‘Reproductive choice can bolster economic and social development’
The State of World Population 2018 report claims that the power to choose the number, timing and spacing of children can bolster economic and social development.
When people lack choice, it can have a long-term impact on fertility rates, often making them higher or lower than what most people desire, the report by the UNFPA says.
The report also reveals that global trend towards smaller families is a reflection of people making reproductive choices, as family size is closely linked with reproductive rights, which, in turn, are tied to many other rights, including the right to adequate health, education, and jobs.
UNFPA executive director Dr Natalia Kanem writes in the report’s foreword that ‘choice can change the world’ and ‘it can rapidly improve the wellbeing of women and girls, transform families, and accelerate global development.’
When a woman has the power and means to prevent or delay a pregnancy, for example, she has more control over her health and can enter or stay in the paid labour force and realise her full economic potential.
The report found that no country can claim that all of its citizens enjoy reproductive rights at all times. Most couples cannot have the number of children they want because they either lack economic and social support to achieve their preferred family size, or the means to control their fertility.
The unmet need for modern contraception also prevents hundreds of millions of women from choosing smaller families.
The report classifies all countries in the world by the current dynamics of their populations’ fertility, and it makes specific recommendations for policies and programmes that would help each country increase reproductive choices.
To make freedom of choice a reality, says the report, countries can prioritise universal access to quality reproductive health care, including modern contraceptives.
They can also ensure better education, including age-appropriate sexuality education; advocate for a change in men’s attitudes to be supportive of the rights and aspirations of women and girls; and make it easier for couples to have more children, if they want them, by enabling greater work-life balance through measures, such as affordable child care.
‘The way forward is the full realisation of reproductive rights, for every individual and couple, no matter where or how they live, or how much they earn,’ says Natalia. ‘This includes dismantling all the barriers – whether economic, social or institutional – that inhibit free and informed choice.’
Read the report here.