Family Size Shrinking

Family Size ShrinkingFamily Size Shrinking

The size of an average Iranian family seems to have become smaller in the recent decades and Health Ministry officials warn that Iran’s population growth rate is expected to enter negative territory in the next 20-25 years.  

According to experts and demographers, by the end of the 2036 (when the population is expected to reach 89 million), the percentage of people aged 60 and over will reach 12% as longevity increases due to better healthcare, and there will be 88 old men per 100 old women. Currently, the elderly comprise 8% of the 80 million population.

Pointing to the increasing number of families with only one child, Ali Akbar Sayyari, deputy minister of health said, “Currently, 70% of Iranian women are giving birth to only 2 children. This partly explains why the country’s population is aging and the household size is shrinking,” the Persian language weekly ‘Salamat’ quoted him as saying.

Aside from couples’ lack of willingness to have more than two kids mainly due to economic reasons and the high costs of living, and the fact that more women are working, age-related factors, delayed marriages, and infertility also stand in the way of having more than two kids.

Other than delayed marriages and unhealthy lifestyles, the infertility rate in Iran is higher than the global average (even among those who are in the golden age of fertility), he said.  

According to the latest figures released by the Ibn Sina Infertility Center in Tehran, from among every five young married couples in the country, one has difficulty conceiving and should seek specialized medical assistance to conceive, he said.

About half of the infertility cases (50-55%) are related to male problems. Unhealthy lifestyle, including smoking, alcohol and drug abuse as well as emotional stress are the main causes for the rising levels of male infertility, the official added.

  Insurance Hurdle

Noting that during the last few years the ministry has made major efforts to help improve birth rates by providing insurance coverage for some infertility treatment costs, he said, “However, insurance does not cover all treatments.

Currently, it covers only half the costs of 10 common infertility medications as well as costs of primary diagnostic tests. “A budget of $5.8 million has been allocated for the purpose.”

Other specialized assisted reproductive technologies including IUI, IVF, embryo transfer, etc are not covered.

Pointing to the fact that fertility decreases with increasing age of women, he said the rate of the first-time pregnancy after 30 years has increased significantly during the past decades. In the last year that ended in March, 40% of births were to women 30 years or older.”

According to official figures, one-third (33%) of Iranian households have only one kid. In 1960s, the average number of children per household was 7.

In mid-2014, the Leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei recommended a set of general population policies to enhance the population growth rate.

Boosting the fertility rate to replacement rate of 2.1 births per woman is one rational way of solving the problem.  The widespread decrease in the fertility rate, around 1.67 as stated by the World Bank, is mostly driven by the harsh economic conditions such as hyperinflation and rising unemployment, especially during the last couple of years.