Wednesday 11 July 2018 marks World Population Day, with this year's theme: “Family Planning is a Human Right”.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the 1968 International Conference on Human Rights, where family planning was, for the first time, globally affirmed to be a human right.
The conference’s outcome document, known as the Teheran Proclamation, stated unequivocally: “Parents have a basic human right to determine freely and responsibly the number and spacing of their children.”
The UN emphasizes that embedded in this legislative language was a game-changing realisation: Women and girls have the right to avoid the exhaustion, depletion and danger of too many pregnancies, too close together. Men and women have the right to choose when and how often to embrace parenthood — if at all. Every individual has the human right to determine the direction and scope of his or her future in this fundamental way.
Family planning remains a particularly pressing issue. In May 2018, we saw the people of Ireland vote in a referendum to overturn the eighth amendment of the Irish constitution, which previously prohibited abortion, showing the need for continuous reflection and progression on family planning issues across the world.
“At CPC, we study factors that influence the decisions and opportunities that affect family life and childbearing. Our research has explored how education and income impact upon the age at which women have children. We examine how job loss and economic uncertainty change people's decisions about having kids, and how austerity and government policies about welfare benefits and public housing influence how many children people have. We have also been studying how families and relationships in the UK differ from those in other European countries, and asking why migrants have a different number of children compared to non-migrants” says CPC co-Director, Professor Elspeth Graham.
“Our research is important not only for understanding how families are changing in the UK and around the world, but for informing policy that will help women and men to plan their families. This will lead to more opportunities to plan their lives as a whole, pursuing education, jobs and ultimately achieving a more secure existence.”
To mark this year’s World population Day, we are highlighting CPC research on the theme of ‘Fertility and Family’, linking to a number of CPC Briefing Papers. These papers aim to inform the development of social policy and practice by identifying fertility and family trends, exploring the impact of recession and economic uncertainty, and the effects of time spent in education. To see our full research programme, visit our ‘Fertility and family’ pages.
CPC Briefing papers
‘Fertility change in the context of economic recession in Italy and Spain’ considers the decline of national fertility rates in Spain and Italy since the economic crisis of 2008, and examines the implications of out-migration.
‘Educational differences in childbearing widen in Britain’ examines how women’s education influences whether they have children or not, how old they are when they have their first child and how many children they go on to have. This research finds that educational differences in childbearing have increased over time for mothers born between 1940 and 1969.
‘The increase in cohabitation and the role of marital status in family policies: a comparison of 12 European countries’ looks at how, across Europe, an increasing number of couples live together without being married and many raise children together. Using data from the European Social Survey (ESS) and a self-constructed policy database, the proportion of men and women who cohabit in twelve countries and their rights in different policy areas were analysed, allowing an estimation of the proportion of couples who are currently covered or fall outside the scope of family policies in their country.
‘Geographical variations in the likelihood and timing of having children in Britain’ argues that local variations in fertility rates will influence an individual’s fertility behaviour through social learning, resulting in local ‘cultures’ of fertility. Findings suggest that individual reproductive life paths respond to a variety of social influences: networks of family and friends, local socio-cultural influences and more widely-shared ideas about the spacing between births. These influences vary depending on the number of children a woman already has but tend to reinforce local geographical variations in fertility rates.
The paper ‘Longer time spent in education means starting families later in life’ shows how the change in the timing of motherhood has been mainly due to a longer time spent in education, but also to life course delays after the end of education. The research demonstrates how the age at which people complete their education is crucial to the demographic analysis of events in young adulthood, and also identifies educational participation as a potentially useful predictor in forecasting fertility.
To find out more about World Population Day 2018, visit the UN website or join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook #WPD2018