A leading family planning advocate is not convinced that the environment is right for Barbadian women to have more children.
Former Executive Director of the Barbados Family Planning Association (BFPA) George Griffith said Barbados needed a population policy if it were serious about replenishing a dwindling population.
This must include “a comprehensive range of compelling incentives that would cause women to want to have more children,” he told Barbados TODAY.
Earlier this month Minister of Education Ronald Jones expressed concern about the falling numbers of students writing the Barbados Secondary Schools Entrance Examination – more commonly called the Common Entrance Exam, blaming the falling population.
Speaking at a news conference held at his office at the Elsie Payne Complex on Constitution Road to announce this year’s Common Entrance results, Jones warned that the implications of the falling birth rates extended beyond the education system.
This was not the first time the minister had raised the issue of a drop in the birth rate, telling Parliament in March 2014 during debate on the 2014-2015 Estimates Of Revenue And Expenditure a larger population was needed so local businesses could have access to a more diverse consumer base.
“If it can’t be reproduced in Barbados – because the Barbados Family Planning Association has overdone its job – then we must open our doors and [invite] a careful selection of those who can deliver children and within a certain age range” he said at the time.
Just last year Government senator, religious leader and Chairman of the National Assistance Board David Durant was also quoted as saying Barbados might have to consider paying married couples to have more children.
The emphasis on producing more children has worried the BFPA, which last year told Barbados TODAY it was against “any calls that would put the burden” on women to have more children, insisting this was a narrow approach to resolving the population issue.
According to the World Bank, the country’s birth rate has dropped steadily from 34.1 per 1000 in 1955 to 12 per 1,000 in 2014, or 1.84 births per woman.
While not ruling out population growth altogether, Griffith told Barbados TODAY young women were dismissing Jones’ call because they were concerned about taking care of their children effectively in these tough economic times.
In any event, he said, certain facilities must be put in place if educated and professional women were to be encouraged to have more children.
“They must feel there are day care facilities for their children of a proper standard and cost. There must be properly staffed nursery schools and primary schools with classes where their children can benefit from individual attention. In addition, women should benefit from tax concessions beyond her first or second child,” the former BFPA chief executive said.
Griffith also said the less educated and unemployed women must also have access to acceptable public services that are available even if they cannot afford to pay.
The quality of affordable housing must also improve, he said, stressing that high-rise housing estates could not be seen as attractive incentives because of the lack of adequate green spaces for children.
Arguing that today’s women had a new world view, Griffith said: “Women nowadays are not going to allow themselves to spend their most productive years having children when there is no partner to assist them. In addition, social development services which are essential must be available to them.”