The Case for Joint Family System
To Save our Cities
Traditionally, Pakistan has been a society where joint family living has been the norm when it comes to family structure. This comes with a number of positive and negative points and is an aspect of society that affects its running quite significantly. However, in recent years, this trend has been moving towards the nuclear family structure.
This shift is due to factors like urbanization and globalization, with people moving towards cities for employment opportunities. This has led to a significant change in housing trends and the standard of living as well. However, the culture of Pakistan and the status of property ownership also play a role in this situation.
Joint Families Losing their Appeal?
In recent times, joint families seem to be losing their appeal and people have started moving towards a more individualistic society. There has been a need for more houses for more people rather than the previous trend of one house for the same amount of people living as a joint family. This means that more resources are utilized and more land is required to meet the demand for such a family system. This also means that there is a drastically greater demand for material goods such as cars and personal devices like laptops. Each person in the household now has their own device and this lifestyle change has increased the consumption of material goods at rapid rates. According to experts like architect Kamil Khan Mumtaz, this shift towards a highly capitalist society does not bode well for a country such as Pakistan.
Zameen.com trends show that buying trends in cities have gone up significantly. Demand for housing in cities like Faisalabad, Sialkot, and Gujranwala has noticeably increased due to this migratory shift. Central cities like Lahore and Karachi already receive a heavy influx of people due to the appeal their development holds for ambitious individuals. On the surface, all this development appears to be a positive move towards a progressive society, but we are not looking at the deeper consequences.
The Side-Effects of a Changing Society
These cities are more accessible for villages and provide employment opportunities due to the industrial activities there. This has also led to the higher buying power of these individuals as they handle their finances independently. However, they cannot buy the big houses that are characteristic of joint families. Hence, the buying trend for smaller houses and apartments has increased significantly over the years.
These individual units have changed the cultural landscape as they herald the move from a collectivist society to an individualistic society. Young people of all classes have started asserting their financial and social independence, leading to a rise in the standard of living as there is less dependence on just one earning member of the family. The change in the rural-urban demographic has also improved the literacy rate and education system of Pakistan. Globalization also plays a role in this move as individuals seek the lifestyles they see in international media, and strive to keep up with the global market. These developments are encouraging with the global perspective in mind and help the society progress.
However, with the rise in nuclear families, there has also been a rise in demand for land, especially in urban centres. This has led to saturation of the real estate market, which may find itself hard-pressed to meet this demand in the near future. Already, cities are spreading at a disproportionate rate, and with the rapidly increasing population, this does not bode well for the country. With the spread in cities, agricultural land is being rapidly taken over and it must be kept in mind that we are a primarily agrarian society and our GDP greatly depends on agricultural export. If urban sprawl continues at the rate it is, the economy of the country will suffer immensely.
Another major factor which is generally overlooked is the environmental impact of this shift from joint families to nuclear families. More resources utilized means that these resources will be depleted over time. The increasing number of private vehicles used by these families generate worrying levels of pollution. In addition, multiple public transport projects are also being implemented due to the rising population of big cities and these projects come at the cost of much-needed greenery. The occurrence of thick, life-threatening smog in Lahore in 2016 is evidence of how drastic the situation is. Hence, Pakistanis need to look over their priorities instead of chasing an ideal lifestyle which will be extremely harmful in the long run.
Joint families as saviours
Despite the standard of living and the independence nuclear families offer, joint families also have some nascent benefits. In families where both parents work, joint families are highly convenient as there is always someone there to take care of the child. In addition, with current rates, it is very difficult for an average working person to buy and own property, so the majority rents property. In shared properties in joint families, people have at least a chunk of property as an asset. The joint family system also plays a part in the socialization of Pakistani children as in our culture, the role of elders is given quite high priority. Basically, the joint family provides a support system for individuals to fall back on. Thus, the property market also reflects this preference as we see that duplexes, multi-storey homes, and large houses are fairly popular as can be seen on real estate portals like Zameen.com. These kinds if properties do pose a problem when it comes to inheriting them after the parents’ death, but in general, they provide an opportunity for owning property rather than just renting it.
In addition, joint family living entails shared resources, which will decrease the negative environmental impact. Less land will be utilized and we may be able to prevent further damage to the natural resources being depleted by the expanding need for material goods. Pakistan is a country with strong cultural values and traditions which are being sacrificed at the altar of progress. In the traditional joint family, children are raised by multiple people, which leads to effective socialization into the society.
The drawbacks of joint families can be handled through a cultural shift which can be implemented through better education and awareness of social matters. Once any regressive values of members of joint families are dealt with, joint families seem like the ideal option for Pakistan. In fact, they are the need of the hour to save our resources and save our future.