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India Offering Cash Incentives to Control Birthrates

[ 2010-08-24 13:32]     字号 [] [] []  
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Dr. Archana R. Khade, left, and a nurse, Sunita Laxman Jadhav, right, explained incentives to delay childbirth to a new bride near Satara this month. (Agencies)

As part of a pilot program aimed at curbing India’s runaway population growth, some regional governments have begun offering monetary incentives to newlyweds willing to delay having children for a few years.

Nurses have been going door to door in Maharashtra this summer peddling the so-called “honeymoon package” which pays new couples as much as Rs. 5,000 (US$107) if they wait two years before getting pregnant, according to The New York Times.

India is second only to China in terms of total population, but while China’s population is getting older, India is in the midst of a “baby boom” era. Of the nearly 1.2 billion people living in India, about half are under the age of 25. This could be one of the country’s greatest strengths going forward as an immense young workforce begins to form, but it could also potentially lead to its undoing as the government is challenged with providing hundreds of millions of children with schooling and other state services.

In coming decades, India is projected to surpass China as the world’s most populous nation, and the critical uncertainty is just how populous it will be. Estimates range from 1.5 billion to 1.9 billion people, and Indian leaders recognize that that must be avoided.

This issue is further compounded by fact that birth rates in India are highest in the country’s poorest and least educated regions, like Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. Similarly, birth rates are lowest in the wealthier southern Indian states of Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu where students are typically educated about the use of contraception.

“An educated girl is your best contraception,” Dr. Amarjit Singh, executive director of India’s National Population Stabilization Fund, told The New York Times. By his estimations, roughly half of India’s future excess population growth is expected to come from its six poorest states.

It remains unclear what the best method is to tackle population growth, but policies like the “honeymoon package” are well intended, and some believe well overdue.

“It’s already late,” said Sabu Padmadas, a demographer at the University of Southhampton. “It’s definitely high time for India to act.”

On the whole, India’s current birth rate is estimated at about 21.76 births per 10,000 and has seen a slow but steady decline in recent years, partly due to improved education. By comparison, China has a birth rate of about 14 per 10,000 and the United States stands at about 13.82 per 10,000 as of 2009.







(中国日报网英语点津 Helen 编辑)