Uncomfortable Companions: Fertility decline and Ideology in Iran

Essay entitled “Uncomfortable Companions” published in the Woodrow Wilson Center’s New Security Beat, March 5, 2018. Also see “Iran in Transition,” Carnegie Endow. Int’l Peace.

It should be an excellent time to be a young Iranian: High school and college enrollments in the Islamic Republic rank near the top of Muslim-majority countries. Women have only about two children on average, compared to 6.5 in the mid-1980s. And childhood mortality is projected to approach North American levels in the next 15 years. Yet, as the recent protests show, many young Iranians feel left out. Job growth—especially for young adults—has failed to keep pace with development, while persistently high rates of inflation steadily drive up the cost of living and cut deeply into Iranians’ savings.

Clearly, young Iranians expect more from their country’s economy. They aren’t alone. In Iran in Transitiona recent report published by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Karim Sadjadpour and I show that Iran is traversing its demographic window of opportunity—an economically advantageous period marked by small proportions of dependent children and seniors, and a large proportion in the most productive working ages. In fact, Iran’s current worker bulge (Fig. 1, below) rivals those that helped make “economic tigers” out of Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, and China.

Iran Demographic Pyramid

[To read the entire essay, go to version on the Wilson Center’s New Security Beat]

or download Uncomfortable Companions_ Fertility Decline and Ideology in Iran here. 

Attachments

Iran in Transition


Iran in Transition: The Implications of the Islamic Republic’s Changing Demographics

Richard Cincotta & Karim Sadjadpour

December 2017,  Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

In the late 1980s, Iran’s revolutionary government deployed a series of contraceptive and counseling services that would become one of the world’s most effective voluntary family planning programs. The country’s total fertility rate—the average number of children an Iranian woman could expect to bear during her lifetime—fell from five and a half at the program’s inception to two children per woman about two decades later. Consequently, Iran has entered an economically advantageous demographic window of opportunity, during which its working-age, taxable population far outnumbers children and elderly dependents. This transition has important implications for the country’s economic and political trajectory, as well as for U.S. policy toward Iran. [read more of the summary]

Go to the online version of Iran in Transition.

Download: Iran in Transition.

 

Iran: Taking Aim at Low Fertility and Women’s Mobility

Read “Iran: Taking Aim at Low Fertility and Women’s Mobility” published by the Foreign Policy Research Institute, in Philadelphia (PA, USA).

Unlike prior policies that sought to eradicate vestiges of pre-revolution Iran, the government’s most recent actions alter social conditions that were encouraged during much of the Islamic Republic’s three decades of existence: a widespread small-family norm, and gender equality in education. In the ideologically charged political ecology of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei’s Iran, such conditions have been deemed “un-Islamic.”

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Iran’s Chinese Future

DownloadIran’s Chinese Future“, a demographic comparison of two countries on similar political tracks, published by Foreign Policy in June 2009, following pro-democracy demonstrations in Iran’s cities.

The past few weeks’ images (June, 2009) of tens of thousands of brave, bold, and mostly youthful opposition supporters crowding Tehran’s boulevards have encouraged some onlookers to draw hopeful parallels to the protests that helped topple most of the authoritarian regimes in Eastern Europe, from the late 1980s onward. But, from a demographer’s standpoint, Iran’s youthful population age structure (in other words, its distribution of residents by age) suggests a different analogy. Depressingly enough for the democracy protesters in Iran and those who stand with them around the world, a closer comparison may be with China’s youth bulge experience 20 years ago, including the social fractures that pervaded that generation’s political culture and the ruthless and ongoing response by conservative elements of Chinese leadership.

Read more by downloading “Iran’s Chinese Future” here …. 

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