here are a number of components of a social system, which affect population growth and fertility. In the following paragraphs, an attempt will be made to understand the impact of various components of a social system on population growth with special reference to different countries of South Africa.
Most social scientists would agree that religion is one of the influential institutions in a society and that religious affiliation is an important social characteristic in differentiating human behaviour. Indeed, several generations of sociologists have been interested in the influence of religion on a wide range of human behaviour and in very recent years the scientific study of religion has increased dramatically.
The demographic perspective has numerous points of contact with religious factors. A current topic of interest is the relationship between religious beliefs and family size.
So for the religious or ideological scene of South Asian Countries is concerned, Islam, Budhism, Hinduism, Christianity and Parsism are main religious or ideologies of the inhabitants of this region. Islam is dominant religion in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Maldive; and Hinduism, Buddhism and Parsism in India, Sri-Lanka and Bhutan.
The major religions of South Asian region do not contain explicit Ideologies with respect to fertility. Traditional belief of most of the people living in this region are pro-fertility. For example when a Brahmin bride bows to her elders, the traditional blessing is “Be the mother of eight sons and may your husband live long”. In Pakistan, children are referred to as the blessings of God”.
One verse of the Quran on methods of fertility control is not specific and is subject to various interpretations. One verse of the Quran reads, “And do not slay you children for fear of poverty. We give them sustenance and yourselves, too”. Some authorities interpret this ban to include prospective children as well as infants already born.
On the other hand, one authoritative Islamic stance given by His Excellency Ayatollah as is that from the standpoint of the divine law, the use of drugs or contraceptive fertility does not seem to be illicit of this practice does not damage the female’s fecundity and make her barren”.
Parsis, from religious point of view, are less reproductive as compared to Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists. Even the ethnocentric values have not influenced them to become more profilic in reproductive behaviour.
So far as the religion of Christianity is concerned, Catholics are against birth control and until recently, governments of many Catholic Countries refused to participate in birth control programmes.
Catholics have similar view points as those of protestants, both denounce the population control. However, protestants are less antagonistic towards the family planning and prefer to have smaller families. The catholic religion strongly and explicitly condemns most forms of the birth control.
From the above discussion it is desirable that the agencies working for the population control, welfare and education in this region must take into confidence and involve the religious leaders, philosophers and common unity leaders of the region.
They should be required to give possible legitimate new interpretations of the religious truth to curb the population explosion in the light of contemporary circumstances. Religions leaders can mentally prepare the populace in this direction.
Customs, traditions, values and attitudes prevalent in a social system also have a demographic effect. For example, in a society where joint family is a rule, not only the marriage are arranged by the family but also the sexual behaviour of the individual is very much influenced by his membership in the joint family. To have a child soon after marriage is anxiously desired in such families. The birth of a child is always welcomed, particularly so if it is a boy, for he adds to the strength of the family and its prestige.
Social Facilities of Life
Non-Provision of better facilities for life to masses has also an alarming effect on population growth of the South Asian Countries. The available evidence, though unfortunately limited, shows that people enjoying the better facilities of life, good housing, better health facilities, lighting facilities etc. have smaller families as compared to those who do not have adequate social facilities of life.
Viscount Soulbury, Celyon’s former Governor General once said “He who goes to bed early to save candles begets twins”. He advised his Prime Minister, to introduce electric lighting to the villages to counter the population rise. In an opening speed to an international planned parenthood conference, late Prime Minister of India Nehru announced “I was told only today about the possible consequences of, let us say, electricity going to rural areas… the period for which they can work or amuse themselves or do other things is enormously lengthened and thereby, indirectly perhaps, it affects the family planning business”.
It has been proved through different population studies of the region, and one can observe also, that people living in slums, congested houses, and in rural areas usually have more children as compared to the persons living in posh areas having excess to every facility including luxuries.
Recreation or Modes of Enjoyment
A large variety of researches conducted in the field of demography indicate that one of the dominant social factor for the large families of poor and lower class people is lack of desired recreation and entertainment modes available to them. They find their spouse as the sole source of entertainment, enjoyment and recreation tempting to high sexual frequency with spouse which proves to be an antecedent to increased fertility.
The entire complex may be expressed in a saying “procreation is the poor man’s recreation”. A Vice President of India once publically commented that “Sex is the only indoor sport open to us, and large families are produced because of it. It is the poor people that produce large families and not rich ones. Provision of mass scale recreational facilities and sports activities for poor people in the South Asian Countries may be the suitable solution of the problem.
There is a notion in the west that night baseball may substitute the sex. Educating the poor people in manner which will enable them to sublime their sexual urge into channels of such activities which are productive for the community may serve as another alternative in this regard.
Social Class or Social Status
Irrespective of other variables, differential rates of births have been calculated in each region of world with respect to social class as measured by education, occupation, income or combination of these factors. Upper social class has smaller families as compared to middle class which in turn has smaller families in comparison to lower class people.
This is probably due to higher education, better income and white collar occupation of the upper class. It is usually argued that the lower social classes want to have many children or they do not care how many they have. In the face of such values and biological drives, birth control programmes are doomed to failure, and might even increase to immortality of these classes. Large families is the desired state of affair with lower classes.
Education, as a social factor, plays a vital role to curb the populating growth. Education and specially the higher education usually associated with decline in number of children desired. This more effective when husband and wife both are educated, specifically highly educated. Educated persons usually desire and have small families mainly on account of following two reasons.
- Among educated populace, marriage is usually delayed and this usually results in low fertility rate.
- Educated people are usually not traditionalists. They become convinced from the programmes of population welfare agencies, and they do not hesitate to use birth control measures especially when their number of children expected increase from three or four.
Occupation or Profession
Fertility and occupations are highly associated. If we compare the change in birth rates by occupational categories, we note distinct patters of families for different occupational groups. According to the various researches in the field, persons with white collar jobs have relatively small families while unskilled labourers (the lowest category in occupational pyramid) usually have larger families. Semiskilled and skilled workers have average families.
Differentiating patterns of families of white collar job holders and of the unskilled labourers is probably the effect of education recreation, modes and income of the persons holding these occupations. Further, education of wives of the persons in upper categories profession also seems to be a factor for their small family size.
Education, Employment and Status of Women
Several studies have shown that fertility is inversely correlated to education and employment of women. Perhaps the most important reason is the diversification in the activities of educated or employed women. Education of women in Pakistan and Bangladesh is known decisively decrease fertility.
The employment of women outside the home constitutes one of the most likely factors of a desire for small families. Such employment often entails satisfactions alternative children (because of availability of companion-ship, recreation, stimulation and creative activity), or the means to such satisfactions in the form of financial remuneration.
Increasing trend of working wives in South Asian Countries may be helpful to decrease the birth rates to some extent.