Fewer babies are being born in Jamaica. That’s one of the findings of the Reproductive Health Survey Jamaica, RHS, 2021.

The survey found that Jamaica’s Total Fertility Rate, TFR, has declined significantly from 4.5 births per female between 1973 and 1975 to 1.9 in 2021, contributing to a decrease in the country’s population estimate. 

The information was presented by Sexual and Reproductive Health and Epidemiology Expert, Professor Affette McCaw-Binns, at a National Family Planning Board, NFPB, event at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in New Kingston on Friday, February 9. 

“Age specific fertility rates fell in all age groups except 25–29 years and probably reflects a delayed start to childbearing into their late 20s, while women completed their education.” Professor McCaw-Binns said.

The TFR is the average number of children that are expected to be born to a woman over her lifetime.

Professor McCaw-Binns explained that a fertility rate of 1.9 is below the replacement level of 2.1, which is the average number of children that a woman would need to produce to keep the population constant. She noted that in 1983, when the National Population Policy was developed, it included the goal of achieving replacement-level fertility by providing high-quality family planning services.

RHS 2021 was a household survey of 3,224 females and 1,784 males of reproductive age, 15–49 years, with data collected between August 2021 and April 2022.

Forty-six per cent of the respondents were residents of rural areas, 32 per cent were in urban centres outside of the Kingston Metropolitan Region, KMR, and 22 per cent were domiciled within the KMR. Sixty-one per cent of participants were in a union (married, common-law, or visiting relationship) while 39 per cent were not.

The study was conducted by principal investigators: the NFPB, represented by Executive Director Dr. Lovette Byfield and Director of Monitoring, Evaluation, and Research, Dr. Tazhmoye Crawford, and co-investigators, the Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN), represented by Director General Carol Coy and Director of Surveys Dr. Natalee Simpson.

The objectives of the survey included: assessing progress towards replacement-level fertility and its contribution to population growth; providing input to Jamaica’s sexual and reproductive health (SRH) policies, plans, programmes, and projects; and producing evidence-based SRH data to update the status of infant and child mortality, gender-based violence, sexually transmitted infections, HIV/AIDS knowledge, attitude, and practice; total fertility; contraceptive use; reproductive health; and maternal and child health care.

The 2021 RHS is the eighth such household survey to document access to, use of, and the effectiveness of contraceptive services for Jamaicans.

The first was done in 1975 as part of the World Fertility Survey of Reproductive-Age Women.