Population Control is no Shame – Pakistan has no oil and Electricity or Gas

fertility in check

-Photo by Fayyaz Ahmed
-Photo by Fayyaz Ahmed

While contraceptives do help with family planning, what really helps is preventing women from marrying very young.A survey in Pakistan revealed that women under 19 years of age at marriage were much more likely to give birth to five or more children than those who were at least 19 years old at marriage. The same survey also revealed that visit by family planning staff did not have a significant impact on reducing fertility rates. Instead, women who watched family planning commercials on TV were much less likely to have very large families.

Being the sixth most populous nation in the world, Pakistanis are also exposed to disease, violence, and natural disasters, which increase the odds of losing children to accidents or disease. At the same time, many consider the use of contraceptives to be un-Islamic. In addition, the preference for a male offspring is also widespread. As a result, Pakistani parents are inclined to have several children. The immediate task for the governments in Pakistan is to ensure that the rate of decline in fertility rates observed over the past two decades continues. At the same time, the governments in Pakistan should learn from Bangladesh that has made significant progress in stemming the population tide.

Source: The World Bank (2013) – Graph generated by Murtaza Haider.
Source: The World Bank (2013) – Graph generated by Murtaza Haider.

Getting down to two children per family may seem an elusive target, however, Pakistanis have made huge dents in the alarmingly high fertility rates, despite the widespread opposition to family planning. Since 1988, the fertility rate in Pakistan has declined from 6.2 births per woman to 3.5 in 2009. In a country where the religious and other conservatives oppose all forms of family planning, a decline of 44 per cent in fertility rate is nothing short of a miracle.

A recent paper explores the impact of family planning programs in Pakistan. The paper uses data from the 2006-07 Pakistan Demographic and Health Survey, which interviewed 10, 023 ever-married women between the ages of 15 and 49 years. The survey revealed that only 30 per cent women used contraceptives in Pakistan. Though the paper in its current draft has several shortcomings, yet it still offers several insights into what contributes to high fertility and what the effective strategies are to check high fertility rates in Pakistan.

The survey revealed that the use of contraceptives did not have any significant impact for women who had given birth to six or more children. While 24 per cent women who were not using any contraceptives reported six or more births, 37 per cent of those who used contraceptives reported six or more births. At the same time, 27 per cent of women who were not visited by the family planning staff reported six or more births compared with 22 per cent of women who had a visit with the family planning staff.

Meanwhile, demographic and socio-economic factors reported strong correlation with the fertility outcomes. Women who were at least 19 years old at marriage were much less likely to have four or more births than those who were younger at the time of marriage. Similarly, those who gave birth before they turned 19 were much more likely to have four or more births.

Education also reported strong correlation with fertility outcomes. Consider that 58 per cent of illiterate women reported four or more births compared to 21 per cent of those who were highly educated. Similarly, 60 per cent of the women married to illiterate men reported four or more births compared to 39 per cent of the women married to highly educated men. The survey revealed that literacy among women mattered more for reducing fertility rates than literacy among their husbands.

The underlying variable that defines literacy and the prevalence of contraceptives in Pakistan is the economic status of the households. The survey revealed that 32 per cent of women from poor households reported six or more births compared to 21 per cent of those who were from affluent households.

The above results suggest that family planning efforts in Pakistan are likely to succeed if the focus is on educating young women. Educated young women are likely to get married later and will have fewer children. This is also supported by a comprehensive study by the World Bank in which Andaleeb Alam and others observed that cash transfer programs in Punjab to support female education resulted in a nine percentage point increase in female enrollment. At the same time, the authors found that those girls who participated in the program delayed their marriage and had fewer births by the time they turned 19.

“In fact, women in Punjab with middle and high school education have around 1.8 fewer children than those with lower than middle school education by the end of their reproductive life. Simple extrapolations also indicate that the 1.4 year delay in marriage of beneficiaries associated with the program could lead to 0.4 fewer births by the end of their childbearing years.”

The religious fundamentalists in Pakistan will continue to oppose family planning programs. They cannot, however, oppose the education of young women. The results presented here suggest that high fertility rates could be checked effectively by improving young women’s access to education. At the same time, educated mothers are the best resource for raising an educated nation.

Good Future

“…Without compulsion, Taiwan has gone beyond the famous one-child policy enforced on the Chinese mainland’s main ethnic Han community since 1978. It is put down to the usual syndrome of education, careers, financial pressures, housing problems and childcare costs found in many affluent societies…”

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/politics/asia-tells-its-young-love-is-in-the-air-20110114-19r75.html#ixzz1ztA7v300

sIllustration: Simon Letch

REMEMBER the Yellow Peril? Older people will recall the racial fears easily whipped up here by images of the vast crowds of east Asia and projections of their population increase overwhelming our sparsely settled outpost of British life.

