Where Grandma Needs A Permit To Have The Grandkids Stay Over

Some working parents couldn't make it without the grandparents taking on steady child-care duties. But in Zurich, Switzerland, if the kids are with the grandparents for an extended stay, it must be reported to the city -- or the family risks a fi

Where did the parents go? (kindergentler2001)

ZURICH - Little David loves to spend the night at Grandma and Grandpa's. The two-year-old generally spends two or three nights a week at his grandparents' house. It's an ideal solution for his parents, both of whom work. "For us, it's an alternative to day care. And because my parents live at some distance from us, he often spends the night," says the child's father.

Many families would no doubt see young David's situation as pretty routine – quite normal in fact. Why shouldn't he spend quality time with his grandparents? And yet such arrangements are not something authoritites in Zurich, Switerland take lightly. There, parents who leave their children in the care of grandparents for more than two days a week on a regular basis have to report the arrangement to social services – or face a fine of 1,000 Swiss francs ($1,060). Not only that, but grandparents also need a permit.

Peter Hausherr, who heads the city office for foster children, believes that leaving one's children with relatives can indeed be a good way to manage the demands of work and raising a family -- and that as a general rule such arrangements don't need to be reported to authorities. "However, if the focal point of a child's life shifts to the relatives, then it must be reported," he told Tages-Anzeiger

Concretely, that means that any arrangement whereby a child under the age of 18 regularly spends three nights or more a week -- or 10 nights or more a month -- with other family members must be officially declared. "Regularly" is defined as a two-month period or more, which means that vacations -- assuming the child isn't spending non-vacation time with the relatives as well -- don't count, said Hausherr.

If little David were to spend any more time at his grandparents' house than he currently does, his grandparents would have to get a permit. The point of the permit, according to Hausherr, is both to protect the child and to make sure that the city can support the "foster parents' in their job. To make sure that children are being properly looked after at their grandparents', staffers in Hausherr's office make house visits. "In most cases, the relatives don't perceive the visits as check-ups but as welcome back-up," said Hausherr. The visits usually go off without a hitch. In 2011, only three families were subject to follow-up checks.

"And fines – to my knowledge, nobody has been fined for the past 10 years," he said.

Read the full story in German by Lucienne-Camille Vaudan

Photo – kindergentler21

*This is a digest item, not a direct translation

Support Worldcrunch
We are grateful for reader support to continue our unique mission of delivering in English the best international journalism, regardless of language or geography. Click here to contribute whatever you can. Merci!

Why Chinese Cities Waste Millions On Vanity Building Projects

The so-called "White Elephants," or massive building projects that go unused, keep going up across China as local officials mix vanity and a misdirected attempt to attract business and tourists. A perfect example the 58-meter, $230 million statue of Guan Yu, a beloved military figure from the Third Century, that nobody seems interested in visiting.

Statue of Guan Yu in Jingzhou Park, China

Chen Zhe

BEIJING — The Chinese Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development recently ordered the relocation of a giant statue in Jingzhou, in the central province of Hubei. The 58-meter, 1,200-ton statue depicts Guan Yu, a widely worshipped military figure from the Eastern Han Dynasty in the Third century A.D.

The government said it ordered the removal because the towering presence "ruins the character and culture of Jingzhou as a historic city," and is "vain and wasteful." The relocation project wound up costing the taxpayers approximately ¥300 million ($46 million).

Huge monuments as "intellectual property" for a city

In recent years local authorities in China have often raced to create what is euphemistically dubbed IP (intellectual property), in the form of a signature building in their city. But by now, we have often seen negative consequences of such projects, which evolved from luxurious government offices to skyscrapers for businesses and residences. And now, it is the construction of cultural landmarks. Some of these "white elephant" projects, even if they reach the scale of the Guan Yu statue, or do not necessarily violate any regulations, are a real problem for society.

It doesn't take much to be able to differentiate between a project constructed to score political points and a project destined for the people's benefit. You can see right away when construction projects neglect the physical conditions of their location. The over the top government buildings, which for numerous years mushroomed in many corners of China, even in the poorest regional cities, are the most obvious examples.

Homebuyers looking at models of apartment buildings in Shanghai, China — Photo: Imaginechina/ZUMA

Guan Yu transformed into White Elephant

A project truly catering to people's benefit would address their most urgent needs and would be systematically conceived of and designed to play a practical role. Unfortunately, due to a dearth of true creativity, too many cities' expression of their rich cultural heritage is reduced to just building peculiar cultural landmarks. The statue of Guan Yu in Jingzhou is a perfect example.

Long ago Jinzhou was a strategic hub linking the North and the South of China. But its development has lagged behind coastal cities since the launch of economic reform a generation ago.

This is why the city's policymakers came up with the idea of using the place's most popular and glorified personality, Guan Yu (who some refer to as Guan Gong). He is portrayed in the 14th-century Chinese classic "The Romance of the Three Kingdoms" as a righteous and loyal warrior. With the aim of luring tourists, the city leaders decided to use him to create the city's core attraction, their own IP.

Opened in June 2016, the park hosting the statue comprises a surface of 228 acres. In total it cost ¥1.5 billion ($232 million) to build; the statue alone was ¥173 million ($27 million). Alas, since the park opened its doors more than four years ago, the revenue to date is a mere ¥13 million ($2 million). This was definitely not a cost-effective investment and obviously functions neither as a city icon nor a cultural tourism brand as the city authorities had hoped.

China's blind pursuit of skyscrapers

Some may point out the many landmarks hyped on social media precisely because they are peculiar, big or even ugly. However, this kind of attention will not last and is definitely not a responsible or sustainable concept. There is surely no lack of local politicians who will contend for attention by coming up with huge, strange constructions. For those who can't find a representative figure, why not build a 40-meter tall potato in Dingxi, Gansu Province, a 50-meter peony in Luoyang, Shanxi Province, and maybe a 60-meter green onion in Zhangqiu, Shandong Province?

It is to stop this blind pursuit of skyscrapers and useless buildings that, early this month, the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development issued a new regulation to avoid local authorities' deviation from people's real necessities, ridiculous wasted costs and over-consumption of energy.

I hope those responsible for the creation of a city's attractiveness will not simply go for visual impact, but instead create something that inspires people's intelligence, sustains admiration and keeps them coming back for more.

Support Worldcrunch
We are grateful for reader support to continue our unique mission of delivering in English the best international journalism, regardless of language or geography. Click here to contribute whatever you can. Merci!