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The Caste System

April 21, 2012

The Caste System

Monday, 11 July 2011 19:34

http://businessmirror.com.ph/home/banking-a-finance/13626-the-caste-system

A CASTE system is a form of social structure that divides people on the basis of inherited social status. With this system, people are rigidly expected to marry and interact with people of the same status. India has a well-known example of a caste system although there are other forms of caste systems that are found in many other cultures, as well. In this system, there is the tendency toward endogamy, meaning that people marry within the same caste exclusively. One cannot also transform from a lowly laborer to a scholar except in very rare circumstances.

Here in our country, there is also a caste system although not exactly like that of India. A good example is the story of my friend. Sometime ago, he asked me to lend him an ear about his recurring problem. All the while I thought it was financial in nature. To my surprise, his problem was the high turnover rate of his domestic helpers. He told me that there is a common reason: pregnancy. To lighten up his mood, I jokingly asked that may be he caused them all since he was the only male in the house.

From his narration, one thing that struck me was all his helpers were not even 20 years of age when they became pregnant! After we parted ways, I could not help but keep thinking of what we talked about. What flashed into my mind was this may be one of the reasons the poor keeps on getting poorer.

The story of my friend goes like this:  He hires a helper from the province and gives a generous amount as a salary. The helper later buys a cell phone for the purpose of communicating with relatives back home. Later, the helper is able to get text mates referred by friends from the same province. Most of the time their text mates also have work somewhere here. Usually the referred friends will be in the same social class as the girl.

Assuming a middle-income class guy is the text mate of the girl, more often than not, the guy will not end up marrying the girl (even if he loves her or gets her pregnant) for fear of rejection of his peers and loss of social status. On the side of the girl, she is skeptic of the guy’s intention. Her only logical move will be to go for the guy of the same class as hers. Since they come from the same location, the helper would easily trust the guy and fall for him. They would eventually meet up on their day-off and later the poor girl gets pregnant, and the guy is nowhere to be found. The helper will be forced to go back to her province and raise a child as a single mother with an uncertain future.

Assuming the guy marries the girl, they will still be in the same social class. Only the guy works. The girl stays home as a plain housewife and raise their children. Since the family is poor, chances are that the children will not finish schooling for obvious reason, thus duplicating their parents’ situation.

I also remembered one of our company workers before who earned daily minimum wage. He has eight children to feed. When asked why, he said they had nothing to have but his children as he views them as his treasures.

To illustrate, the line of a song goes like this:

There’s nothing surer

The rich get rich and the poor get children

In the meantime

In between time Ain’t we got fun

Another example is our garbage collector. He earns a meager income but has two families! It is quite ironic that the upper- and middle-income earners carefully plan the number of children while those on the poverty level increase their number of wives and children. Here we see the compounding effect of poverty. As the cycle repeats itself, more and more people in the poverty level are produced.

From the story of my friend, there are some notes that can be taken into account. The causes of their poverty are deeper than financial illiteracy. These are:

1. Poor moral value.  If my friend’s helpers had high moral values, they would not get pregnant prematurely.

2. Gullibility and wrong people to trust. This is the same with scams. The unassuming girl would trust the guy she loves dearly with all her heart to the point that she will spend all her hard-earned income for him.

3. Short-sightedness. Another problem is their very narrow foresight. They only think of today. They do not think far ahead into the future. Before, I had a young helper. I told her that if she wants to improve her quality of life, she has to save for her college tuition. If she goes to college, chances are that she will meet guys that are of higher caste. And in case she graduates and lands a job, not only will she be personally financially better, but she has a chance of meeting her future husband from the middle income or the rich. Otherwise, she will be forever in the same social class she is now.

4. Enjoy now, suffer later. They always think of instant gratification. What they want is to enjoy their life now and apply the bahala na principle. Like my former worker, he enjoyed having children but is now suffering financially since he has eight mouths to feed.

5. Poor money mindset. The helpers nowadays do not think of saving hard-earned money. Since they are domestic helpers, they get everything for free from food to lodging. Their income is net already. When my former helper left for good, she had zero savings in spite of the fact that my wife kept on reminding her to save up for the future. She sent all her salary home. In effect, she was her family’s unlimited ATM. She should have left a certain amount for her savings.

6. Hopelessness. People from the lowest class already gave up on their dreams. They accepted that they were born poor and will die poor. They just do not realize that by completing their education, they can improve their quality of life. My former helper quit schooling not because her parents could not afford to send her to school but because she did not want to study. Education is the stepping-stone to success.

7. Illiteracy. There is a saying that if education is expensive, ignorance costs much more. Without proper education, there is little chance for a person to earn good income. Combining this with financial education will help him get out of poverty.

As long as the person has dreams, he can get out of his current social status unlike that of India. A very good example is our very own fighting Cong. Manny Pacquiao. From a humble beginning, he is now the world’s best pound-for-pound boxer and is earning millions of dollars from his career.

In order for us to improve our social status the following principles can serve as a guide.

1. Ethics as a basic principle.

2. Integrity.

3. Responsibility.

4. Respect to the laws and rules.

5. Respect to the rights of other citizens.

6. Work loving.

7. Strive for savings and investment.

8. Will of super action.

9. Punctuality.

10. and of course…Discipline

‘We are poor because we lack the correct attitude. We lack the will to comply with and teach these functional principles of rich. If only we teach our children that they can achieve anything they want in life and encourage them to dream, our country would be a much wealthier country.”

Edmund Lao is a candidate for registered financial planner (RFP) designation. Currently, he is a sales engineer in one of the biggest media companies in the Philippines. To know more about RFP program, please visit http://www.rfp.ph or inquire at info@rfp.phThis e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

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