Increasing access to family planning has proven to be a sound economic investment. That’s according to the 2012 report on the state of the world’s population, which was published today (14.11.12) by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).
At the Irish launch of the report, Dr. Niamh Reilly, Co-Director of the Global Women’s Studies Programme at NUI Galway, highlighted how Ireland and other countries have benefited from making family planning programmes more accessible.
“Recognition of the right to determine when, if and how many children we have is a relatively new and hard-won achievement in Ireland, and an unfinished agenda,” she said. “In the very recent past, our country was transformed once women – and the population in general – gained access to family planning.
“Undoubtedly, better access to family planning contributed significantly to the development of Ireland’s society and economy in the 1990s and early 2000s, as women’s participation in social, cultural and economic domains expanded hugely. Throughout the world, it has been demonstrated that increased access to family planning results in wide-ranging economic and social benefits.
“The ability for a couple to choose when and how many children to have is one of the most effective means of empowering women. Ireland’s recent history supports the evidence globally that women who use contraception are generally more empowered in their households and communities, and enjoy better health and educational attainment,” said Dr Reilly.
According to the UNFPA report, one-third of the growth of Asian ‘tiger’ economies can be attributed to a demographic shift in which the number of income-generating adults became higher than those who depended on them for support. This shift, says the report, was a consequence of family planning and brought increased productivity, leading to economic development in the region.
Figures in the UNFPA report shows that Ireland performs well in the areas of sexual and reproductive health:
· The contraceptive prevalence rate in Ireland is close to the average for highly developed countries. Sixty-one per cent of Irish women aged 15 to 49 use modern methods of contraception, compared to a prevalence rate of 57 per cent worldwide and only one per cent in Somalia, the poorest-performing country in this category.
· The adolescent birth rate in Ireland is 16 (per 1,000 women, aged 15-19*), compared to a world average of 49 and a rate of 116 in the least developed countries of the world.
· Ireland’s average annual rate of population change is the same as the world average, at 1.1 per cent**.
· The total fertility rate per woman is slightly above the world average at 2.1 (the world average is 2)**.
· 222 million women in developing countries (and one in every four women in Sub-Saharan Africa) have an unmet need for family planning, according to the report.
Speaking at the Dublin launch, AlannaArmitage, Director of the UNFPA’s Geneva office, said the report highlights the fact that a huge unmet need for family planning persists across the globe, and the impact that this has on rates of unintended pregnancies and unsafe abortions.
“Despite promises, resolutions and conventions that affirm the value of family planning, it remains out of reach for a staggering 222 million women in developing countries,” she said. “This is because of limited availability of services, costs and a host of conditions in the lives of women and men that prevent them from accessing sexual and reproductive health services. These barriers are limiting their rights.
“Family planning is one of the most critically important investments that we could make: in health, in women’s rights and in the life trajectories of young people. With age-appropriate sexuality education and access to contraception, the young can truly plan for schooling, work and childbearing on their own terms.
“Our report shows that access to family planning unlocks unprecedented rewards at both the individual and national levels. The cumulative effect of highly personal decisions can influence entire countries and regions. One recent study, for example, predicts that if the fertility rate fell by just one child per woman in Nigeria in the next 20 years, the country’s economy would grow by at least $30 billion.
“As Ireland well knows from its own experiences, family planning is one of the biggest development and public health successes of the past 40 years. It has saved the lives of millions of women and children, it has helped to slow population growth, and it has helped families break the cycle of poverty. But we must remember that family planning is not a privilege; it is a human right. Our challenge now is to work to ensure that women – and men – worldwide are not denied this right.”
The UNFPA report, ‘The State of World Population 2012’, is available to download here.
Previous reports can be found here.
* Figuresfrom 1991/2010
** Figures for 2010-2015
Contact: Martina Quinn, DHR Communications, Tel: 01-4200580 / 087-6522033
About the UNFPA
The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) is an international development agency that promotes the right of every woman, man and child to enjoy a life of health and equal opportunity. It works to deliver a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe and every young person’s potential is fulfilled. The UNFPA supports countries in using population data for policies and programmes to reduce poverty and to ensure sexual and reproductive rights are promoted and upheld. Further information is available at www.unfpa.org.