Shannon wrote back in December about the Egyptian government and its measures to try and control its rapidly growing population. Now Reuters has some more information about the country’s increasingly heavy-handed attempts to limit the population.
The country’s population is nearing 100 million people and is growing by over 2.5 million people per year. This is putting a strain on infrastructure – schools and hospitals are overcrowded while jobs and water are scarce. Unemployment is currently sitting at about 10 per cent and 800,000 young Egyptians enter the labour market every year. President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has said that the two biggest threats facing Egypt are terrorism and population growth.
This latter threat is being targeted by a “Two is Enough” campaign which has as its goal a reduction of the Egyptian fertility rate from the current 3.5 children per woman to 2.4 children per woman by 2030. The trouble for the supporters of the campaign is that to do so requires reversing the current growth in Egypt’s fertility rate in the last few years. In 2008 the fertility rate in the country was 3.0 children per woman.
The reasons for this relativley high fertility include deeply rooted traditions that are hard to break. Despite the country’s leading Sunni Muslim authority, Al-Azhar, endorsing family planning, there are divergent views among different Sunni clerics as to the morality of the practice. Aside from religious convictions, many Egyptians view children as a source of financial support. Others continue to have children until they have a boy to carry on the family name.
The campaign is going to involve seminars with preachers who endorse family planning, billboards and TV adverts to promote smaller families and reducing cash assistance to poor families from three children to two. A particular target are more than 1.1 million poor families with up to three children. Ominously, the Social Solidarity Ministry is teaming up with local NGOs to train volunteers to make home visits and encourage people to have fewer children. More clinics with more staff and more free contraceptives will be rolled out across the country.
All of this will cost the Egyptian government 75 million Egyptian pounds. This seems like nothing considering that government spending in the second quarter of 2018 was over 100 billion pounds, and this new spending is to combat what is perceived as a national emergency! In addition, the UN will provide 10 million pounds and the United States is also chipping in with over USD20 million over the next five years. (Between 1976 and 2008 the US government spent USD371 million on similar measures.)
I wonder if Egyptian policymakers would swap places with their Chinese counterparts…