Intrusive new population control policies may soon be introduced by the Egyptian government.  Egypt already runs programs which encourage smaller families and birth control usage.  However, the new proposals, which include a two-child cap for welfare payments and an incentive scheme for one-child families, would go even further.

Egypt's population concerns are mainly economic and resource driven, with a shortage of water and unemployment key concerns.  Egypt’s current fertility rate is estimated to be about 3.5 children per woman, higher than the record low fertility rates across the world at the moment.

Incentives for one-child families discussed include:

  • offering couples who have only one child free school tuition throughout the entire course of their education (would they not be the families who could already more easily afford it?);
  • giving only-children priority when applying for a job when they reach employment age; and
  • giving one-child parents fully subsidized health insurance and free life insurance upon retirement.  

Issuing one-child parents with an honorary certificate which acknowledges their contribution to society by having fewer children has also been discussed. 

In a statement issued on November 22, Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouli announced that, starting in January 2019:

“[T]he government has decided not to give any kind of monetary subsidies to families with three children…

We will target these families, and all should know that the runaway growth of population is a big threat to the economic development in this country,”

Kamal Amer, Chairman of the Defense and National Security Committee, advised lawmakers that “[N]ow it is high time for strict measures to be taken to contain this phenomenon.

Amer further argued that “families who refuse to follow birth control measures should not be allowed to receive any kind of cash or in-kind subsidies”. 

Coercive birth control poses a problem for the majority Muslim population, many of whom do not believe in using it for religious reasons. In addition, the Population Research Institute notes that couples living in Egypt’s rural areas often rely on having more children to help out with labor-intensive farm work or to provide the family with another potential source of income.

One only has to look to China’s experience to see that unnatural family regulations can lead to unwanted results, such as babies being killed in the womb or abandoned at birth.  Due to sex-selection, there is now an unnatural surplus of men in China who can’t find wives.  The gene editing industry has also exploded, with very worrying recent developments on that front.

The U.S. Government will be supporting the measures in some part by giving money towards programs that seek to increase contraceptive use in Egypt with a view to population control. On Sunday Egypt’s health affairs committee approved an $11 million aid package from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).  According to AhramOnline, the agreement contract states:

“To help achieve this objective, the agreement will help offer all the tools necessary to make birth control measures more appealing to families, provide training needed to improve family planning services in health units, and conduct a demographic survey of Egypt in 2018 to collect reliable and high quality data on population and health in Egypt.”

It seems crazy that Egypt is coming up with new population control policies, while countries across Europe are doing the exact opposite to try and induce women to have more babies (see Marcus’ recent articles on Italian families being awarded land for having babies and Russian families being awarded cash grants). 

Is there not a better way forward for Egypt which takes into account both its very real economic and resource problems and the dignity of families to choose their own family size without coercion and discrimination?

Like Africa, we need to help Egypt achieve the benefits that population growth can bring if infrastructure is properly managed and young people are properly educated.  

Shannon Roberts

Shannon Roberts is co-editor of MercatorNet's blog on population issues, Demography is Destiny. While she has a background as a barrister, writing has been a life-long passion and she has contributed...