By Faranak Bakhtiari

Iran's demographic issue: fertility reaches lowest rate in 8 years

November 11, 2020 - 17:31

TEHRAN – The fertility rate in Iran has been declining over the past eight years, the lowest of which was related to the past [Iranian calendar] year (March 2019- March 2020) with the birth rate of 1.2, according to the data recently published by the Statistics Center.

The total fertility rate in simple terms refers to the total number of children born or likely to be born to a woman in her lifetime if she were subject to the prevailing rate of age-specific fertility in the population.

The fertility rate of the country has experienced ups and downs over the past eight years; during the first half of the 1390s (2010s), the rate slightly raises from 1.75 to 2.07. However, it drops to a record low of 1.8 over the last [Iranian calendar] year.

According to the data released by the National Organization for Civil Registration, the number of births registered during the [Iranian calendar] year 1390 (March 2011-March 2012) was equal to 1,382,118, which increased to 1,528,053 births in the [Iranian calendar] year 1395 (March 2016-March 2017).

However, the number of births in the whole country faced a downtrend over the past three years, as registered births decreased to 1,196,135 over the past [Iranian calendar] year; a difference of roughly over 120,000 to 16,000 per year.

Moreover, the age pattern of fertility shows a decrease in total fertility at all ages, including the age groups of 20-24, 25-29 and 30-34 years in the last year; indicating fertility downward among young people, which in turn has played a significant role in reducing the total rate.

The fertility rate of the country has experienced ups and downs over the past eight years; during the first half of the 1390s (2010s), the rate slightly raises from 1.75 to 2.07. However, it drops to a record low of 1.8 over the last [Iranian calendar] year.Population decline comes up with consequences, including the reduction of the working population (aged 15 to 64) and the aging population in the coming decades.

Several socio-economic factors led to fertility rate decrease and reproductive behavior in the country, including financial issues, urbanization, education, first marriage age, as well as increased access to family planning services along with increased time gap between the firstborn and marriage.

Mohammad Jalal Abbasi, a demographic expert and head of the Population Association, said that usually when society is facing economic shocks and psychological crises, as in the current situation of a global pandemic, marriages and childbearing are even more affected due to fears of a vague future.

Majlis draws up plan to encourage childbearing

Most recently, the Majlis (Iranian parliament) has developed a support plan to encourage families to increase childbearing.

The plan stipulates health insurance for infertile couples, providing services and facilities to working women, providing health and nutrition support packages to mothers and children, educational opportunities for student mothers, providing livelihood support to families, and ongoing medical services to pregnant women.

Population growth policies 

Some 14 policies to support childbearing and the family were announced by the Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in [the Iranian calendar year] 1389 (March 2014-March 2015) when he stressed that social, cultural and economic development should be done in accordance with these general policies to support families.

The policies address the need to increase the population and the various dimensions of it, including childbearing, facilitating marriage and strengthening the family, reproductive health, promoting the Iranian-Islamic lifestyle, empowering young people, honoring the elderly, and the environment, which can lead to an increase in the quantity and quality of the population if it is timely and continuous implemented.

Kimia Mohammadzadeh, a member of the working group for women's and family at the independent association of the University of Tehran, told Mehr news agency that thus, instead of considering family support and youth marriage, policymakers adopt policies that lead to delays in marriage and family formation.

Childbearing, which should be a public issue, became an inefficient policy due to lack of follow-up, she said.

Zero population growth within next century

Nicholas Eberstadt, the Henry Wendt Chair in Political Economy at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) wrote in an article earlier in July that the fertility rate in Iran has dropped by 70 percent over the past 30 years, which has been the highest decline in human history.

Melinda Gates, an American philanthropist and co-founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, also wrote on her Twitter account that “The fastest decrease in the rate of childbearing per woman in the history of the world has happened in Iran!”

Seyed Hamed Barakati, deputy health minister for family and school population, said in May that Iran’s population growth rate has decreased to less than one percent for the first time over the past four decades.

At the beginning of the Islamic Revolution (in 1979), the country's population grew by 2.5 percent annually, however, suddenly, population growth reached about 1.5 percent in the 1980s, he highlighted.

Iran: the world’s oldest

Mohammad Esmaeil Akbari, a senior advisor to the minister of health, has said that the world has grown about 5 years older over the past 70 years, but the population of Iran has unfortunately grown 10 years older in the past 60 years.

“Currently, the elderly constitute less than 10 percent of the population and we are considered a young country, but we are getting older every year so that in the next 20 years, we will be one of the oldest countries in the world and the oldest by the next 30 years,” he explained.

Statistics show that during the past 20 years, the population ratio of children and adolescents has decreased, and, in contrast, the share of the elderly has increased.

In addition, the average age of the Iranian population has been increasing over the past 40 years, and the population on average is 8.7 years older. Statistics show that this upward trend has had a similar growth rate for men and women.


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