Odds and Ends

Hi everyone, a fantastic result last night in the Rugby World Cup (NZ took out Australia 20-6 in the semi-final) so I’ve decided to serve up a bit of a mishmash of issues to celebrate.  
After Shannon’s interesting post last Friday on Jewish community’s celebration at their surge in birth rates, and the front page piece on the religious unrest in Egypt by Anthony Billingsley, I thought that this fact sheet from the BBC is fitting. It gives an overview of the Christian population in the Middle East, providing some interesting information on Christianity’s size and political status in each country.  Christianity was of course born in the Middle East, but according to the BBC, the proportion of Christians in most of the countries in the area is declining, through dropping birth rates, emigration and persecution. 
Secondly, from The Hindu, we hear that the central Union Health and Family Welfare Ministry in India is proposing to set up a “Population Stabilisation Incentive Fund” which will be used to pay States and Union Territories if they have achieved the replacement total fertility rate (TFR) of 2.1 children per women or less.  This fund seems to be only able to be used within the sector of population stabilisation.  The current TFR of India overall is 2.8, although this masks a wide variation between the different internal states.  The North and Central parts of the country have higher TFRs of between 3 and 3.8, while the Southern states tend to have much lower fertility rates. 
The proposed Fund will incentivise States to bring their TFRs down so that India can achieve a stable population.  The National Population Policy, released in 2000, hoped to achieve a stable population by 2045, but that has had to be pushed out to 2075.  In achieving population stabilisation, the Health Ministry aims to empower women through greater female choice on when to have children and more effective counselling (is efficacy measured through the woman doing what the State wants or what she wants??) and easier access to abortion.  The Ministry also wants to see women having their first children later and spreading them out more.  However, the single greatest concern is the declining ratio of girls in the 0 to 6 year old category (to see more of this horrific problem, see more here).  The Health ministry (despite wanting to give greater access to abortion and giving women greater choice) wants to ensure that abortion is not being practised on the basis of the sex of the child.  It also wants to curb the neglect of girl children in India.  These are noble aims, but it will be interesting to see what practically can be done.  If you are making abortion easier, a right to choose for women, don’t be surprised if some choose in a way that you don’t like or agree with.
Finally, the Catholic Church in Southern India will have to be taken off the Union Health and Family Welfare Ministry’s Christmas card list after telling its parishioners to have more children in the State of Kerala.  As the Associated Press reports:

“…Kerala's Catholic parishes have launched a variety of programs, from free education to free medical care, said the Rev Jose Kottayil of the Kerala Catholic Bishops Council. Most begin offering the benefits with the fifth child, but the church helps poorer families with fewer children.  The St. Vincent de Paul Forane Church, in the Kerala town of Kalpetta, is offering a bond of 10,000 rupees in the name of the fifth child. The money would be deposited in a bank until the child turns 18, church officials said. A large number of church-sponsored groups in Kerala have begun campaigns with the slogan "A large family is a happy family." Kottayil said the Catholic Church plans to honor large families at a ceremony next month." Those behind the Populations Stabilisation Incentive Fund will not be happy.


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