ISLAMABAD, Oct 24: One of the key reasons for high fertility ratio in Muslim countries is low education among people, especially women. This was a consensus among speakers at the launching ceremony of a book titled ‘Population Dynamics in Muslim Countries: assembling the jigsaw,’ here on Wednesday.

The speakers said majority of the Muslim countries faced similar problems, especially those related to gender issues.

The book also focuses on the aging population in Muslim countries and the efforts needed to change shapes of families. However it also highlights success examples where Muslim majority countries have made significant improvement in women empowerment, including Turkey, Maldives and Iran.

Dr Hans Groth, the book’s editor and chairman, Board of the World Demographic and Ageing Forum, Switzerland, lauded the progress made by Iran in bridging the gender gap.

He said in 1950, the fertility rate in Iran was 4.5 per cent, but by 2010, it dropped down to 1.5 per cent.“This is something France achieved in almost 200 years,” Dr Groth claimed.

He said the challenge facing Iran now was to prepare for the aging population.

The book highlights one main reason behind Iran’s low fertility achievement – female education. There were more girls compared to boys in universities in Iran.

The book points out the low population of working women in Muslim countries, including Pakistan, compared to the rest of the world.

It discusses demographic changes in Muslim countries, with focus on labour market challenges, health care, universal education and gender issues.

Speaking on the occasion, PPP MNA Dr Nafisa Shah said dynamics in Muslims countries were not the same. Historic, social and cultural factors played a major role in society rather than Islam.

“Many countries do not allow women to drive – considering it un-Islamic – but majority of Muslim nations do practice this taboo,” she said, adding that “however we see that democracies are totally compatible with Islam.”

Other speakers noted that Pakistan was facing rapid urbanisation and under the demographic transaction enhanced role of women was needed.

Dean, Nust Business School, Dr Ashfaq Hassan said: “We are not doing anything to educate our people, and that is because political governments are more inclined towards soft and short-term projects.” Results of providing education comes in eight to 12 years and that too are not visible, he added.

“We all talk of progress made by South East Asia but we all ignore the basic facts, i.e. difference of literacy rate,” he said, adding that even in 1966 Korea, Malaysia and Thailand had 50-60 per cent literacy, while South Asia, 15-20 per cent.“Now they are above 90 per cent and spend around $150 per capital on education compared to $12 to $19 by India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.”

He said Pakistan like most Muslim countries did not want to invest in human resource.

Dr Aliya H. Khan, chairperson, department of economics QAU, Dr G.M. Arif, joint director Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE) and Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Social Welfare Shenaz Wazir also spoke on the occasion.

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