“If we are not overwhelmed by poor and hungry people, what is the need for any form of migration?”
I walked into the home of a woman I met on the street who wanted help to start a business to stop posing as a beggar on the streets of Accra. It got me so stunned as I met her struggling over a bowl of rice with six children who from my perspective, were very hungry and might have skipped the previous night’s meal hence their struggle to fill up the stomach which was asking for food.
As she saw me enter the compound she directed me to, she almost would have desired vanishing powers since she least expected I will make it to the direction she gave.
Though very painful for her, she left the dish for the children to welcome me and pointed at the direction where the children sat saying “having some meal with my children”. I paused and inside me the question that kept ringing on my mind was “where is their father and why such many children in such poor state?"
Migration has to do with the movement of people across a specified boundary for the purpose of establishing a new or semi-permanent residence.
People migrate for several reasons but the most commonly found reasons for all forms of migration has to do with the quest of the migrant to find peace ie; better and sustainable living conditions thus people who migrate are either poor or not satisfied with their life from where they sit, thus their pursuit to move to look for what they would preferably have and be comfortable with.
Across the globe, it is widely seen and evident that only people from African descent commonly migrate to Asian countries or others as a result of poverty. The reverse is that a British will travel for sightseeing to change environment and get beautiful natural sceneries that is uncommon to them but not for Poverty or a better lifestyle which is the case of most African migrants.
Population on the other hand has to do with all the inhabitants of a particular place.
Connecting population to migration
A people who do not manage their population cannot leave the boundaries of poverty and as poverty is cyclical, it keeps rotating around the same group of people and if not properly looked at, could affect the well to do or the rich in society.
If I am following the bible verse which entreats us to multiply onto the earth and have our descendants fill the earth like the sea sand without making the adequate provision for their health, education, and housing and be responsible for their upbringing, then they would grow up migrating or seeking a better life, as humans are inborn peace seekers.
In this case, a well managed population like that of China and Thailand would always see growth in all sectors and in its citizens as a result of the premium they placed on population management. Thus migration is not their problem because in tackling their population growth, they have as well tackled the problem of migration.
What others did
Thailand in 1960 had a population growth rate of 3% and synchronised their sectorial population and economic policies as well as their TOTAL fertility rate were reduced from six in 1960 to two in 1990. Political will was great. They fused economic development and family planning. They provided welfare to only two children while government allowed income tax deductions from employers providing family planning and made the citizens understand that too many babies destroy the women’s health and babies starve in the process.
The question they kept asking their citizens was; how many children can you have and still remain a sustainable family unit? Family planning uptake increased from 15% to 70% in 15 years and the population growth reduced from 3.2% to 1.6% in 15 years.
Let’s look at Singapore after independence in 1965; the population was growing at a rate at 2.5 % that would threaten its success. The women on average had six children but fearing that the growing population might overburden the developing economy, they started a vigorous stop at family planning campaign with the catch phrase, the more you have, the less they get. The government gradually reduced incentives for parents with more than two children.
Workers in public sector were not provided maternity leave for their third child or any subsequent children, Hospitals were required to charge incrementally higher fees for each additional child ‘Income tax deductions would only be given for the first two children while third or fourth children were given lower priorities in education.
The government created a large array of public education material; for the stop at two campaigns from 1970 to 1976.
The government also encouraged individuals to delay the second child and marry late. The slogans were “smaller families’ brighter future, Two is enough, Teenage pregnancy means rushing into problems, a happy marriage is worth waiting for,” alongside other innovative initiatives.
Free education and free deliveries lead to a situation where the less economically productive people are reproducing themselves at a higher rate so it is necessary to implement a system of government disincentives, to stop the irresponsible, the social delinquent from thinking that having more children would entitle them for more government provided services.
Their government introduced such policy because they saw population growth as a threat to the living standard in Singapore as children will pack schools and health facilities. Benefits such as more money, having a higher quality of life and cars became apparent to young couples.
In 1969, Lee Kuan Yew said “We must encourage those who earn less than $200 per month and cannot afford to nurture and educate many children never to have more than two…. We will regret the time lost if we do not do it now and take the first steps towards correcting a trend which can leave our society with many physically, intellectually and culturally anaemic people”.
The government justified its social policy as a means of encouraging the poor to concentrate their limited resources on nurturing their existing children making them more likely to be capable productive citizens, hence they are not in the stories we see on migrants using dangerous routes at the peril of the lives only to get a better life which they refer to mostly as greener pastures.
Interventions by Government
Government through the National Population Council (NPC) which is its advisory body, guides it to make informed decisions based on available data and success stories in other countries preoccupied with advocacy on good population management programs necessary for economic development.
The Council makes sure that population related programs are in sync with other government policies in order to maximise the benefits and provide sustainable quality of life for all.
The Council has called on the IOM to come put its heads together to fight a course that would also help in reducing illegal migration through education and advocacy, using the media as its conduit to reach the Ghanaian people.
Reproduction is an individual decision but has community and national consequences if not properly planned and managed, and can intensify irregular migration and other forms social vices including armed robbery, truancy, cyber theft (sakawa) and other related vices which do not encourage development.
It is, therefore, important that as much as we decide to have children, we need to do that with others in mind including the children we are bringing into the world, so that we can provide them a future that is full of assurances of goodness but not problems which affect everyone in the long run.
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