(Arab News) CAIRO: Egypt has claimed a victory in the battle to reduce population growth but experts say a drop in the birth rate reflects the country’s economic woes rather than an effective government policy.
Egypt recorded 26.8 births per 1000 people in 2017 compared to 28.6 in 2016, according to an annual report by the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS).
The government has been focused on reducing birth rates as part of its 2030 development plan to reduce health and educations costs.
“The population strategy we built aims to reach 112 million Egyptians in 2030 instead of 128 million, which will save around 200 billion (Egyptian) pounds within the period of 2017-2030 — specifically in insurance, health, and education,” said Tarek Tawfik, the deputy health minister.
Mohamed Sherif, a Cairo-based economic analyst, told Arab News that the reduced rates were down to the harsh economic conditions faced by Egyptians rather than government strategy.
“The Egyptian pound devaluation and the continuous rise in prices is the main driver,” he said.
He added that studies have shown that higher living costs lead to a drop in birth rates.
“Lower marriage rates and fear of burden surely affects the birth rates, he said.
Last week, the Ministry of Social Solidarity launched a campaign urging Egyptian families to limit the number of children they have.
The “Two is Enough” program aims to change people’s perception in rural areas that have small families through birth control is religiously forbidden, said Rania Fares, the ministry’s program coordinator. She said they aimed to reduce the number of children per family to 2.4 in rural areas.
“The importance of spacing childbirths will be stressed and suitable birth control methods will be provided, Fares said.
Egyptians have been suffering particularly due to extreme austerity measures that have increased water, electricity, fuel and transport prices.
With a newborn every 15 seconds, Egypt has one of the highest population growth rates in the world.
According to the 2017 census, there are now 104 million people, meaning Egypt ranks 13th worldwide in terms of population.
In February, the Ministry of Health announced that the birth rates in Egypt have seen a decrease by 4 million babies in the past three years, claiming that 2015 witnessed 6.68 million births.
The numbers contradict with the 2015 reports by CAPMAS which claimed there were only 2.69 million births in 2015.