The other Iranian bomb

Battling low fertility rates, Tehran takes on birth control

Iran’s got a problem: not enough babies. So last week, the government began dismantling long-standing family planning policies. Iranian authorities are slashing the country’s birth control programs, which President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad considers ungodly and a Western import.

As recently as the late 1970s, the average Iranian woman had nearly seven children; into the late ’80s, the country had one of the world’s highest population growth rates. But by the ’90s, with the economy faltering, Tehran launched a family planning campaign, encouraging vasectomies and issuing contraceptives. “Two children are enough,” read banners in public health centres.

Today, couples are averaging just 1.29 babies. At this rate, more than half of Iran’s population will be over 60 within 60 years.

To counter so-called “hyper-aging,” the government has announced plans to spend US$15 billion to encourage Iranians to have large families. Population control programs “belong to the past,” Iran’s deputy health minister said last week. Iranians, she urged, should “go back to our genuine culture.”

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