Population growth became one of the major challenges threatening the economy and the capability of the state to offer all citizens equal rights, causing the government to renew its long-years of calls to birth control.
In late 2017, the state has started a new family planning campaign titled ‘life saver’ to assist people to become committed to birth control. The campaign which is sponsored by the Ministry of Health to reduce the population from 128 million in 2030 to 112 million, thus helping the state achieve development, which contributes to improving the lives of citizens.
Rural areas are the target of the campaign, as many residents of these areas believe that large families are an economic source of strength.
Egypt has already sponsored many social protection services for pensioners and under-privileged citizens, which led the state to huge sums and the growth which impacted these funds.
President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi called on young couples, to have a gap of 3 to 4 years between every child, and that one or two children is enough, during the session called “Ask the president”, Al-Sisi said of the 6th National Youth Conference in Cairo University in late July. It was not his first call as in May 2017 he remarked that population growth was one of the challenges threatening Egypt’s development.
During 2017, the state repeatedly called on citizens to engage in birth control to help the government to complete its economic developments goal.
Several of the programmes that were created to control birth rate increase became ineffective after the end of Mubarak’s 30 years-era. Many of the countries that used to donate contraceptives stopped granting them to the Egyptian state. Years ago, these contraceptives were sponsored by the state. Currently rtheir prices are expensive and not affordable to all segments.
However, last month, the House of Representatives approved presidential decree No 174 of 2018 approving the grant agreement with United States of America on improving the health outcomes of the certain groups including women.
Al-Sisi asserted that the state is making great efforts in the file of population growth and that Egypt needs a long time to feel an outcome, as the issue emerged in the eras of former presidents Gamal Abdel Nasser, Anwar Sadat, and Hosni Mubarak.
Governmental officials also have confirmed in several press statement that population growth is the main challenge facing the country, which must be combated as the country has reached an unprecedented increase that would affect what has been accomplished in terms of economic growth.
The issue of population growth is severely related to reducing the ability of the Egyptian state to deliver the most basic of public services, including quality education, healthcare, and housing.
The Egyptian population reached 104.2 million; 94.98 million of which live within Egypt, while 9.4 million live abroad, said Abu Bakr El-Gendy, head of Egypt’s Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS) in October 2017.
The CAPMAS said the population of Egypt rose from 59.2 million in 1996 to 72.6 million in 2006 and to 94.8 million in 2017, which implies an average annual growth rate of 2.04% during the period 1996 to 2006 and to 2.56% during the period 2006 to 2017.
Regarding the distribution of citizens in governorates, the population of Cairo is the highest, accounting for 10.1% of the total population, followed by Giza (9.1%). The governorates of Daqahleya and Sharqiya also have large populations. Meanwhile, the lowest populations are in border governorates and in Port Said and in Suez.
Egypt suffers from a 12% unemployment rate, according to a CAPMAS report in 2016. About 18.4 million are illiterate, which equals a quarter the population, and out of that figure, 10.6 million are females.
Movements in parliament
Last week, controversy stirred among parliament members (MPs) over a bill calling to cut subsidies for families’ third child as a way to regulate population growth, as some commented on it as unconstitutional, while others welcomed it.
In January 2018, the bill, which included 13 articles, was drafted by Mohamed Masoud called on the state to develop and implement a residential programme aimed at balancing population growth rates by not giving benefits for a third child.
Controversy over the law returned following the president’s statements to enforce a bill to combat the increasing population growth rate.
Member Hala Abu El-Saad, said that the draft law is illegal, as Article 53 of the Egyptian constitution requires equality of rights among citizens, while MP Ahmed Rafaat said that the bill is constitutional, will achieve equality, and will not be applied retroactively.
Deputy of the parliamentary committee of defence Yehia El-Kedwany, said the efforts of the state to determine the birth rate declined significantly in the wake of 2011, which resulted in the aggravation of the problem and becoming a crisis threatening national security.
In this regard, he requested the ministry of health, to provide contraceptives free of charge for citizens, noting since the neediest and low-income citizen cannot afford to purchase them and therefore do not use them.
Moreover, head of the parliamentary committee of social solidary Abdel Hady El-Kassaby said that it is important to reduce the population growth, and previous governments failed to address the population issue, which put pressure on economic resources and the distribution of service shares to citizens.
“We’ve got 105 million citizens, and there is poor distribution of the population, and every day we have 5,760 children, which means we have increased by 2,000,063 thousand citizens, an increase that represents a census state, so the share of each citizen gradually at least in all services in water, food, and hospitals,” he also said.
The parliament previously recommended increase in the amount allocated by the government to family planning programmes from EGP 2bn to EGP 4bn to meet the population increase.
Al-Azhar supports birth control
Professor of Comparative Jurisprudence and Islamic Law at Al-Azhar University said in a statement to
everything that benefits the public for all is a preservative to Sharia and religion, especially that the current period requires organising awareness conferences in all governorates on family planning.
He warned from the risks of early marriage, taking care of children and that the offspring does not exceed the two children to save preservation of society from the population “explosion.”
Among social protection and support projects that have been executed during recent years, Takaful and Karama came as the top of services benefiting the most vulnerable groups in the villages of Upper Egypt and in some areas adjacent to the governorates of Cairo and Giza.
The project has succeeded in providing coverage for a large number of the most vulnerable groups across the country and improving the deteriorating conditions of families with no income.
The Takaful and Karama projects are divided into two parts: the first aims at providing cash support to poor families who have children studying at different education levels, to ensure that they will continue their education process.
Families who have students in primary level education receive EGP 60 for each child per month, while parents with children in the preparatory stage receive EGP 80, and EGP 100 is given for each student in the secondary stage. These cash payments are provided to families so long as their children have a school attendance rating of at least 80%.
The programme provides medical support to families with pre-school children, who are less than six years old, and to pregnant mothers. The medical support requires that families implement all of the steps stipulated in healthcare programmes by the Ministry of Health. The maximum number of beneficiaries of this programme are three children per household.
Also, Egypt provides baby formula, which cost the government EGP 46, and sells it out for EGP 5, a price that is less than 10% of the actual cost.