Amid concerns about Barbados’ declining birth rate, a United Nations official in Barbados has suggested that women having more children may not be the answer to the country’s population problem.
UNICEF Representative for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean Khin Sandi-Lwin said Government could instead tackle the issue from a global perspective.
According to data from the United Nations (UN), the birth rate in Barbados has fallen from 4.42 births per woman in the early 1950s to 1.7 births today.
It is against that background that Minister of Education Ronald Jones has led the call for women to have more children.
However, Sandi-Lwin said there is another approach that Government can explore.
“A global perspective is not about the population of one’s own country . . . . You hear politicians saying we need more children of our nation because we have zero population growth. But if you look at the carrying capacity of this planet, we have to look beyond the borders,” she said in an interview with Barbados TODAY, noting that migration within Caribbean countries can also contribute to population growth.
“It’s been happening in the Caribbean for generations now – the migration of people in the Caribbean . . . and assimilating – either retaining the nationality of the other island, or becoming citizens of that island . . . . The emphasis should be on making migration work, rather than let’s have more children of our nationality.”
She was speaking to Barbados TODAY on the sidelines of a media briefing at UN House Thursday to mark the July 11 observance of World Population Day.
Addressing the media, the Barbados Family Planning Association (BFPA) medical director Dr Shanae Gill reiterated that organization’s commitment to working with Government to address the declining birth rate.
She said it was willing to initiate a consultation on a national development population strategy.
Dr Gill noted that in 1951, the Barbadian Government had set up a committee to examine the increasing problem of overpopulation and rising population density, which were concerning features of the Barbadian landscape at the time.
“From the findings of that established committee in 1951, it was clear that Barbados was at a critical juncture in its development and the decision was made to establish a family planning programme to address the national issue of rapid population growth, so the BFPA was born with the help from the then International Planned Parenthood of America,” she said.
Dr Gill pointed out that Barbados is once again at a critical juncture where the country is tasked with the vital yet delicate responsibility of continuing efforts to reduce poverty and inequity, and improving the quality of life without compromising the environment and the well-being of future generations or economic growth.
She added that 2.1 births per woman would be a sustainable figure, but there is need for consultation on the issue.
“The BFPA’s ultimate concern is maintaining a high quality of life for present and future Barbadian generations, while also maintaining individuals’ rights to choose when they want to start a family and the size of that family.
“And just as we did 63 years ago, we remain committed to supporting any Government-led population strategy, as long as it is in keeping with the aforementioned parameters,” she stated.
However, the Pan American Health Organization’s representative for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, Dr Godfrey Xuereb, said while he understood the concerns about the decline in the birth rate, authorities needed to focus on safeguarding the welfare of the current population of children, rather than simply calling for people to have more offspring.
“We are losing the productive age group from non-communicable diseases and we need to be looking at how that productive age group can be better maintained through prevention . . . of [child] obesity. A better quality of life for all our citizens is important.
“So, rather than just saying we need to produce more children, let us look at the children that we have today, and [ensure that] they become healthy adults and they become productive adults,” Dr Xuereb said.