Bribing poor couples in India?

Posted on August 22, 2010. Filed under: Education, Family | Tags: , , , , , |

India Tries Using Cash Bonuses to Slow Birthrates – NYTimes.com

So this is a very interesting article!

The program here in Satara is a pilot program — one of several initiatives across the country that have used a softer approach — trying to slow down population growth by challenging deeply ingrained rural customs. Experts say far too many rural women wed as teenagers, usually in arranged marriages, and then have babies in quick succession — a pattern that exacerbates poverty and spurs what demographers call “population momentum” by bunching children together. In Satara, local health officials have led campaigns to curb teenage weddings, as well as promoting the “honeymoon package” of cash bonuses and encouraging the use of contraceptives so that couples wait to start a family.

India doesn’t want to be as heavy-handed as China, but the result of India’s hands-off approach is that the poorest areas are averaging 4 kids per family, and there’s rampant malnutrition.

Indian Family Waiting on the Bus

Image by Stuck in Customs via Flickr

Studies say that a woman’s educational background is one of the greatest factors in curbing the population explosion.  If you’re in school, seeking an advanced degree, you’re probably not getting married in your teens.  If you’re working and climbing a workplace ladder, you’re probably not home with lots of babies.

It’s all quite interesting from a cultural study perspective, but there’s a part of me that bristles at the cash payment approach.  How strange to be in a new bride’s shoes, having a government official advise me about when and how to have kids.  Such a strange concept.  These are door-to-door conversations!

“I want to tell you about our honeymoon package,” began Ms. Jadhav, an auxiliary nurse, during a recent house call on a new bride in this farming region in the state of Maharashtra. Ms. Jadhav explained that the district government would pay 5,000 rupees, or about $106, if the couple waited to have children.

I don’t disagree with the program per se, since the primary purpose seems to be education and empowerment, and I would definitely support being aggressive in that messaging and outreach.  But it seems wrong to basically bribe poor couples to do what the government wants them to do.

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