There is a need to focus on the replacement rate in Barbados without encouraging irresponsible behaviour.
This observation was made by Minister of State in the Ministry of Finance, Economic Affairs, Development and Energy, Senator Darcy Boyce, during a recent courtesy call by United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Representative, Harold Robinson.
The replacement rate is the number of children each woman needs to have to maintain current population levels.
According to Minister Boyce, there was a need to concentrate on areas such as the demographics which result from free choice and the maintenance of a viable population. He suggested that options such as offering tax incentives in order to increase the birth rate could be explored.
Mr. Robinson noted that the fertility rate tended to decrease in countries where women were empowered. He also pointed out that the focal point of UNFPA’s population policy was not the regulation of fertility, but the overall challenges and how they could be addressed.
The issue of gender equality was also discussed. Senator Boyce observed that the gender issues in Barbados were not the traditional ones, with the emphasis being more on maintaining a balance rather than tilting a balance.
The UNFPA Representative agreed, noting that Barbados was leading the way in the region in terms of having a Bureau of Gender Affairs and with a male at its helm, rather than a Bureau of Women’s Affairs. He added that his organisation’s gender focus was on young men in an effort to ensure they did not become a burden to society.
The talks also dealt with the issue of healthy populations, specifically eating habits and sexual reproductive health. With respect to the former, Senator Boyce said that the cost to society of unhealthy populations was increasing, and a preventative approach was therefore needed.
Ambassador Robinson noted that as far as sexual reproductive health was concerned, efforts were made to prevent unwanted pregnancies, particularly among young females because of the serious effect they could have on one’s health.