Iran’s Fertility Rate Lowest in Islamic Countries

Iran’s Fertility Rate  Lowest in Islamic Countries
Iran’s Fertility Rate  Lowest in Islamic Countries

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

The deputy of planning and coordination, Supreme Council of Cultural Revolution warned about Iran’s low rate of fertility at a session with healthcare officials and community-based organizations in Mashhad.

At the meeting, aimed to study the challenges and find solutions to improve the fertility rate, Mohammad Eshaqi attributed the declining fertility rates to various sociological and cultural factors. Eshaqi said the TFR is between 1.8 and 2.1 in 13 provinces, the highest in Sistan and Baluchestan Province with a rate of 3.7 and the lowest in Tehran with less than one birth per woman, IRNA reported.  

The gravity of the issue can be better understood if one looks at Iran’s fertility rate in 1990 which was 6.4. Eshaqi criticized “wrong government policies” for the decline in the fertility rate.

Describing the current rate of population ageing as alarming, he said in a period of ten years, Iran’s elderly population had grown by 8%. “The number is expected to increase to 14% and 21% in the next consecutive ten-year stages.”

He cited increased healthcare expenses, unemployment and lack of medical services as some of the problems associated with population ageing.


Iran’s demographic crisis has come under focus due to the low population growth rates in the past decade. At another event on Monday, the First National Seminar on Iran’s Demographic Vision was held in Tehran University of Medical Sciences.

Addressing the meeting, Hojatoleslam Reza Gholami, secretary general of the Cultural Council, at the office of the Supreme leader, called for immediate action by policy makers to curb population ageing and improve fertility rates in the next ten years, “before it becomes irrecoverable.”

Referring to the problem of ageing population “as a global issue coming in way of progress and prosperity,” Gholami urged the officials to plan new strategies to tackle the problem.

It should be pointed out that in the latter half of the 20th century, Iran’s population grew dramatically and between 1976 and 1986 an average annual population growth of almost 4% was reached. In 1980, the population was close to 40 million and ten years later it stood at 55 million, adding 15 million in one decade, causing much concern among the leadership.

Following the war with Iraq, a sharp change was made in the population policy. Realizing “the costs of this burgeoning population were going to far exceed its capacity to provide adequate food, education, housing and employment,” the government launched a nationwide campaign and introduced family planning programs. In 1993, parliament passed further legislation withdrawing food coupons, paid maternity leave, and social welfare subsidies after the third child. Birth control classes were required before a couple could get married. Dozens of mobile teams were sent to remote parts of the country to offer free vasectomies and tubal ligations.

The growth rate began to decline in the late 1980s and early 1990s after the government initiated the family planning and reproductive health program. By 2007 the growth rate had declined to 0.7 percent per year, with a birth rate of 17 per 1,000 persons and a death rate of 6 per 1,000. Reports by the UN showed birth control policies were effective with the country topping the list of the greatest fertility decreases. The UN’s Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs says “between 1975 and 1980, the total fertility number was 6.5. The projected level for Iran’s 2005 to 2010 birth rate is fewer than two.” but due to decreasing fertility levels the growth decreased to 1.3% between 2006 and 2011.

According to the 2011 population census the population of Iran was 75 million, a fourfold increase since 1956.


On July 25, 2012, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei described Iran’s contraceptive services as “wrong,” and that the policy made sense 20 years ago “but its continuation in later years was wrong ... Scientific and experts studies show that we will face population aging and reduction (in population) if the birth-control policy continues.” The authorities then  began a major reversal of the population policy.

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 and increasing already generous paternity and maternity leave.

On June 24, 2014, as a part of the plan to boost population growth rate, the Majlis banned vasectomies and tubal ligation and introduced punishments for those involved in encouraging contraceptive services and abortions or any other form of birth control, including 2 to 5 years imprisonment.