whether humankind will come to see this great capitalist leap forward as a huge error in human history – the moment we undid ourselves and our very environment, reaching untold material wealth as well as building societies in which loneliness, dislocation, displacement and radical insecurity cannot but increase."
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