It is a new reality around the world that fertility is a government issue and children must now be encouraged in case we end up with none at all in generations to come (or not come).  

Iranian leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has recently released a 14 point policy to speed up the country’s population growth and reverse its declining birth rate.  He called for the different institutions of the country to implement the plans with “precision, speed and strength.” In recent years the country has experienced one of the most steeply falling birth rates in the world (we recently wrote about Iran leading Muslim countries in fertility decline here).

It is a sign of the times that countries such as Iran need to write a comprehensive plan to encourage people to have families – something that it was taken for granted their parents and grandparents would do.  These are the 14 measures decided on:

1)      Increase the fertility rate to above replacement levels of 2.3 births per woman.

2)      Eliminate barriers to marriage, lower the age of marriage, and support young couples.  High property prices have been a factor prompting many middle-class Iranians to put off marriage.

3)      Provide proper facilities for mothers during pregnancy, insurance coverage for childbirth and treatment for both male and female infertility.

4)      Reform public education curriculums to emphasize the importance of the family.

5)       Promote and institutionalise an Islamic-Iranian lifestyle and oppose undesirable aspects of the Western lifestyle.

6)      Provide access to healthy living and food options as well as prevent societal ills such as addiction and pollution.

7)      Take care of the elderly. 

8)      Make sure the education system is equipping the population with marketable skills.

9)      Properly distribute space to relieve the pressure on the population.

10)  Act to retain and attract the population in the villages and borders.

11)  Manage immigration to and from Iran.

12)  Encourage Iranians outside of the country to be present and invest and to use their capacities and abilities.

13)  Strengthen a national identity and enhance unity, especially among those living along borders and outside of the country.

14)  Constantly monitor Iran’s population policy.

 

The majority of these seem positive to me. However, it is hard to know how much the low birth rate culture is already engrained in Iran – as we have often discussed a culture of one or no children is a real problem in Japan and many other countries.  It will be especially hard to turn such a culture around in Iran if jobs remain hard to find for young people there.  

Will more countries need to start to come up with comprehensive plans such as that above? Without sounding communist, or completely undermining the law of property, it has sometimes struck me as slightly topsy turvy that the ‘baby boomer’ generation – at least in Western society – on the whole lives in large houses with empty nests, while many of their children are putting off having children because they simply do not have enough bedrooms and property prices are too high to afford large houses.

Is our financially independent family culture becoming unfriendly to families?  Have cultures like Italy or China got it right where all members of the family are accommodated financially throughout life (with elderly parents also expecting care from family).  Not to say that young people should feel no financial burden nor feel the responsibility to work hard.  Another problem is the amount of time in one’s 20’s now spent studying meaning financial independence comes much later – and closer to the tail end of a woman’s fertile years.

It will be interesting to see if these reforms make a difference to Iran.

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...