Family Planning Essential for a Sustainable Future

Family Planning Essential for a Sustainable Future

by Yash Saboo June 13 2018, 3:07 pm Estimated Reading Time: 3 mins, 42 secs

There's no right answer to how many children are enough or how many are too many. It all depends on a couple's choice. Their feeling about childhood, their financial stability, age factor shape their decision. One factor that the couple can depend on making a decision is their country’s future, and what the impact will be on the country upon childbirth. This varies from country to country.

There is a reason why government interferes with a couple's sex life. They may do so coercively, though measures such as forced sterilization are banned under international law. They may seek to encourage procreation: Mongolia’s “First Order of Glorious Motherhood” is awarded to women who have borne six children or more and China's one-child policy implemented in 1979.

But in a sign of change, last month Beijing announced the end of the commission charged with implementing such policies, wrote Quartz. The move came amid a broad reshuffling of ministries and agencies taking place during this year’s Two Sessions meeting of the National People’s Congress, a two-week event ending March 20. A newly formed National Health Commission will oversee the family-planning policy, which as of 2016 allows for two kids.

Source: Qrius

That policy is unlikely to change anytime soon (paywall). But the end of the stand-alone commission is one of many signs that China is likely to eventually end such rules, He Yafu, an independent demographer, told the state-run Global Times: “Although the government has not officially abolished the family-planning policy, it is expected to be relegated to a lower status and ultimately retreat from the stage of history.”

China faces social and economic challenges caused by the one-child policy, including a gender imbalance and shrinking labour force. The country’s number of live births dropped to 17.2 million last year, down from 18.5 million in 2016.

Population growth has also been a cause of worry for the Government of India since a very long time. Just after independence, the Family Planning Association of India was formed in 1949. The country launched a nationwide Family Planning Programme in 1952, a first of its kind in the developing countries. This covered initially birth control programmes and later included under its wing, mother and child health, nutrition and family welfare. In 1966, the ministry of health created a separate department of family planning. The then ruling Janata Government in 1977 developed a new population policy, which was to be accepted not by compulsion but voluntarily. It also changed the name of Family Planning Department to Family Welfare Programme. Their main focus was that a 2-child family norm should be practiced. But the results are clearly not up to the mark, the rising population is the proof.

Meanwhile, Egypt’s worrying population boom fails to generate the same headline attention as terrorist attacks, the impact of economic reforms on the poor, the country’s hyper-constrained politics, or accusations of human rights violations. Yet, the very real dangers it poses were highlighted when the head of the country’s statistical agency, Abu Bakr el-Gendy, called this seemingly irrepressible tide a “catastrophe”. To Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, it is a “challenge as critical as terrorism”.

The numbers are certainly daunting.  According to Brookings, in 2000, the United Nations estimated that Egypt’s population would hit 96 million in 2026. They were off by about 10 years. In 2017, there were some 104.5 million Egyptians, of which 9.5 million lived outside the country. The 2006 census counted 73 million people, an annual increase of 2.6 percent since then. Unless the fertility rate of 3.47 changes, by 2030, Egypt’s population is expected to grow to 128 million. This growth, with 2.6 million babies born in 2016, comes at a time of unprecedented challenges on the climate front with serious implications for loss of arable land (also under pressure from housing), rising sea levels, and depletion of scarce water resources.

Population matters, but panics about both low and high levels tend to be exaggerated. But one can't completely ignore the aspect of family planning as it is being done in most parts of India. There needs to be a proper family planning system but not like the one China adopted. The youth of the nation needs to be turned into an asset, which Egypt is failing to do. The education and empowerment of women, improved access to contraception and family planning advice and social support are all part of the solution.

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