Fertility and Politics in Egypt, India, Kenya and Mexico

Posted: 1 September 2000

Author: Anrudh Jain (Editor) and others

The politics of population policies in four developing countries - and what makes them succeed or flounder - is explored in this new Population Council book.

The authors show that effective population policies require political commitment and courage, widespread support, adequate funding, good design and management - and a sound concept. As editor Anrudh Jain puts it: "Population policy-making, dealing as it does with altering the most basic human behaviours related to sexuality and reproduction, requires a delicate balancing of national, group, and individual interests."

Jain argues that population policies in developing countries before the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) were often equated with family planning programmes, to the detriment of both. The ICPD Action Plan helpfully comprised two elements: to provide contraceptive methods within broader reproductive health services, and to advance women's equality in education, health, and economic opportunities, thus creating conditions favourable for smaller families.

Jain suggests a four-point strategy for those who remain committed to reducing population growth and fertility: First, recognition that while family planning programmes will reduce unwanted childbearing, a fertility-reduction policy requires involvement of other sectors. Second, the delivery of reproductive health services should not be the sole responsibility of family planning programmes: a complete package should involve both family planning and health departments, with family planning focused on the reduction of unwanted childbearing in a healthful manner. Third, both fertility-reduction policies and population policies would need to have as their sole objectives improvements in individual well-being. Fourth, says Jain, "We need to advocate publicly for these changes. We need to give as much attention to the qualitative issues of people's lives as to the quantitative issues of population size and the growth rate. We need to think of population issues as one aspect of a social reform movement for improving individual well-being, and we need to establish stronger ties with other social reform movements, including but not limited to the feminist movement."

Reviewer: Sandra Waldman

Reviewer Info: Sandra Waldman is Director of Public Affairs at the Population Council.