Iran's new message to parents: Get busy and have babies.
In a major reversal of once far-reaching family planning policies, authorities are now slashing its birth-control programs in an attempt to avoid an aging demographic similar to many Western countries that are struggling to keep up with state medical and social security costs.
The changes — announced in Iranian media last week — came after Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei described the country's wide-ranging contraceptive services as "wrong." The independent Shargh newspaper quoted Mohammad Esmail Motlaq, a Health Ministry official, as saying family planning programs have been cut from the budget for the current Iranian year, which began in March.
It's still unclear, however, whether the high-level appeals for bigger families will translate into a new population spike. Iran's economy is stumbling under a combination of international sanctions, inflation and double-digit unemployment. Many young people, particularly in Tehran and other large cities, are postponing marriage or keeping their families small because of the uncertainties.
Ali Reza Khamesian, a columnist whose work appears in several pro-reform newspapers, said the change in policy also may be an attempt to send a message to the world that Iran is not suffering from sanctions imposed over the nuclear program that the West suspects is aimed at producing weapons — something Tehran denies.
Abbas Kazemi, a doorman in a private office building, said he cannot afford to have more than two children with his salary of about $220 (4.2 million rials) a month.
"I cannot afford daily life," he said. "I have to support my wife and two children as well my elderly parents."