The question that continues to stir up debate in Turkey is about how many children per couple we should advocate as being the ideal number: one, two or perhaps three?
Whereas some critics say that no government or politician should interfere in how adult citizens go about their reproductive and supposedly entirely private affairs, others -- including the author of this column -- see nothing untoward in an elected office holder taking the floor and talking about family (planning) politics and policies. After all, if the government does not engage in foresight analysis about how many citizens are going to live in a particular country in, say, 15 years from now, any educational, infrastructure or other national policymaking proposals would become obsolete sooner rather than later.
Today’s citizens hold more information about reproductive and sexual health issues in their hands or at least visible on their computer screens than ever before. Hence, no one would at once drop previously made family budgetary, individual career or other plans to follow suit in what the government has just announced about the ideal family size. If I may speculate, this was never intended when Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan made a speech declaring that every Turkish family should have three children.
If I understood the Turkish prime minister correctly, he had something totally different in mind than proposing laws that regulate the number of children born per family -- of course not. At least speaking from a happy father’s perspective, I want to add that his comment made a while ago -- yet still making headlines -- reminded me about that, despite all the computers in the world, in spite of all the (electronically transmitted) information we have available, regardless of whether clever businesspeople will soon shuttle us into orbit for a sightseeing tour or not, there is one item young people and new “1+1 families,” a.k.a. a couple without children, may all too easily overlook. Oversimplified, the issue at the heart of the matter is that if we begin a selfish “we adults only” cycle, where making money, gathering information and acquiring knowledge is everything, one day soon there will be no one left to benefit from, as our generation would be the last.
One undisputable demographic advantage Turkey has when compared with many other industrialized nations is its young population. There are, however, developments in particular in the country’s urban conglomerations where new families refrain from having more than one child, although they most likely could more easily afford its proper upbringing than many parents living in more rural parts of the country. But having children should not become a privilege of the rich! Hence, governments must engage in “family planning” of some sort to allow for equal access to benefits if needed.
I must admit that my very own family planning -- if that is the correct wording -- is based on having at least two, ideally three children, too. Children should grow up with brothers or sisters to learn how to socialize from an early age. Children are our future as they will take care of the planet -- hopefully still environmentally intact -- that they inherit from their parents. Since we were born into this world, we should not turn selfish and say, “Children, no thank you, not for me but for everybody else.” I fully accept individual lifestyle choice and I accept, too, that a growing number of couples decide either to have only one, or no child at all. But this should not become the norm. Hence, every now and then, a message from our elected politicians reminding us that reproduction should be standard, not the exception, does no harm.