Jamaicans having fewer children; population decline feared

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Jamaicans having fewer children; population decline feared

By Romardo Lysons, Jamaica Star Writer
Schooling and the pursuit of higher education is one of the leading causes for Jamaica’s decreasing birth rate.

Easton Williams, director of social policy planning and research at the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ), says the cycle of ‘school, education and work’ has almost eclipsed the cycle of ‘sex and reproduction’.

“The more educated the population is, the less likely they will want to have a lot of children. And so, the impact of work and education are influencing the number of children women may choose to have. And even men too. Those issues are impacting on the change in the fertility preferences among both males and females,” Williams told THE STAR.

According to Williams, at the end of 2008, the average number of children per woman was 2.4. Early 2020, the Caribbean Development Bank predicted that Jamaica’s population would be slashed by 50 per cent by the end of the century.

“Between 2008 and 2020, we are expecting the rate to be bordering around 2.1 which is two children per couple. The one has to do with mortality effects, so that means you need to have slightly above two children to replace yourself in the next generation,” he said. “If that doesn’t happen, the effect of that in the long term will be a decline in absolute population. In 2030 going onward, the population will be declining.”

He said that’s something that should worry Jamaicans.

“Take a couple … a man and a woman. You expect them to have on average, two children to replace themselves. But if a couple is having less than two children, it means that they are not replacing themselves,” he said.

CONTRACEPTIVE METHODS

He also notes that more people were having children in the years that predated the introduction of many contraceptive methods.

“In the past, people just have children in the natural order of life, people have sex and they have children. Now, people have contraceptives and all kinds of things they can use to control their fertility. That’s why they are having less children and they will continue to have less children in the future,” he said. Williams clarified that he was not saying people are having less sex, they are just using more contraceptives to control their fertility.

But Williams also said that a high migration rate and infertility are other contributing factors.

“In a population, the reproductive age is 15 to 49. In that group, you will find some women and men who are infertile. I can’t say infertility is increasing, but if they are not having children at a young age, especially the female, there are the effects of hormonal changes and fertility,” he said.

A BBC report earlier this month, said that 23 nations, including Spain and Japan, are expected to see their populations halve by 2100 due to falling birth rates.

According to the report, in 1950, women were having an average 4.7 children in their lifetimes. But researchers at the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation showed the global fertility rate had dropped to 2.4 in 2017.

Their study projects it will fall below 1.7 by 2100.

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