Solving our population problem

Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, in a recent address, drew attention to the island’s falling population growth rate and outlined projections over a number of years.

It was very pleasing to observe that his comments, unlike those attributed to some recent commentators, were balanced, mature and devoid of the recklessness and insensitivity which characterized statements on this subject in the recent past.

Reversing the falling population growth rate is not insurmountable. However, it requires a level of knowledge, skill and experience which is readily available to any government or society genuinely serious about committing to this delicate task.

Empty rhetoric and high sounding mouthings, purely for public consumption, will not get the desired results since,by its very nature, human reproduction is private, personal and often compounded by religious, cultural and socio-economic considerations.

Government’s first step must be the establishment of a working group charged with the responsibility of producing a National Population Policy for consideration by relevant authorities and stakeholders.This policy must be informed by a number of very important considerations.

These include the carrying capacity of Barbados given its size, existing population density, coping capacity of existing social and other relevant services, life expectancy rate, an analysis of our population statistics over the last sixty years or so and other such dimensions with relevance to the existing and projected quality of life.

The desired population, as determined, must be clearly stated and a strategic framework established with provision for the continuous evaluation of the “project” to ensure timely adjustment when required. Political affiliation and religious persuasion must not be part of the criteria for selection to the suggested working group.

The population must be for a projected period of not less than 20 years in the first instance.

I am on record as saying that couples and women in particular could be persuaded to embrace this national objective if they were presented with a comprehensive range of compelling incentives which included some or all of the following:

• Ready access to affordable, high quality antenatal services.

• Expanded gynaecological services in a more client-friendly atmosphere.

• Upgraded and diversified birthing facilities.

• Expanded maternity and paternity leave.

• More affordable baby products.

• Expanded and upgraded day care and nursery school facilities with more flexible hours.

• Guaranteed nursery school places at affordable costs coupled with appropriate after school supervision.

• Special tax allowances for at least the first two children born to mothers between a specified age range.

These incentives should go a long way towards motivating buy-in from professional women and women generally. In the case of unemployed or under-employed women, critical material support would have to be agreed upon.

One NGO capable of helping to lead this charge could be the Barbados Family Planning Association which, as stated by a senior Government official, has been “too successful” in contributing to the slowing of the population growth rate over the period of more than 60 years.

The BFPA has ready access to the skills, experience and human resources capable of making a decisive difference to the success or failure of this initiative.

For what it is worth, I have given a brief insight into some of the critical factors relevant to any meaningful change in our nation’s population growth profile. The sooner Government gets cracking, the better it will be for all concerned.

(George Griffith, a social development advocate consultant, is a former executive director of the Barbados Family Planning Association)

9 Responses to Solving our population problem

  1. Santini More
    Santini More March 3, 2017 at 10:07 am

    This is a sensible piece from George Griffith, but he and the enlightened few face an uphill battle making the old patriarchy understand that having children is an option not an obligation. As such, if society requires women to bear more children, then society had better put in place measures to make the whole process more affordable and accommodating.

  2. jrsmith March 3, 2017 at 10:30 am

    How could any one take time from our priminster also was it the minister for education said bajans should have more children ,first test for them , where do eggs in barbados comes from..
    There is enough baby factories in barbados , the priminister is mistaking them for manufacturing places……….

  3. Mark Fenty
    Mark Fenty March 3, 2017 at 10:32 am

    It thought the gift of child – birth was a directive given by God?

  4. Mack March 3, 2017 at 10:44 am

    The PM and minister of education is calling for more population. It take about quarter of a million dollars to raise a child to the age of 18 years. Who is going to provide the money to raise these new citizens they are calling for???? Why not provide for the ones we now have and hone all of them into productive citizens instead.

  5. Steven Layne
    Steven Layne March 3, 2017 at 11:44 am

    Void this party ,or avoid your way of life.

  6. Mazie Taylor
    Mazie Taylor March 3, 2017 at 12:09 pm

    George I am not sure what you mean when you talk about this project to encourage woman to get children every woman is not a good mother and father’s role in parenting is sadly lacking (by too many hit and run men) so this project needs more than hot air from you also since the family planning helped in part to keep the population smaller, I believe we need to start educating our people about the value of human life and taking care of a child with both level headed devoted couples and giving wise lessons , parenting classes and assistance when needed BEFORE not after the baby’s unexpected arrival.Parenting is a hard job it’s not for everyone and it’s rewarded in time to come.George has some good points when he said that maternity leave should be longer etc but DON’T encourage women to get children for a” project” we are not breeding machines Children are a gift from God to be loved and nurtured properly.Just saying

  7. Mikey March 3, 2017 at 1:39 pm

    @Mazie Taylor,,, but George DID NOT SAY women are breeding machines, and everybody is a good parent .
    As far as I understand, these thing will have to be “in place” prior to any individuals inclination to produce offspring.


    Finally if you do not understand what George is saying, you also do not understand what the Prime Minister is saying.

    If there are FEW or NO people of working age contributing to the National Insurance Scheme, then when YOU reach a Pensionable age, you will not be in a position to get a Pension. THINK ABOUT THAT , GOODBYE !!!

  8. Cherylann Bourne-Hayes
    Cherylann Bourne-Hayes March 3, 2017 at 6:09 pm

    Declining population growth is a problem because there not enough younger folk to pay into system that takes care of the older folk and the society as a whole. A problem in many countries, some european countries and asian, have or are dealing with it. The option is immigration.
    These are good incentives but alas, it needs to be funded. From where is the money coming?

  9. Ejd March 4, 2017 at 7:45 am

    Can our economy carry a larger population? We have hundreds of young people leaving school every year and cannot find a job. This talk about aging population is a myth. A number of persons are reaching 100 but equally so many more are passing away between 40 and 65. The problem is that we need to lower the retirement age from 67. Let persons go home at 62. Give the young people a chance to get a job. Let the seniors enjoy some of their pension. Too many are working towards a pension only to die months after retirement.


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