Effect of Women Education and Employment On Fertility Rate

Have you ever considered thinking on why the fertility rates in some countries are very high while significantly low, even below the replacement rate, in other countries? There can be numerous social, cultural and economical factors that high fertility rate is persistent in some countries. Poverty, lack of education and awareness, teenage marriage and motherhood, cultural restriction on women employment, perception of women role only as a housewife, unawareness of the harm of frequent pregnancies, lack of access or denial to use contraception and so many other taboos and practices are contributing to high fertility rate, either directly or indirectly in many Asian, African and Middle Eastern countries.

Countries which try to curb birth rate have been seriously taken substantive measures over the past decades. Different measures have applied by different countries. Of them, women education and high women participation have resulted in immense success regardless of regional differences. Increased education and employment of women both actively and passively help to reduce child birth per women in almost all the countries (McClamroch, 1996).

Giving birth is not the only thing a woman can and should do. But high gender gaps of the countries confine women to household, makes them only child-bearing machine, and refrain from all economic and political participation! Women education and economic participation have shown tremendous effect on fertility rate reduction over some of the previous decades. Education not only eliminates gender gap but also can reduce total fertility. Women with higher level of education tend to bear fewer children. A study in Nigeria shows that one additional year of education decreases fertility rate by .26 to .48 births per woman (Osili and Long, 2007, p.21).

Education challenges fertility in three different ways (Dixon-Mueller, 2013, p.122). Firstly, increased year of education causes delay in marriage and thus reduces the possibility of conception at early age. Early marriage is a very common phenomenon in many poor Asian and African countries; education contributes significantly to combat such situation. Secondly, education grows the tendency to maintain a high standard of living and thus likely to have fewer children in the family. Finally, educated women more spontaneously participate in the job market, get better wage and lesser time to raise children. Therefore, working women encounter high opportunity cost of bearing children.


Figure: Effect of Increased year of education on child birth per women in different countries (World Population History, 2016)

Apart from the above mentioned direct effects, education has numerous indirect influences on fertility rate (Elina Pradhan, 2015). Higher economic participation also reduces the dependence of women on their children; which in turn reduces the tendency to give birth more children. Besides, educated and working women have better bargaining power while deciding on the family size. They are more aware of the health and well being of their own and child health, they plan to have lesser kids because they know the benefits of small sized family. They are more likely to take birth contraceptives. But obviously, fertility is subjected to many other social and cultural factors and decreases effectively when both male and female literacy grows simultaneously.

Another factor that exerts strong influence on fertility rate is female employment. Though once women income was considered as supplementary to the household and their prominent role was childbearing, mostly women with no young children used to enter into job market (Mince,1963 and Becker,1965, quoted in Matysiak and Vignoli 2013). Such assumption no longer exists nowadays in most societies. In developed countries, women employment is supported by welfare and institutional policies and perceived equally important as men income since the cost of running household is very high.

Later on, Matysiak and Vignoli (2008, pp. 378-380) have found an inverse relationship between women employment and fertility in their cross country micro level experiment. The effect is influenced by opportunity cost of specific country context. Practically, employed women delay motherhood or who already have kids control future childbirth to run their career smoothly without frequent gaps. The problem is more prominent under uncertain job conditions, competitive job market, during economic instability and usually in countries where women encounter less social and institutional supports.

Total fertility rate of a country is negatively correlated with both female employment and the number of years of increased schooling. Fertility rate needs not to be lowered but should approach at least a desired level. Optimal fertility rate can be achieved by promoting education and reducing gender gap. Over populated developing and least developed countries should promote girls’ education and employment to achieve greater economic prosperity and environmental sustainability. Otherwise, high population growth will jeopardize all their development efforts.




Dixon-Mueller, R. (2013) Population Policy and Women Rights: Transforming Reproductive Choice. Westport, Praeger.

Matysiak, A. & Vignoli, D. (2008) Fertility And Women’s Employment: A Meta-Analysis. Journal of European Population, 24(4):363–384. Retrieved from <https://www.demogr.mpg.de/publications/files/3203_1229003691_1_PDF%20Version.pdf >

Matysiak, A. & Vignoli, D. (2013) Diverse Effects of Women’s Employment on Fertility: Insights From Italy and Poland. Journal of European Population, 29(3) April, pp. 273-302

Retrieved from <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3744382/ >

Osili,U. O., Long, B.T. (2007) Does Female Schooling Reduce Fertility? Evidence From Nigeria. National Bureau of Economic Research. Retrieved from <http://www.nber.org/papers/w13070.pdf&gt;


Elina Pradhan (2015) The relationship between women’s education and fertility [Internet], World Economic Forum.  Retrieved from < https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2015/11/the-relationship-between-womens-education-and-fertility/ [Accessed on 2 June, 2017]

Total Fertility Rate [Internet], Wikipedia. Retrieved from <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Total_fertility_rate > [Accessed on 31 May, 2017]

Diagram Source:

World Population History (2016) Women’s status and fertility rate [Internet], Washington D.C., Population Connection. Retrieved from <http://worldpopulationhistory.org/womens-status-and-fertility-rates/&gt; [Accessed on 2 June, 2017]




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