During the question-hour session in the National Assembly (NA), the Member of Parliament (MP) Karma Lhamo of Mongar asked the Health Minister Dasho Dechen Wangmo on the strategies to increase the population growth rate in the country as it would have a negative impact on the country’s labor force and economy in the future.
The Health Minister said it is not just the responsibility of the health ministry alone but all the agencies must come together to address the issue.
During the 1960s, one mother would have five to seven children but now most women are opting to have less children. Currently, the fertility rate is 1.8 percent and in developed countries, replacement-level fertility can be taken as requiring an average of 2.5 percent.
It is not just in Bhutan, but many Asian countries are going through demographic crises, said the health minister.
Lyonpo said that the family planning policy was changed in 2000s. The importance was given to maintaining gaps between children at least two to three years mainly focused on the mother and child’s health. Currently, JDWNRH is facilitating intrauterine insemination for those groups of women who cannot give birth. Also, the ministry will soon introduce in-vitro fertilization and provide infertility services in multi-disciplinary super-specialty hospital (MDSSH).
The Health Minister cited examples of Singapore where they have a proximity housing grant, in which a family can build their homes near their aged parents, by which couples with young children can get support from their aged parents. Bhutan can also come up with similar plans.
The Health Minister said RCSC’s plan to pay Nu 10,000 to every civil servant on the birth of a child is a good initiative.
About 60 percent of the women giving birth are between the age of 25 to 34 years old, and the majority of the women in this age group are either newly employed or going for master’s programs. So, therefore it is imperative to look into it.
Bhutan has transitioned from a situation of high fertility, high mortality, and a high child dependency ratio, to low fertility, low mortality, and a low child dependency ratio.
According to the Population Projections Bhutan 2017-2047, it is expected to remain below replacement level in the foreseeable future.