Most of the comments posted after this online article, all assumably by women, were more concerned with women’s personal freedom to choose their fertility rates than the social or environmental consequences associated with reproduction. A number of readers suggested that the stigma associated with not having children is still inherent in Australian society. Some readers felt that society did not recognise them as ‘true’ women until they had bred, despite their personal preferences otherwise. The articles, and related comments, raise some interesting points.
Firstly, that women do not appreciate being dictated to in regards to their levels of fertility. But secondly, women recognise that childrearing is hard work, and that when a society allows women options other than reproduction, they will often voluntarily take up these options instead of childbirth.
Globally, women’s education is negatively correlated with birth rates (e.g. see http://www.prb.org/) Whilst acknowledging that a correlation is not necessarily causation, women that are educated are likely to have more information about reproductive control, are likely to have more power in their relationships with their partners and have access to other ways of finding support in retirement, personal identity and fulfilment. Financial support of global organisations that promote women’s empowerment and education, such as women’s education programmes and microfinance schemes, is likely to reduce the rate of population increase globally in the most humane way.
In Australia, where each new child consumes more than 10 times the amount of energy annually as children in countries like Bangladesh, Bolivia, India and Honduras, creating and maintaining an environment which allows women the maximum number of life options is similarly likely to reduce the pressure many women still feel to reproduce. This means supporting women in their workforce, community and relationships. It means disabling things like ‘old boys clubs’ that can be intimidating to women in the workforce, and the unequal sharing of domestic work that reduces the amount of time and energy women have to do the things they find more fulfilling.
In such a supported environment, it is likely that women will choose to reduce their fertility of their own free will, without feeling that their fertility is being controlled, or judged, by others.