TEHRAN, January 8, 2014 (LifeSiteNews.com) – In a reversal of decades of promoting fertility reduction, the Iranian government is now trying to increase the country's disastrous birth rate by considering the possibility of giving gold coins to couples to encourage them to have children.
Since the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979, the relentless preaching of the mullahs against large families and in favor of sterilization has resulted in the average birth rate plunging from about 3.6 children per family to a current rate well below the 2.1 children per couple needed for maintaining a stable population.
“If we move forward like this, we will be a country of elderly people in a not-too-distant future,” said Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, according to an AP report.
“Why do some couples prefer to have one or two children? Why do couples avoid having children? The reasons need to be studied,” the ayatollah said. “There was an imitation of Western life and we inherited this.”
Following the 1979 revolution, Khamenei's advisers warned that if the birth rate was left unchecked, by 1990 Iran would be bursting with 140 million people.
With a present population of only 77 million and an approaching demographic collapse, the ayatollah now says the program has worked too well, and that Iran should have a population of at least 150 million people.
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But some Iranian experts told the AP that gold coins are not enough incentive to persuade couples to have more children, citing an economy crippled by sanctions and a staggering inflation rate.
“A gold coin won’t change couples’ calculations,” Mohammad Jalal Abbasi, head of Demographics Department at Tehran University, told AP. “Many young Iranians prefer to continue their studies, not marry. Lack of financial ability to buy a house and meet expenses are among other reasons why the youth postpone marriage or have no interest in raising many children.”
In addition to the gold coin scheme, the government has passed laws increasing maternity leave from six to nine months, and giving fathers two weeks of paid paternity leave.
It has also axed many of its previous population control programs, such as government-sponsored vasectomies and subsidizing the cost of condoms.
Steve Mosher of the Population Research Institute (PRI) noted that the Koran, like the Torah and the Bible, strongly endorses the idea that babies are blessings and encourages strong families, and that most mullahs originally opposed not just abortion, but sterilization and contraception as well. However, he said, after the revolution the population control movement sought out and cultivated liberal Muslim clerics, encouraging them to rethink Islam’s traditional encouragement of childbearing.
PRI's own research found that Iran's national population control campaign, in conjunction with the country's continuing economic turmoil, quickly made inroads into the fertility of the population.
“The fertility rate shrank dramatically, until by 2010 it stood at 1.6 children and falling,” wrote Mosher in an article outlining Iran's demographic collapse.
“The United Nations now projects that Iran’s population will peak in a little more than 10 years, and then begin to shrink. This is the U.N’s low variant projection, historically the most accurate. The medium variant gives Iran 20 years before the population begins imploding. In the long run, it makes little difference,” Mosher wrote.
“The ayatollahs, seeing the handwriting on the wall, have now changed their minds again.
“Confronted with the reality of an aging and dying population with no replacements in sight, they have begun encouraging more children. They have embarked upon a program of government aid, such as creating and funding a bank account for each child born. They have abolished their counterproductive birth control program.
“Would that they had left well enough alone,” Mosher observed.