Around 19% of Iranian families have one child, and the widespread tendency among couples to opt for a single child, is a serious challenge to the national population growth, warned Heidar Ali Abedi, member of the Majlis Health and Treatment Commission.
The total fertility rate (TFR) or the average number of children born to a woman in her lifetime, is now 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 which is 1.3%.
Abedi said the unwillingness on the part of families to have more than one child will reduce birth rates significantly.
Data from the Statistics Bureau of the National Organization for Civil Registration indicate that the decline in fertility rates is a major contributor to an aging population.
In the past decade, the elderly population had grown by 8%. The number is expected to increase to 14% and 21% in the next consecutive ten-year stages.
Today, there are 6.4 million (8.3%) elderly over the age of 60 years among the country’s 80 million.
“There will come a time when at least one out of three schools and universities will have to be closed for a lack of students,” he said referring to the negative outcome of the preference for one-child families.
The shortfall in the active workforce would be another disastrous consequence. “The essential prerequisite for a country’s economic development is the abundance of dynamic, active and young forces, but if the current demographic trend continues, there will be a crisis in the labor market in the future,” he was quoted as saying by Azad News Agency.
With the present high rates of unemployment, the thinking might be that “Iran will not face such conditions” but the effects of the only-child phenomenon will manifest over time.
Moreover, birth control policies that were in place for over two decades have become a fixation in the mindsets of Iranian families and many still adhere to the slogan of ‘fewer children, better life.’
“Population control polices should be abandoned and the media should devise programs to dispel the notion that small families bring prosperity.”
Incentives for More Kids
The lawmaker said certain incentives may be required to promote the culture of multiple-child family.
Increasing maternity leave, more nurseries near workplaces, free medical checks in pregnancy and care services, coverage of all medical and social care costs of children under 18 and financial support for infertile couples, who number around three million, are among measures that can encourage couples to have more kids, he said.
Free health services for children and young adults as well as financial assistance for education in non-state schools are very powerful incentives that the government must consider.
The lawmaker added that although figures suggest that several couples who avoid having more than one child belong to the well-to-do families, there are still many others who can’t afford children due to economic reasons, even if they want bigger families.
“Economic issues are major deterrents in the way of larger families that have to be removed,” he stressed.
He urged the government to devise a comprehensive plan to address the issue of family growth and called for cooperation from all authorities to achieve this end.
By Financial Tribune