As another year gets under way, though, it is many of the east Asians who feel threatened, as governments from Singapore to Tokyo contemplate falling fertility rates and shrinking populations, and urge their reluctant young – in the most delicate, culturally appropriate way, of course – to get together and procreate.

Last year the number of babies born in Taiwan was half that of 10 years ago, partly due to the inauspicious lunar year of the Tiger just about to end, but continuing a trend that will hasten the ageing and decline of the island’s population. Taiwan’s fertility rate, the average number of children born to its women in their lifetime, fell to 0.91 last year, far below the rate of 2.1 needed to sustain population size.

Without compulsion, Taiwan has gone beyond the famous one-child policy enforced on the Chinese mainland’s main ethnic Han community since 1978. It is put down to the usual syndrome of education, careers, financial pressures, housing problems and childcare costs found in many affluent societies.

The same has happened in Hong Kong which has one of the lowest fertility rates in the world, and faces a population decline from 7 million to about 6 million by mid-century, and in Singapore where there is an ethnic Chinese majority.

Japan’s population shrank by a record 123,000 people last year, continuing the demographic slide that began four years back. From a peak of 128 million in 2006, the Japanese population will shrink to under 100 million by mid-century, by which time its over-65s will have grown from the present 25 per cent of population to about 40 per cent.

Registered marriages last year were the fewest since 1954, suggesting young Japanese don’t have starting a family much on their minds. Lack of full-time jobs, housing issues, and inflexibility about combining careers and motherhood keep many wedded to the single lifestyle.

In mainland China, population is still growing and will peak about 2030 at somewhere between 1.39 billion (a recent US Central Intelligence Agency projection) and 1.46 billion (projected by Tian Xueyuan, a former president of Beijing’s Institute of Population and Labor Economics).

Growth in labour supply is already tapering. As we have seen from strikes and worker suicides over the last year, young people are less and less willing to ”eat bitterness” and work in sweatshop factories for low wages. In five years’ time the number of people in the 16-to-60 working age bracket will start to fall. The over-60s will be a third of the population in 2020.

Then there is the still unclear effect of selective abortion and more recently, sperm manipulation, to ensure a baby is male. This is producing significant distortions in sex ratios of some Chinese provinces, and also in Taiwan, less so in Hong Kong where daughters are in favour as old-age insurance, but not much in Japan.

By 2025 the Chinese will be outnumbered by about 1.4 billion Indians, whose numbers will grow to about 1.7 billion mid-century. The Indian population profile is much younger, giving rise to expectations of an automatic ”demographic dividend” in a low aged-to-working age burden for the economy.

But as Nandan Nilekani, co-founder of the IT giant Infosys, wrote in the Hindustan Times recently, can the dividend be cashed? ”Over the next two decades India will have to work hard at equipping its hundreds of millions of young people with the skills they need to participate in the economy, with jobs to be productive in, and with social protections to sustain them in the long term,” he said.

India’s population growth is now moving to the more backward northern, central and eastern states from the better-educated west and south, where fertility rates have fallen steadily below the net reproduction level. By 2025 the average age in India’s south and west will be 34, compared with 26 in these high-birth-rate states. A high percentage of young working age people can turn out to be an economic and social disaster, not a dividend, if jobs and opportunities are not there.

In a more modest way, Australians and Americans are keeping their end up in baby production, with fertility rates close to two children per woman, and high immigration rates. By mid-century we are likely to see 36 million people in Australia (from the present 22.5 million) and 439 million in the US (from 310 million).

But back to east Asia. In mainland China, it has long been a case of officialdom invading the bedroom and even the womb to stop babies.

In Singapore and Taiwan, it is almost a case of bureaucrats sitting at the bed-head urging exhausted working couples to get it together.

This week Taiwan’s President, Ma Ying-jeou, ordered ”national security level” countermeasures to address the falling birth numbers. His planners are preparing to throw

$1.3 billion a year in birth incentives and childcare subsidies. Government media units have devised ads showing couples looking at a baby photo then disappearing under the quilt. A contest for a pro-birth slogan recently produced the winner: ”Children – our best heirloom”.

In Singapore the government has been running a matchmaking service for several years, especially trying to get the island republic’s more nerdish graduates together, with events like ”Love is in the Aisles” in the local supermarkets of the French-owned Carrefour chain.

Maybe this year will see a turnaround. On February 3 we enter the Year of the Rabbit.

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/politics/asia-tells-its-young-love-is-in-the-air-20110114-19r75.html#ixzz1ztAwx1B2