Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by this author are their own and do not represent the official position of the Barbados Today.
by Marsha Hinds
Over the last few weeks there have been consultations with stakeholders around Barbados’ current population and future projections.
Apparently, since the introduction of family planning methodologies in the 50s, Barbados’ population’s ability to replace itself at sustainable levels has been under threat.
A Population Commission for Barbados was established and the commissioners, among other things, have been engaging stakeholders. I wrote some of my reflections at the beginning of the process, and at this juncture, I just want to put a few recurring themes back into the mix.
I am well aware that population accounting is not a science that we have the luxury of doing at any point where the scenario is perfect.
We can only use projections and models to make plans and predictions for our country and society. The question has to be how we can combine the inexact science that is demography with a solid economic and social road map that we derive benefits of the entire exercise for Barbados.
What I am struggling with is feeling as though there has been a sufficiently seamless configuration among demographic information on the one hand and economic on the other and social information yet still.
Barbados started as a slave society in which the main purpose of bringing people to the Island was to provide cheap labour for cheap provision of labour for mercantilist profit.
By the time we started to track the population demographics of these Islands we were simply replicating the population in line with what happened on the plantations.
There are still inequalities left in the Barbadian landscape with respect to opportunity and ownership of land.
If we are moving away from the cheap provision of labour to creating an island with a population that can thrive and grow we do not need the same levels of population we had in the 1930s or at points prior to that.
The question of what is the maximal population of Barbados is a question with multiple answers based on who is asking and for what reason.
If it is an economic question, what is at the crux is how much market it will take to sustain business in Barbados. That business is put down on a mercantilist and capitalist model and would want cheap labour and as many consumers as possible.
If the question is a social question, then the answer has to be hinged on a different set of considerations altogether.
We are not asking about people for their ability to offer labour or consume.
We are asking questions about how we protect vulnerable communities and provide healthcare and education for each and every citizen to strive and become engaged as a maximally productive citizen.
How do we leave the issue of youth employment unaddressed and then seek to suggest that we need at least another 80, 000 Barbadians?
How is there so much need for housing which is being largely unaddressed by building policy and suggest that we need another 80, 000 Barbadians?
How do we turn blind and deaf to the issues affecting women, both in their personal lives and in their lives as labour and mothers, but then look to them to be a part of the solution to producing the 80, 000 missing Barbadians?
Barbados is a small, open and vulnerable post-colonial society. Each of these designations come with its own problems and I wonder if using models of population from jurisdictions that do not share the same historical and cultural profiles as Barbados is sensible.
Barbados lacks a lot of the physical, economic and cultural infrastructure that undergirded population programmes in jurisdictions such as Canada to begin with, but then there are other critical differences.
These are preliminary observations on our population planning, and even if they can be seen as a critique, they are not necessarily critical. I hope they can be received from the place they were given and considered before we make our next move with respect to forward planning for Barbados.
Marsha Hinds is the President of the National Organisation of Women.