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Family planning good for the economy


There are economic benefits to be gained from proper access to contraception and family planning.

Family planning and contraception are controversial issues in countries across the globe, from the Middle East to middle America.

Economic, social and religious pressures often mean that millions of women do not – or cannot – access family planning services and take control over their own reproductive systems and futures.

We know that this is disproportionately gender impactful and affects women’s choices, freedom, and often, their health.

It can be a pathway to poverty, poor health and gender inequality for women.

A study published by the UN Population Fund (UNPFA) says that there are economic benefits to be gained by proper access to family planning, and that it’s an ‘effective means’ of “empowering women to make them more economically productive.”

The State of the World Population 2012 report, By Choice, Not By Chance, says that there are currently over 200 million women in developing countries unable to exercise their right to family planning services.

This is putting them at risk of unwanted pregnancies.

The report suggests that, should developing countries invest positively in family planning, more than $11 billion a year could be saved in health care costs for pregnant women and new born babies.

Consequently the rates of unsafe abortions, maternal deaths and infant mortality would fall.

Population growth was also highlighted as an issue.

The UN estimates that in the next thirty or so years, the global population will grow from 6.7 billion to 9.2 billion and eventually the demand for water, food and fuel could become unsustainable.

Comparisons were drawn with developed countries in Europe and America, where planning for families and reducing unwanted pregnancies lowered the birth rate and reduced the drain on the economy and on resources.

It also talked about pregnancies in teenagers, and the ripple effect on their opportunities for further education and career development, which also had a negative impact on economic growth.

The report provides a stark look at the economic reality, even for developed countries, where family planning is not provided effectively.

But it also talks about the status and wellbeing of women.

Dr Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director of UNFPA said: “Not only does the ability for a couple to choose when and how many children to have help lift nations out of poverty, but it is also one of the most effective means of empowering women.

“Women who use contraception are generally healthier, better educated, more empowered in their households and communities and more economically productive.

“Women’s increased labour-force participation boosts nations’ economies.”

In short, a failure to provide services leads to poverty, poor health and gender inequality.

‘By Choice, Not By Chance’ also talks about the human right to access family planning.

It says: “The basic right of all couples and individuals to decide freely and responsibly on the timing and number of their children is understood as a key dimension of reproductive rights.

“Alongside the right to attain the highest standard of sexual and reproductive health, and the right of all to make decisions concerning reproduction free of discrimination, coercion and violence.”

Economic sustainability is now, more than ever, a global concern and the rights, mental and physical wellbeing of women should be too.

Perhaps this report will deliver on both fronts.

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