Thursday, April 18, 2024

Educated women reason Botswana population not growing – CIA

As commentators continue to look for “culprits” in the near-stagnation of Botswana’s population growth, those visiting the Central Intelligence Agency’s website will learn that one is the educated Motswana woman.

“Botswana has experienced one of the most rapid declines in fertility in Sub-Saharan Africa. The total fertility rate has fallen from more than 5 children per woman in the mid-1980s to approximately 2.4 in 2013. The fertility reduction has been attributed to a host of factors, including higher educational attainment among women, greater participation of women in the workforce, increased contraceptive use, later first births, and a strong national family planning program,” the US spy agency says.

In fairness to the record, however, the CIA is only summarising what has been reported by other organisations. One is the World Bank which says that Botswana has experienced an astonishing decrease in its Total Fertility Rate. The rate dropped from 6.2 children per woman in 1980 to 2.7 in 2015. The Bank said that this was “the greatest fertility decline in Africa in the last three decades.” It added that as a result, the proportion of child dependents is declining rapidly, while the working-age population will increase by 29 percent between now and 2050.

Exactly what the decline means depends on whom one wants to believe. When findings of the World Bank report were presented to government officials, academia, and other stakeholders in Gaborone in 2017, a World Bank official said that falling fertility provide chance for future economic growth.

Elene Imnadze, then World Bank Botswana Country Representative, said that the declining fertility rate would not add much to the fiscal burden of social sectors such as education, health, and social protection. She added that in the case of education, if coverage and spending per pupil stayed constant at 2017 levels, fiscal spending would decrease by more than 3 percentage points of GDP between 2017 and 2050, as the number of school-age children declines.

Taking up this point, her colleague, Jamele Rigolini, said that such scenario could provide the government with the necessary fiscal space to increase investment in the productivity of the workforce, focusing on the quality of education and skills demanded by the labour market. The report itself says that if Botswana were to invest in the productivity of the workforce, and increase average annual labour productivity growth by 0.5 percentage points, the country would achieve by 2050 a 14 percent growth in  income per capita than with the current policy scenario, the report states.

On the other hand, some are predicting that low fertility rates around the globe will lead to economic crisis. In that regard, they warn that charity organisations likethe Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which promote birth control among African countries and other developing nations, are hastening such crisis. The taxpayer base will shrink and governments will not be able to fund social protection programmes. In the worst case scenario, people may only be able to retire upon death.

Nations, such as Hungary, Denmark, Italy, and Singapore have created incentives for couples to have more children. Given its current fiscal position, Botswana will have to settle for cheaper options.


Read this week's paper