Declining Fertility Rates Cause Renewed Concern

Declining Fertility Rates Cause Renewed ConcernDeclining Fertility Rates Cause Renewed Concern

The population trends over the past five years show that the average global birth rate is below the replacement level.

As reported by the news website of the Iranian Vice-Presidency for Women and Family Affairs, currently 83% of women across the world have less than two kids.

In 2012, the average global birth rate was 19.15 births per 1,000 population compared to 20.09 per 1,000, in 2007. The rate has further decreased over the past four years.

In Iran, by the year 2007, the annual population growth rate had declined to 0.7%. At current fertility rates, Iran’s median age is expected to increase from 28 in 2013 to 40 by 2030. The possibility of zero population growth rate by the year 2050 cannot be ruled out.

The total fertility rate (TFR) or the average number of children born to a woman in her lifetime, is currently 1.8 in Iran which is the lowest among Islamic countries, and even below the world average of 2.1 births per woman.

According to the Health Ministry, TFR should reach 2.1 (the global average) to make up for the significantly low rate in the past decades.

The current TFR is a big decline from the mid-1970s and the 1980s when it was 6.4. It also now poses a major challenge to the national population growth rate.

The TFR also varies among the Iranian provinces. It is between 1.8 and 2.1 in 13 provinces, the highest in Sistan-Baluchestan with a rate of 3.7 and the lowest in Tehran with less than one birth per woman.

 Factors Responsible

A large number of factors contribute to women’s or couples’ choices in having kids. Economic issues, modern life and its complications, as well as women’s reluctance to quit jobs or go back to traditional lifestyles and customs, are some of the reasons cited.

Iran will likely face a “reproductive health crisis” due to the declining population of women or “future mothers” in the country. A heavy burden will be placed on posterity if the gender ratio is not set right. The current rate of population ageing is alarming, as in a period of ten years, the elderly population had grown by 8%. The number is expected to increase to 14% and 21% in the next consecutive ten-year stages, senior Health Ministry officials say.

At present, between 11% and 15% of the 80 million population also suffers from infertility. Studies show that 70% of the cases are due to both male and female fertility problems, 20% due to factors involving both partners, and 10% are unexplained causes.

Globally, fertility has decreased to one child per woman in countries such as Germany, Italy, and Japan, Poland, Singapore, South Korea, and Spain.  It is expected that the population in 48 countries will grow grey over the next 30 years or even sooner.

Countries with very low fertility suffer from what demographers call “maternal role incompatibility.”

 Gender Inequality

The declining fertility rates have been attributed to various sociological and cultural factors. How gender inequality plays out also varies from country to country: in Japan, women are delaying marriage; in Spain, women are choosing between work and family once they’ve had their first child; and in Italy, women are limiting themselves to one child whether or not they work.

That is why many nations, including Iran have decided to take immediate action to intervene.

Following a directive in 2012 from the Leader, Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei, authorities began a major reversal of the family planning policy to boost the growth rate. At present, it stands at 1.3%.

In October, China decided to end its decades-long one-child policy.

If current global trends continue, it is predicted that global fertility will fall to around 1.6 children per woman in all countries and never again attain the two-child replacement level.