Egypt's birth rate has declined by 46 per cent since 2017, government says

Decrease attributed to cost of living, lower subsidies and success of government awareness campaigns

President Abdel Fattah El Sisi has often blamed overpopulation for Egypt's poverty levels. Reuters
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Egypt’s birth rate has decreased by 46 per cent since 2017, according to a recent survey conducted by the Ministry of Planning and Economic Development.

The report attributed the decrease to factors including the rising cost of living and a shift towards later marriage ages.

Despite the fall in birth rate, Egypt's population still grew by 1.4 per cent during 2023, though that was down from 2.4 per cent in 2017.

Egypt is the most populous country in the Middle East and North Africa, with 106 million people, according to the country's official statistics agency.

President Abdel Fattah El Sisi has often blamed overpopulation for the country's poverty levels.

The government has launched various public awareness campaigns about the dangers of overpopulation, which the report said had led to married couples choosing to have fewer children.

The birth rate has now dropped from 3.5 children per woman in 2014 to 2.8 in 2021, according to a report by the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights.

Rising divorce rates, exacerbated by the rising cost of living, were one of the main drivers behind the decline, according to the ministry's report.

A small increase in the country’s death rate during 2020 and 2021 also contributed to the decline in population growth, according to the ministry’s report.

The decrease of subsidies for a number of essential goods and services, such as food and fuel, as part of an economic overhaul being undertaken by El Sisi’s administration, has also made people more anxious that they will have to bear the cost of having children alone, without help from the state.

In 2018, the government reduced to four the number of dependents that holders of state ration cards, which offer essential food items at subsidised prices, can add to their cards. This meant each household could only record a married couple and two children.

Beginning in 2022, the government also reduced the amounts of food that card holders could purchase. Today, each person on a ration card can only purchase one kilo of subsidised sugar and one litre of subsidised oil. Under the former president Hosni Mubarak there was no cap on the amount of goods people could buy.

Egypt has been contending with record-high inflation amid a government spending spree that has raised external debt to triple what it was in 2014, when Mr El Sisi took office.

A string of financing deals, the value of which amounts to $50 billion, have been touted as a lifeline for the country.

However, it remains to be seen whether those funds will be used to lift the populace out of poverty or spent on more projects that only benefit the country’s ruling class.

Updated: April 05, 2024, 5:34 AM