09 June 2018

Finding a reason for increased fertility among Egyptian women

Options Summer 2018: Over the last two decades, scientists have observed an upturn in fertility in several Arab countries. As this trend is in direct contradiction to the demographic transition model, researchers are seeking answers to this puzzling question.

© Paul Prescott | Shutterstock

© Paul Prescott | Shutterstock

Egypt in particular has seen a notable fertility increase. At the onset of the new millennium, Egyptian women had three children each on average. Between 2008 and 2014, this rate rose to 3.5 children. While many point to increased religious freedom in the wake of the Arab Spring, it is becoming clear that this does not provide a comprehensive explanation for the upturn.

In a study published in the journal Population and Societies, IIASA researchers Anne Goujon and Zakarya Al Zalak suggest another reason for increased fertility among Egyptian women. According to their research, Egyptian women are facing an increasing lack of opportunities in the workforce.

This is particularly true for highly educated women. Egyptian women often choose fields of study that leave them with few options after they graduate. It is therefore evident that it is not only access to education, but rather access to adequate types of education that should be improved.

“Whether the fertility of Egyptian women stays above three children or starts declining again in the near future will have huge implications for the country, which is currently both environmentally and economically constrained,” explains Goujon, a researcher in the World Population Program at IIASA. “The evidence suggests that there is a necessity to lower the labor market barriers faced by women and increase their employability.”

Further information

Goujon A & Al Zalak Z (2018). Why has fertility been increasing in Egypt? Population and Societies 551: 1-4. 


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Last edited: 18 June 2018

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