Incentives Needed to Increase Birthrates

There is a tendency for birthrates to fall as women who now are more than before in the universities and the labor market, marry late and postpone starting families
The Majlis has banned vasectomies and tubal ligation as a part of the plan to boost population growth rate.The Majlis has banned vasectomies and tubal ligation as a part of the plan to boost population growth rate.

The decline in the total fertility rate (TFR) in Iran can be attributed “to women’s higher education and employment,” according to Deputy Health Minister Ali Akbar Sayyari.

He called for improving the birthrates in the country through welfare benefits and financial incentives, and said women’s higher education and employment “is responsible for their late marriage and the consequent decision to have fewer children,” IRNA reported.

“Western countries have addressed low birthrates by providing incentives such as welfare benefits, cash offerings, insurance, housing and the like to encourage population growth.”

According to Sayyari, as a nation advances, it is seen that due to more women in the universities and the labor market there is a tendency for birthrates to fall as women marry late and postpone starting families.

However, the official stressed that the Health Ministry has implemented sound population policies.

A major strategy is to help infertile couples to conceive. Around three million couples in Iran currently face the problem of infertility. The Health Ministry has established specialized centers, and covers 85% of the cost of infertility treatment.

Sayyari pointed to the population explosion in the 1980s when the TFR suddenly shot up to 6.8 prompting the government to enforce the ‘Fewer Children, Better Life’ program in the following decade.

In developed countries sub-replacement fertility is any rate below approximately 2.1 children born per woman, but the threshold can be as high as 3.4 in some developing countries because of higher mortality rates.

  TFR Below Replacement Levels

Signs of the below-replacement fertility level in Iran first appeared in the first-half of the 1990s. Four provinces of Gilan, Semnan, Tehran and Isfahan reached a TFR of below replacement level by 1996 as confirmed by the results of the Population Growth Estimation Survey (PGES) conducted by the Statistical Center of Iran in 1998. TFR for Iran, as a whole, was 2.06, while TFRs in urban and rural areas were recorded as 1.88 and 2.39, respectively. The TFR in urban areas reached below replacement fertility by 1996. In 2000, the TFR in urban and rural areas of Iran was 1.9 and 2.4, respectively.

The result of the Iran Demographic and Health Survey conducted in 2000 was indicative of continuing fertility decline in Iran. The highest TFR (4.6) was recorded for Sistan-Baluchistan Province.

“The program was implemented without supervision or considering its long-term consequences,” Sayyari said, as a result of which TFR on an average has dropped to 1.8 now, the lowest among Islamic countries, and even below the world average of 2.1 births per woman.

Currently, TFR is between 1.8 and 2.1 in 13 provinces, the highest in Sistan-Baluchestan Province with a rate of 3.7 and the lowest in Tehran with less than one birth per woman.

“The condition will contribute to population aging which is a major obstacle in the way of national development and will impose high costs on the economy,” Sayyari warned.

Iran’s elderly population grew by 8% (6.4 million) in the past decade. The number is expected to increase to 14% and 21% in the next consecutive ten-year stages.

On June 24, 2014, as a part of the plan to boost population growth rate, the Majlis banned vasectomies and tubal ligation and others forms of birth control.

“The Health Ministry’s priority, however, is to ensure mothers’ and children’s health; couples are encouraged to have more children unless pregnancy is harmful to a woman’s health, which is very rare,” said the official.

In the past two years measures to reverse the declining birth rate included: replacing public-health slogans that used to praise “Fewer kids, better life” with billboards that show large, happy families as well as increasing paternity and maternity leave.


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