Time banking

  • Good way of doing it

Banking, otherwise a dry subject, has spawned some interesting ideas, such as micro finance, a system of loans to the less wealthy who would not normally be able to access the facility. The concept has been around for a while, predominantly in Germany, but modern microfinance was pioneered by Muhammad Yunus the founder of Bangladesh’s Grameen Bank. It runs counter to what Robert Frost said that banks lend you umbrellas in fair weather and ask for them back when it rains.

There is also the controversial cryptocurrency such as bitcoins, a digital currency which few people understand, myself included.

And then there is the concept of time banks, which is worth understanding.

Time banking, also known as time trade is based on five basic values as defined by wiki: 1) Everyone is an asset 2) Some work is beyond monetary price 3) Reciprocity in helping 4) Social networks are necessary 5) A respect for all human beings.

The idea of time banking has been around for a couple of centuries, but in modern times, time banks exist in at least 34 countries, predominantly in countries such as Japan, the US and the UK. Australia has the largest single timebank with well over 6,000 members.

There are opportunities in this class for fixing roofs and mending taps on a reciprocal basis, for fixing motorbikes and stitching clothes. And an important currency here is literacy

The currency used by bank members is skill, and since every person has some skill, every person has assets and something to offer. These skills, when used for the purpose of time banking are timed, and can then be exchanged for the appropriate skill that someone else has banked in a similar way. The exchange is not necessarily made with the same person or for the same skill.

So, for example, if you put in an hour fixing someone’s door, you ‘earn’ an hour of help in return. Someday, when you need about an hour’s work in your garden, someone who lives around your area, who is a time banker and knows gardening puts in that hour for you, and the cycle goes on. It is community cooperation with a difference, the idea of helping someone in the expectation of a return – not necessarily from that person – but from whoever else, at some other time.

Members come from all walks of life, but often they tend to be older people, who bank their donations for when they need help in return, since in the west older people tend to live independently.

In Pakistan, the elderly live mostly with family, but there are exceptions.

There are the elderly who have no family to live with.

And, there are the elderly who despite possessing family, even family that is happy to look after its elderly members, would rather live independently while they can, for various reasons. Many people for example have children living overseas, and they do not wish to live overseas themselves. Many people are happier living in their own home, and would prefer to carry on doing so. And that number is growing.

There are issues with adapting this system to Pakistan. In a poor country, with the majority of its population uneducated, people are less able to understand concepts, which is what this is. There is also the fact that the majority is poor. That segment of society, when it works, would rather be paid in cash. There is a kind of time banking which earns actual currency, but that is limited, and does not seem usable for a poor third world country, but who knows what can be achieved with some ingenuity?

Another issue associated with Pakistan and its well-to-do segment of society is that it is able to pay for help. And in fact if it did not, it would have adverse effects on the economy.

That leaves the middle class, a segment of society that is literate (quite often), that needs to regulate its expenses, and which – given careful explanation – would grasp the concept of time banking.

There are opportunities in this class for fixing roofs and mending taps on a reciprocal basis, for fixing motorbikes and stitching clothes. And an important currency here is literacy.

If I have a child that needs to be taught to read, but I cannot send that child to school because he or she works, or even if he goes to school but the teaching is abysmal as it often is, I can stitch a teacher’s clothes, and she can give some coaching to my child.

Given Pakistan’s problems which almost all of them are grounded in a lack of education, anything that can be done to improve the situation would be welcome. This is one way of doing it, and it sounds like a good way.