Doha International Family Institute (DIFI), a Qatar Foundation (QF) member, recently held a session to shed light on an ongoing research about factors behind declining fertility rates in the world, with the aim of identifying worldwide policies and best practices.
The discussion was hosted on the sidelines of the United Nations 54th session of the Commission on Population and Development to address the issues impacting fertility rates. Moderated by Dr. Ramiz Alakbarov, UN Secretary-General's Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan, the panel discussion commenced with welcoming remarks from Permanent Representative of the State of Qatar to the United Nations H E Ambassador Alya Ahmed S. Al Thani, A research by DIFI titled ‘Social Aspects of Fertility in Qatar’ was also highlighted at the discussion. Sheikha Alya Ahmed bin Saif Al Thani commended the work and the important contributions of DIFI in developing scientifically-based relevant policy research, which significantly contributes to advancing knowledge on Arab families and promote evidence-based polices at national, regional, and international levels.
The discussion continued with a presentation by Dr. Sharifa Noaman Al Emadi, Executive Director of DIFI, who said: “Factors impacting low fertility are diverse, fuelled by structural factors such as increased divorce rates, postponement of marriage, decreasing marriage rates, and couples’ preferences to have fewer children. “Other aspects are related to education, labour market, and work-family balance policies. Economic burdens in terms of housing and cost of parenting are also amongst other influential factors.
The emergence of cultural aspects is clear in terms of couple’s preferences, in addition to the health aspects affecting the fertility rates.” Held in partnership with the Permanent Mission of the State of Qatar to the United Nations in New York and the United Nations Population Fund – Arab States Regional Office, the event was titled Responsive Policies to Low Fertility: Experiences and Best Practices, and took place virtually recently.
According to the United Nations Department on Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA), fertility levels in 75 countries have dropped below the replacement level, which is 2.1 child per woman, and this number is expected to increase to 120 by 2050.
The decline in the fertility rate represents a great challenge to countries because it not only leads to a decrease in the population, but it also leads to an increase in number of elderly citizens and a diminishing working force, which is vital for national development and economic growth. Showcasing a statistical mapping of fertility rates in the Arab region, Dr. Luay Shabaneh, Regional Director of the United Nations Population Fund – Arab States Regional Office (UNFPA), advocated “for using a human rights approach as a key reference in designing population policies to address low fertility.”
He presented statistics from the region and worldwide, including country experiences, that showed that fertility should be treated as an individual right for couples and that the role of governments was to ensure that people practice their reproductive rights based on highquality information supported by quality health services. In closure, Professor Christopher Murray, Director of the University of Washington Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, highlighted some of the best practices and policies that respond to the decline in fertility rates.
“Our research suggests that for high-income and middleincome countries with belowreplacement fertility rates, the best solutions for sustaining population levels, economic growth, and geopolitical security are open immigration policies and social policies supportive of families having their desired number of children,” he said.
“Countries that promote liberal immigration are better able to maintain their population size and support economic growth, even in the face of declining fertility rates. Supporting families includes protecting women’s freedom and access to healthcare, particularly reproductive health services, as well as maintaining access to childcare and education.”
With the growing concern of policymakers about the impact of low fertility on the demographic structure of the population, the age structure, the working force, the social security network, and the impact that all these different aspects have on countries’ development, economic growth and prosperity, it is vital that policies are developed to prevent and respond to this issue in a systematic manner