Straw: 'Families should adopt Asian values'

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The family of the future should model itself on Asian values, the Home Secretary said last night as he outlined his vision for creating stronger families in the 21st century.

The family of the future should model itself on Asian values, the Home Secretary said last night as he outlined his vision for creating stronger families in the 21st century.

White people had a lot to learn from the strengths in ethnic communities, Jack Straw told the Institute for Public Policy Research in his capacity as chair of the Ministerial Group on the Family.

It was important for older generations to nurture the new as well as each new generation taking responsibility for looking after the previous one in a strong "inter-generational contract" which would strengthen family life and society, he said.

"In Britain, one in eight older white people live with an adult child while two-thirds of Asian elders do. In this way, ethnic communities can enrich our sense of how the inter-generational contract can work," he said.

Academics and the Commission for Racial Equality welcomed the positive family role model put forward by the Home Secretary.

A spokesman for the commission said: "For 50 years, we have been hearing how people who come to Britain can learn from those already here. This is an illustration of the opposite and while we would not want to say one family structure is better than another, his comments are a symbol of valuing the racial diversity in Britain we now have."

Tariq Modood, director of the Centre for the Study of Ethnicity and Citizenship at Bristol University, who has conducted research on ethnic groups in Britain, said that although it was becoming slightly less likely that Asian people born in Britain would have their elderly parents living with them, second or third generation British-born Asians still cited their family and parents as the main reason for any success they had in life, rather than personal motivation.

"A lot of Asian people would be pleased to hear this and think that white citizens and neighbours could learn something about the way they make relationships work," Professor Modood said. "Of course, there are downsides about elderly relatives living with you, such as loss of some personal freedoms," he said.

The Home Secretary also said that new technology would strengthen scattered families by enabling "virtual grannies" to keep in contact with their children and grandchildren by video phones and the internet.

Research shows that more than half of the 18 to 24 age group use the worldwide web and electronic mail compared with 5 per cent or less of those over 65. "It is true that there is at present a generational imbalance in acceptance of new technology. But I don't believe this will last. It is the government's aim to give everyone internet access by 2005," Mr Straw said.

"When lifelong learning is extended through these technologies it will further transform the lives and involvement of the elderly," he said.

Matthew Taylor, a director of the institute, said it was important to get older people engaged with new technology.

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