By Faranak Bakhtiari

Plan on population growth, family support approved

March 16, 2021 - 15:16

TEHRAN – The Majlis (Iranian Parliament) approved on Tuesday to implement a population growth and family support plan for 7 years to change the declining trend of 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.

Considering that the Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Ali Khamenei emphasizes that the seventh Five-Year National Development Plan (2021-2026) should focus on population growth, and on the other hand, the Expediency Council seeks a one-year extension of the Sixth Five-Year National Development Plan, it was decided to implement the plan for 7 years.

According to the law, all higher education institutions in the country are obliged to raise awareness about the positive aspects of childbearing, take the necessary measures such as producing content and learning packages, as well as holding festivals, workshops, temporary and permanent exhibitions.

The Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Sports, the Ministry of Culture, and other relevant institutions are obliged to allocate 30 percent of their budgets to those NGOs that work to reduce the age of marriage, facilitate youth marriage, encourage childbearing and strengthen families.

Employees with three to five children will be promoted. Maternity leave will be extended to 9 months by paying all salaries and related extras.

The government is obliged to establish a life insurance and investment fund for unemployed housewives with 3 or more children living in rural and nomadic areas by paying 70 percent of the life and investment insurance premiums.

The Ministry of Health is obliged to provide quality natural childbirth in state-run hospitals in a way that is completely free for people covered by insurance and people without insurance coverage.

Municipal public transportation services and cultural, sports, and recreational tariffs will be halved.

Tuition for children in private schools and educational centers will include a 20 percent discount.

All production, distribution, and service units are obliged to include phrases with the content of childbearing support on products and goods.

Population growth policies

Some 14 policies to support childbearing and the family were announced by the Leader 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.

Demographic issues

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 a 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.

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.

Nicholas Eberstadt, the Henry Wendt Chair in Political Economy at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) wrote in an article in July 2020 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.

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