Abu Dhabi: A Federal National Council member demanded the government Tuesday take steps to raise the birth rate, including financial incentives, extra maternity leave and easier access to childcare, in a package of reforms to address imbalance in the demographic balance in a country where expatriates constitute more than 80 per cent of the population.
“The UAE birth rate decreased by 15 per cent between 2015 and 2019, which is a major problem that needs to be addressed,” Na’ama Al Sharhan, a member from Ras Al Khaimah, told the House.
Al Sharhan put up a question to Hessa Bint Eisa Bu Humaid, UAE Minister of Community Development.
She said the causes for the drop in birth rate include high cost of marriage, late marriage and career ambitions of women, among other reasons.
Al Sharhan, who is also second deputy speaker of the House, said the Emirati newly-weds swap vows promising to support each other in sickness and in health — and apparently in debt going into the red to cover their wedding bills. “So they opt for one or two children, instead of five,” she said.
Al Sharhan also expressed concern over the late marriage of Emirati women, also blamed on the problem on “the excessive dower and marriage expenses, and women’s career ambitions.
Al Sharhan demanded charting a comprehensive health, educational and housing plan to raise Emirati birth rate to five or six children per family as well as doubling child allowance.
The current birth rate for UAE in 2020 is 10.200 births per 1000 people, a 0.88 per cent decline from 2019, according to UN projections.
The birth rate for UAE last year was 10.291 births per 1000 people, a 0.87 per cent decline from 2018.
A study made by Zayed University in 2014 showed 88 per cent of UAE families have 4 or more children and 40 per cent of UAE families have 7 or more children.
UN projections show UAE has 1.45 births per woman in 2017.
Al Sharhan said “Our number is decreasing and current laws don’t encourage having children.”
About 35 per cent of federal employees are women.
Minister Bu Humaid said the ministry has always encouraged marriage and childbearing and a budget of Dh186 million has been allocated for marriage grants with the number of beneficiaries reaching 2,380 citizens last year, the highest since the beginning of the initiative.
“The ministry has also launched many other initiatives including virtual group weddings, finanicial and social counselling programmes,” she said.