Jordanians & Too Many Kids

Today I read an article in the Jordan Times that sort of reminded me of this issue…

Her Majesty Queen Rania on Tuesday listened to the demands of Ghor Al Mazraa residents while touring the area, where 35 per cent of the 11,000 inhabitants are unemployed.

The Queen first visited the farm of Ali Hweimel, a father of 11 who has been working on the 15-dunum farm he owns for more than 20 years.

â??I did not receive any aid from anyone and I managed to improve the farm. I started to plant herbs and there was a huge demand for them. Now, my business is good,â? Hweimel told The Jordan Times, adding that two of his daughters are studying at university.

â??The area here is impoverished, but still one can succeed in making better his life,â? said Hweimel, who also owns a fish farm and breeds chickens and sheep.

The population stands at 5.7 million and in 8 or 9 years should be around 8 million (2.56% growth) unless the U.S. invades another Arab country.

A lot of people are baffled at the families they see who have 8, 10, or 15 children. But the truth is Jordanian families have been having less children; the birth rate stands at 2.71 but a bit higher in the rural areas.

Traditionally if you don’t have too much money your best bet is to have a lot of kids. First kids are pretty cheap to bring up, mostly because expectations are not really high. People don’t have kids with Harvard or Oxford in mind; tawjihi (high school) is as far as they aim, if it all (although those numbers are improving as well). Kids are usually close in age so they share the same clothes, the whole family eats together and food is generally not that expensive (comparatively). All in all it is much much cheaper to raise kids when you’re not exactly high/middle class. Public schools cost very little as well.

The plan is to raise as many as possible so that they can help the family. As kids they help the parents farm, as adults the men bring money home from whatever wages they make. Women are married off because of course they become too costly to keep around.

Lastly add to that the lack of contraception or rather the empowerment of the masses with education about family planning. The government and organizations like the Red Cross/Crescent actually do go around trying to educate people. Thatâ??s been happening for some time now but itâ??s obviously on a massive scale nor done at a young age. Frankly, it’s just hard to break with tradition.

More or less this is how it is in many parts of the third world but in Jordan things are actually much better. I think rising costs have made life more difficult to the point where parents realise it’s cheaper to not have children at all. In rural areas it’s a matter of food. You have prices on the staples increasing over the last decade: bread, rice, sugar. You have food (produce) that is farmed and sold for less income.

Hopefully the rate will decrease and at least balance out at a healthier rate. With immigrants and refugees the pressure on what little resources are available is strained enough. What’s worrisome is the lack of water which is decreasing at a fast rate. More people and less water has never been a good equation. If anyone remembers the water crisis in 1999 they can get a pretty good idea of what it might be like a decade or two from now.


  • Nas, I actually think things are improving. When we first moved to Jordan the AVERAGE number of kids was 7! To have gone from 7 to 2.71 in 15 years is a huge step.

  • To the blog author, I got a question.

    Why don’t most Arab nations adopt the same family planning policies Iran has?

    Iran managed to cut its birth rate in half within 10 years since Khomeini’s death, and did so with the endorsement from Shi’a clerics.

  • Danial, I’m not familiar with Iran’s family planning policies, but Iran is not an Arab country. Also I’m guessing the thousands and thousands of Iranians that died since 1979 up until khomeini’s death had something to do with keeping the population levels down to begin with, if you know what i mean.

  • OK, I should try and respond seriously to this, but I can’t help thinking that it would be lovely if there were just less kids around, period. And I’m talking worldwide here. Enough with all these kids running around, giving me headaches. They are inescapable.

    And now, on a more serious scale, I worked for a few months at Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon, living with families there and teaching English to kids and stuff. And of course, it’s more than normal to have a family of 8 or 9 kids living in a two room shack. I couldn’t bring myself to ask why families are having so many children, who they can barely feed and growth, who will all grow up to be garbage collectors or construction workers because they have no rights to other jobs in Lebanon, and who basically have no future, as it stands.

    Then, when I was asked, and said I come form a family of 3 children, an old woman sitting in the corner laughed and said, “Well, I guess that means the electricity in your country is not as sporadic as ours, and so your parents found other things to amuse themselves, like television, ha ha ha.”

    When you have nothing else to do, go ahead and procreate. Nice.

  • Well, Hal…I’m pretty sure that at the time, procreation was the last thing on anyone’s mind. It is a fact, however, that birth rates generally have a sharp upward spike nine months after an event such as a hurricane…which can knock out power for days or weeks at a time… 🙂

  • Just for the sake of argument, have we calculated how much CLEAN water Ali’s 11 kids consume? To what extent are they polluting our environment? Are they consumers or producers in this community? How much of a burden are they really to Jordan?

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