A program in the Satara district of the Indian state of Maharashtra pays newlyweds to wait at least two years before having their first child. (click for NY TIMES article)
Reproduction is a big issue in India, where the Times reports that roughly half of India’s population is under 25. That means they’ve got a big workforce, and a big group of people on track to start having kids of their own:
“… if youth is India’s [workforce] advantage, the sheer size of its population poses looming pressures on resources and presents an enormous challenge for an already inefficient government to expand schooling and other 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.”
Currently families in India average 2.6 kids, where 2.1 would sustain the current population level long term (it’s 2.06 in the US today). (Family planning generally happens after rather than before in India– where “many women [opt] for sterilization after their second child” — paralleling the US, where about 50% of married women are surgically sterile by the time they’re 40.)
Overall goal of the pay-to-delay program: to reduce population growth.
And the ripple effects extend much beyond the population cut.
Collateral upsides: the ladies get more education; down the line the kids they have later are more educated; then both the more educated moms and their more educated kids participate more robustly in the national economy. Dads benefit too when families are smaller and mom contributes more to the family income.
Further upsides: More educated women = more women’s voices are heard and more women participate in policy making.
The dynamic again parallels the US, where delay also leads to more education for women and to an increase in their participation in policy-making roles and in public discourse.
Unlike in China, no rules are set on the numbers of kids families may have under this program, but educated families tend to have fewer kids and to educate those kids more, due to increased means as well as increased awareness of educational ops.
In the US, delay of family is a common means of raising income – so as to have more to raise kids on when they do arrive. In the Indian program, the program adds a direct payment to the raised income that delay brings on its own.
Right now it’s a small program, but if it’s successful it may spread to other districts and states. Paying for delay at the front end could lead to big gains — social and individual — for the long haul.