Gonsalves stands his ground on call for “more babies”
Prime Minister, Dr Ralph Gonsalves, speaking at a press conference on Monday.
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June 7, 2024

Gonsalves stands his ground on call for “more babies”

Prime Minister, Dr Ralph Gonsalves has sought to further clarify his call for women of childbearing age (25-35) in St Vincent and the Grenadines to have more children to replenish the population which is ageing.

At a press conference on Monday June 3, 2024, using population census materials, he restated that, “If we do not replenish our population at the accepted rate, we have a problem”.

He acknowledged that with increased opportunities, women are seeking to advance themselves professionally and economically and are less inclined in having large families.

“Women are taking the decision not to have children but if they do, they are having one,” he said, adding that “nobody is calling for more children from teenagers. We want

them to be at school studying, getting their skills and developing themselves.”

He said at one time the population was growing very fast because the birth rate was high and this was not affected by migration.

However, he said the current slow growth has the possibility to develop into a problem.

“People are living longer and that is to be celebrated, and we want people to live longer and live healthier but the expression ‘ageing population’ also includes the fact that the birth rate has fallen below the 2.1 on an average.”

He noted that some Asian countries are already bearing the effects of an older population and noted that in India and Africa there are strong birth rates but in The Americas, Europe and the Caribbean the birth rate has declined over time.

He said a continuing ageing population and stagnant birth rate have implications for several aspects of life and the economy, including the need for more social security support which research has shown will cause tax increases.

The Prime Minister believes the sluggish birth rate and its implications should be treated as a national issue, pointing out that while there are challenges in raising a child, finances should not be one of them.

“Haiti is the only country in CARICOM which has the [accepted] birth rate,” he remarked, noting that in SVG, “people are better off now than they were in the 1960s.”

Gonsalves referred to data on the birth rate of St Vincent and the Grenadines for each year between 1960-2012 which shows there were 3985 births in the year 1960, equating to a birth rate of 48.9. The total population then was 79,948. In 2012, though the population grew to 109,991, there were 1840 babies born in that year resulting in a birth rate of 16.7, “it was three times more in 1960”, Gonsalves noted.

He also mentioned the absence of a New Year’s Day baby at the country’s main health facility, and spoke as well of the number of children writing the Caribbean Primary Exit Assessment (CPEA). In 2020, the number was 1920, and three years later in 2023, there were 1702 students who wrote the exams, though there was a slight increase in 2024 when 1745 students wrote the CPEA. The Prime Minister said this recent pronouncement was not the first time he had spoken about the birth rate and the need to have an increase; he had written about it several years ago. Many persons on social media and elsewhere have made slight of the call by the Prime Minister, some even suggesting that they were ready to help in this regard if he provides a financial incentive.