A newly-released research report has shown that Kenyan women are having the lowest number of children in East Africa compared to their counterparts in Burundi and Uganda.
The report indicates that in Kenya, the number of average births per woman has stagnated at 3.9 or about four children in the past two years, having dropped from an average of five in 2008.
According to World Population Data prepared by US-based Population Reference Bureau (PRB), at 3.9, Kenya’s fertility rate is below Africa’s average of 4.6 or about five children for every woman but still higher than the global average of 2.5.
“Several forces are driving this drop in Kenya’s fertility rate, including higher education levels among women folk...as women advance in careers hence a shorter biological lifespan for having babies and increased contraceptive use,” said Nelly Bosire, a private childbirth expert.
Kenya’s fertility rate has dipped steeply, from 8.1 children in 1978 to 3.9 currently, and a further drop to 2.4 is expected in the next three decades.
Kenyan women appear to be heeding calls by global policy shapers, including the United Nations, for smaller family sizes as a socio-economic tool for better allocation of family resources.
Burundi tops the list with a fertility rate of 5.5, or nearly six children for every woman, followed by Uganda (5.4), Tanzania (5.2), Ethiopia (4.6), Rwanda (4.2) and Kenya (3.9).
Former World Bank’s lead economist for Kenya, Wolfgang Fengler, said having more children ceased to be the driver of Kenya’s population growth in 2000.
“Due to high fertility rates in previous decades, there are many more families in Kenya today and so even though families are smaller, the total number of children continues to grow,” Dr Fengler was quoted by the Business Daily, adding that Kenyans are also living longer.
“The main reason why families are opting to have a few children is the cost of living, which has increased over the past few years. Families now want a number of children they can take care of comfortably,” said Maxwell Okoth, a healthcare practitioner.
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