The Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS) has announced that the population of Egyptians inside Egypt reached 92 million on Thursday at 8:00pm.
CAPMAS stressed on 5 June that the population reached 91 million, which means that the recent increase has taken place in less than six months.
It is worth mentioning that every year 2.6 million Egyptians are born in the country, while the death toll stands at 600,000 citizens a year. This means that the population increases by two million people every year. Statistically, this means that on average one person is born every 17 seconds, if you compare the number of births to deaths. While you are reading this article, drinking your cup of coffee, 200 new Egyptians are born into a country that is not equipped to receive them.
In one of the United Nations’ reports on the conditions of the population increase in Egypt, it was mentioned that there are many phenomena that cannot be understood in isolation from the population increase. It is an issue of a country with high rates of dependency, poverty, crime, unemployment, incest, homelessness, and a breakdown of families, all due to the presence of parents who are unable to raise an average of seven children in the slums and rural areas of Egypt.
An Israeli expert said once that Israel was lucky to have its enemies, and he gave the population increase in Egypt as an example, noting how Egyptians are weakening Egypt with their high birth rates.
Doctor Gamal Hemdan also addressed this issue in his book “Egypt’s personality” (Shakhseyat Misr), when he said that Egypt has experienced one of the largest population increases in history. However, Egypt has also experienced a deterioration of the quality of life and character of the population, making them a burden on our resources no matter how well we use them.
This issue has many aspects. From a religious point of view, people are encouraged to procreate based on a hadith calling on us to marry and have many children, as the Prophet Muhammad will boast about Muslim nations on judgement day. This hadith, however, cannot be applied unless we also consider other hadiths such as “it is enough for a man to prove himself a sinner when he wastes the rights of whom he is responsible for,” and “all of you are shepherds and each of you is responsible for his flock.” Therefore, having children depends on our ability to raise kids properly.
I admired Pope Shenouda III’s saying that God will not ask how much each of us gave birth to children, but he will ask us if we raised our children properly.
In a social point of view, the main problem lies in the fact that the people with lower income have the largest number of children. For example, Upper Egypt’s population is roughly 18 million, but accounts for roughly 41% of all births in the country. I recall when I was living in a building consisting of 12 floors, each family had four children under 10 years old, while the doorman who lives in a two-room apartment had eight boys and girls, two of them were already out of school.
From an economic point of view, each pound spent on family planning saves Egypt EGP 134 in public expenditure, either directly or indirectly. It is worth noting that each newborn child consumes roughly EGP 4,500 of the general budget in terms of subsidies, grants, and social benefits.
Egypt faces the danger of overpopulation, and it is no less a danger than other issues the country faces. In 1980 Egypt’s population had reached 40 million, and now that number exceeds 80 million. If the population increase continues at the same rate it is expected that the country will have 160 million citizens in 30 years.
This means that we will need to double the number of existing schools, hospitals, roads and universities, not for the purpose of furthering development, but in order to avoid making the current situation worse. Egypt does not have the benefit of being rich in natural resources like China or India.
The political aspect of this issue makes it even worse. The ruling class and the opposition are too concerned with having power that they have turned their focus away from this dilemma. It seems that the state is not ready to benefit from the experiences of other states which have more successfully dealt with this issue.
There are certainly positive incentives that could be provided to citizens in order to help them become educated and raise their children well, such as reducing the tax that parents pay in accordance with the number of children they have. Similar programmes exist in Bangladesh, Indonesia, Vietnam, and Tunisia. The state could also provide retirement grants to state employees who have a certain amount of children.
Such grants could hinge on families limiting the number of children they have, and if that number is exceeded the grants could be revoked and instead a fine could be introduced. We should facilitate loans and grants procedures just as Bangladesh and Indonesia have, and provide small-sized families with homes.
Financial incentives could be provided to those who comply with the legal marriage age for girls, such as in India where community-based incentives are granted to the whole region because of their citizen’s commitment to the principle of family planning, low infant mortality and birth rate, as well as spreading literacy and a base level for education.
There are also negative incentives, or sanctions, that can be imposed on procreation if it is seen not as a personal freedom, but a responsibility to the community. A state can impose sanctions on parents who refuse to educate their children to a basic level, or let their children drop out of school before the age of 16 when they are still able to continue their education.
Education is one of the most important grounds to the demographic characteristics of progress, which is considered as one of the key factors of the population problem. Applying financial and administrative penalties on violators will reduce the financial incentives to have children.
The question is: where does the government stand from all of this?
Who leads the public work file?
Where is the prime minister? Where are the ministers?