An Economic Exploration of Sex, Marriage and Family
Chapter 15: Old-age support, family protection and population theory
Filial piety occupies the central core value in the cultures of many East Asian countries, such as South Korea, Japan, Taiwan and traditional China. It is a social norm promoted by Confucian philosophy, and it emphasizes that an individual should pay a great amount of respect to their parents. In particular, filial piety requires a person to be obedient to their parents and to provide financial support to them in their old age. Chapter 14 summarized Salaff's fairly detailed case study of filial piety in the behaviour of the working daughters of Hong Kong. This chapter aims to examine filial piety more generally. It explores answers to the following two fundamental questions. First, what material basis is required for the norm of filial piety to emerge? Second, why are people willing to adhere to this social norm? Economists tend to believe that there is an economic rationale for any social custom to exist in the first place, and filial piety is no exception. Economists' research indicates that, in ancient times, people's adherence to filial piety substantially improved almost everyone's welfare. Today, most people work during their youth into middle age and then retire in old age, often between the ages of 60 and 65. Without a large amount of income transfers from the government, people's income drops considerably after retirement. However, people can save during their working years. Meanwhile, highly developed financial systems provide people with a variety of investment vehicles.
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