Why does Iran have a low fertility rate?

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Mudassir Ali
Feb 18, 2020 05:33 AM 0 Answers
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Mudassir Ali
- Feb 18, 2020 05:33 AM

Well to find out why Iran has a low fertility rate, we need to take a look at Iran’s history:

Before the Iranian revolution, Iran’s fertility rate was among the highest in the world, as the average child bearing woman in Iran had around 7 children.

Then when Imam Khomeini took leadership in Iran in 1979, he encouraged a baby boom, to make a 20 million man army, and stated that if Iran achieved such a large army, it could never be defeated. He wanted Iran to have a very large population.

This led to the creation of the Basij paramilitary force, where anyone can volunteer, to become a member. Every mosque had their own units, and own department of the Basij.

My father was a teenager in the early 1980’s when he volunteered to become a member of the Basij together with most of his friends, and then he learned a lot of things, such as how to handle a G3 rifle, he got shooting practice and learned how to split a gun apart and then gather it again with closed eyes. This all happened inside the mosques.

My father also participated in the Iran/Iraq war in the late 1980’s, as a member of the Basij, but that’s another story.

(Basiji members)

However, in the early 1990’s the Iranian leadership started to change their minds, and wanted Iran to have a smaller population. The Iranian regime began to encourage couples to have smaller families, they introduced sexual education in the schools, and even distributed condoms. All plans about Iran’s so called “20 million man army” was dropped.

This led to a very quick decline in the Iranian fertility rate, as seen on the chart below. As you can see, the Iranian fertility rate fell from 6.5 in 1985, to under replacement level in 2015.

Then in 2015, the Iranian government changed it’s mind, and wanted Iran to have a larger population. Imam Khamenei, the Iranian Supreme Leader, declared that Iran once again needed a “20 million man army”

The Iranian government have in the recent years pursued and encouraged Iranian families to have more babies, as they feared a population decline in Iran, if the current fertility trend continued. They have made it difficult for women to get prevention: Vasectomy operations (sterilization of men) and tubectomy operations (sterilization of women) have totally stopped in Iran, and before the regime distributed free condoms but not anymore.

These tactics have however worked, as there has been a clear surge in Iran’s fertility rate. Actually Iran’s fertility rate been rising from 1.83 in 2017, which is below replacement level, to 1.97 children per woman in 2018 which is at the replacement level, as seen on the chart below.

Thus it makes Iran one of the few countries in the world, that has been able to reverse falling fertility rates, and thereby preventing a decline in it’s population.

Most experts in demographics expect Iran’s fertility rate to increase further in the next years, until it stabilizes on around 2.3 children per woman, which is above the replacement level, and the same as countries like India, Argentina and Mexico.

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