Nima Wangdi

Bhutan’s fertility rate, hanging at 1.8 births per woman, is a serious concern and every Bhutanese has to shoulder the collective responsibility, health minister Dechen Wangmo said in the National Assembly on November 25.

Bhutan needs at least 2.5 births per woman according to the global standard for population replacement.

Lyonpo Dechen Wangmo said this during the question hour in the National Assembly responding to Mongar MP Karma Lhamo’s question.

Karma Lhamo asked the minister if the government is planning to come up with policy interventions like providing Nu 10,000 incentive for childbirth to private employees and other citizens like civil servants.

She also asked if the government is also planning some more policy changes to encourage people to give birth.

Lyonpo said, “Everyone is concerned about the low fertility rate in the country. It requires a collective responsibility and it should not be left only to the health ministry.”

She said that it was not only Bhutan but 28 percent of the countries in Asia are in a demographic crisis, meaning the fertility rate in their counties is below the global requirement.

“We started a fertility treatment at Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital and we are also planning to start a procedure to help women conceive soon,” Lyonpo said.

Lyonpo said that Royal Civil Service Commission has come up with payment of an incentive of Nu10,000 per birth of a child which is good. “We also have flexy working time for the mothers.”

According to Lyonpo, the policy of a small family, a happy family no longer stands. It was used in the 1960s when a woman had six or seven children. The policy changed since the 2000s.

She said the country does not have a direct policy but people were asked to maintain a good gap of about three years between the children born. It was all in the interest of the mother and child’s health.

According to Lyonpo, 60 percent of women give birth within 25-34 years of age. This is also the time when they are pursuing higher education like a master’s degree or are busy with their work. “Bringing policy changes would really help.”

According to World Health Organisation, the current fertility rate for World in 2022 is 2.428 births per woman, a 0.41 percent decline from 2021.