Today's New York Times carried a story indicating that the "birth rate" in Egypt had risen in 2012 to 32 per 1,000 population, "a rate not seen since 1991". Now, it may be that this has happened, but the story does not include a source for the information. The website for CAPMAS (The Central Agency for Population Mobilization and Statistics--the government statistical office) does not include birth data more recent than 2011--at least not that I could find in English. In 2011, the crude birth rate was 30.4, up from 27.9 in 2010, which was higher than the rate of 24.3 in 2005. So, if we track only the crude birth rate, its rise predates the collapse of the Mubarak government.
What we really need to track, of course, is the total fertility rate (TFR), which has been slowly but steadily declining over time. In 2005, the TFR was 3.13 births per woman, and that had declined to 3.02 by 2010, even though the crude birth rate had risen between those two dates, according to data from the UN Population Division, drawing upon data from the Egypt Demographic and Health Surveys.
Why is the crude birth rate rising while the TFR is declining? The answer lies in the age structure. Although fertility has been declining in Egypt, it is still well above replacement level, as noted above. With the average woman having three children, there is an ever larger number of young women coming of age to have children. This drives up the annual number of births and thus the crude birth rate.
Even if the NY Times is a bit alarmist, it is nonetheless very problematic if the current government of Morsi has gutted the family planning program or intends to do that. Even under Mubarak, the program had not been able to bring down the birth rate to a level commensurate with the growth (or lack thereof) of the Egyptian economy. The country remains a place where continued population growth threatens the well-being of the average Egyptian family. One way in which we will know how the government feels about the birth rate will be whether or not the next round of the Egyptian Demographic and Health Survey is actually implemented. The surveys have been conducted every 3-5 years since 1988, so by that schedule, the next one should be this year.
This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.
If you are a user of my textbook and would like to suggest a blog post idea, please email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org