CC On Population Growth [Archives:1998/10/Front Page]

March 9 1998

During March 2-4, the Consultative Council (CC) held open hearings on what it termed as the country’s “number one problem” – the population explosion. The number of Yemenis is growing at a phenomenal 3.7% per annum, leading to a doubling of the population in a mere 18 years.
“Our resources cannot support such a growth rate. Even if they did, it is not wise to have such a growth rate,” stated Mr. Abdulaziz Abdulghani, Chairman of the CC.
Various experts were invited to give their testimonials and advice on the gravity of the situation, and what should/could be done. They all stressed the need to bring down the growth rate.
A: Female Education
One clear way to reduce the population growth rate is promote women’s education. According to statistics gathered over the last 15 years, there is a strong and direct correlation between the level of education of a woman and the number of children she bears. An illiterate woman would normally give birth to 2.40 times the number of children by a mother with university education or 1.86 that of one with secondary education, as the above chart shows.

B) Urban Culture:
Another important determining factor is urban culture. Urbanites often tend to have smaller families because of limitations of dwelling space, cost of living, and other considerations which can be summed up under the term “urban culture”. The experience in Yemen shows that the total fertility rate for urban women is 6.2 babies per woman, while in the countryside it is 7.4 babies.
As the urban population of Yemen grows, the total population growth rate is expected to taper off. In 1960, the urban population of Yemen was estimated at 9%. By 1994, this percentage had risen to 23.5%, and today it stands at 25%.
C) Government Policies:
The Government of Yemen has taken a number of steps to help control the population growth. The efforts were centered around the National Population Council, which is responsible for raising awareness on the issue. The Ministry of Health has also embarked on a national drive to help women who ask for information or services on ways and means for pregnancy control. The Mother and Child Association has also stepped up information pregnancy-spacing techniques.
Many experts now call for pregnancy control services in hospitals all over the country. The idea is to make various techniques readily available in hospitals and clinics.
The hearings at the Consultative Council were attended by members of the CC, members of parliament, the media and a number of public figures, including NGO leaders. The CC established a committee to study the documents presented and to provide a summary report, including proposals for future policies and actions.
A research paper was submitted to the Consultative Council by Mr. Abdu Al-Qobati, the General Director of the Population Studies and Research Center at the Central Statistics Organization. The paper presented the major demographic and social characteristics of the population in Yemen. According to the paper, the 1994 population census showed the following demographic characteristics:
1- About 70% of Yemen’s population live in about 16% of the country’s area. The other 84% of the country is sparsely populated.
2- The rapid population growth rate has lead to a rise in the number of people under 15 years of age, representing 50% of the total population, quite high compared to the international standard of 30-35%. This leads to increasing the burden on family breadwinners in general.
3- The average number of people in a household is 7 distributed at the rate of 2.6 per room.
4- Health-wise, infant mortality has dropped from 130 per 1,000 in 1988 to 81 per 1,000 in 1994.
5- Illiteracy among people above ten years of age was around 56% in 1994, dropping from 67% in 1988. Despite the decrease, the proportion is still quite high. The illiteracy rate among females is 76%, compared to 37% among males. It is 34% and 64% in urban and rural area, respectively.
6- The ratio of children going to school among the 6 to 15-year olds is around 55%. It is 71% among males and 37.5% among females, and 79.5% in urban areas and 48.5% in rural areas.
7- The ratio of married people (10 years and above) is about 50%. The proportion is 53.2% and 47.2% for females and males, respectively. Females are married off at younger ages than males.
There are less married males than females due to high dowries, hard living conditions, lack of suitable accommodation, etc.
Despite many young men refraining from marriage, the population still grows.