Saturday, 26 October 2013

Declining Birth Rate A Cause For Concern

Over the years there has been documented proof linking the relationship between economic recession and a declining birthrate. As the Jamaican economy continues to contract we have been witnessing a decrease in birthrate. In 2011 Jamaica had a birthrate of 19.2 births per 1,000, however, a year later in 2012 the birthrate declined to 18.89 births per 1,000. It is very obvious that the society’s recovery and stability hinges not solely on the IMF deal that was signed recently by the government and this international lending agency but more so on a healthy and increasing birthrate.

Jamaica is not alone in terms of having a declining birthrate.  In fact the figures are a little better in Jamaica since on average the birthrate is 2.3 children per woman compared to fewer than 2 children per woman in most of Western Europe. In many parts of the world especially in Western Europe, declining birthrates have become a cause for concern. In countries such as Spain and Italy the birthrate has fallen to 1.2 children per woman. Even in Germany the economic work horse of Europe the birthrate has fallen to 1.3 children per woman, while in Greece which is also experiencing a severe economic recession the birthrate is 1.4 children per woman. It is rather elementary to see the co-relationship between both variables. In harsh economic times characterized by wage freeze and high unemployment it is very likely that more and more people will choose not to have children until their economic condition improves. However, in choosing this logical route the country will suffer in the long term. As the Jamaican population ages and more people become pensioners what will happen? We are going to have a decrease work force which will be unable to sustain the economic viability of the country since fewer taxes will be collected and therefore the growing pension population and the wider society will suffer.

When the International Monetary Fund IMF signs deals with governments they are not too concerned about issues of this nature. The paramount concern of such lending agencies is on the fiscal side of things rarely if at all the human aspects come into consideration. The IMF main concern is that the loan is repaid regardless of the suffering and sacrifice the people of those countries endure.

The current uncertainly surrounding the jobs of many public sector workers is not helping in this regard. The almost daily slippage of the Jamaican currency against the United States dollars also does very little to comfort the growing number of Jamaican who have been called upon once again to sacrifice.

It is very clear as more and more countries across the globe grapple with recession we are likely to see more and more people delaying having children. In 2012 the average global birthrate was 19.15 births per 1,000 compared to 20.09 births per 1,000 in 2007 this itself speaks of the negative impact of economic recession and birthrate.

In light of the United Nations Millennium Development Goal (MDG)  to reduce child mortality we must take into consideration the following.

Despite population growth, the number of deaths in children under five worldwide declined from 12.4 million in 1990 to 6.9 million in 2011, which translates into about 14,000 fewer children dying each day. Since 2000, measles vaccines have averted over 10 million deaths.



Despite determined global progress in reducing child deaths, an increasing proportion of child deaths are in sub-Saharan Africa where one in nine children die before the age of five and in Southern Asia where one in 16 die before age five. As the rate of under-five deaths overall declines, the proportion that occurs during the first month after birth is increasing.

Children born into poverty are almost twice as likely to die before the age of five as those from wealthier families. Children of educated mothers—even mothers with only primary schooling—are more likely to survive than children of mothers with no education.

For governments everywhere it cannot be that your only concern is to balance the books to appease your creditors. As government you must address the social concerns of your people in order to have a just and equitable society for all to live and work.

Wayne Campbell is an educator and social commentator with an interest in development policies as they affect culture and or gender issues.