Fertility rate among women in Rwanda has consistently declined for the past decades. According to the fifth population and housing census results announced in February, the fertility rate among women aged 15-49 stands at 3.6 children per woman. In 1978 it was at 8.6 children, in 1991 it was 6.1 children, in 2012 it was 4 children, and now it is 3.6. ALSO READ: Rwanda’s population passes 13 million The Director General of the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda (NISR), Yusuf Murangwa, said the current situation is good, but he hinted at the need to closely monitor it, so that the numbers will not go so low to a point “where it becomes a problem.” ALSO READ: Census report: What do the figures show? In an interview with The New Times, Ignace Kabano, a senior lecturer of demography and statistics at the University of Rwanda’s department of applied statistics echoed the same warning. “Population matters are really tricky. Today development organs are telling us that to develop we need to have low populations, but on the other hand, you realise that some developed countries that adopted such policies have faced some issues after some years,” he noted. ALSO READ: What does Rwanda's rising life expectancy mean? Low fertility rates can undermine labour forces and social structures, and as a result, governments are pursuing labour reforms, immigration expansion and pronatalism policies. Pronatalism is the policy or practice of encouraging the bearing of children, especially government support of a higher birthrate. “Countries like France, which started a long time ago to encourage their people to use family planning, have turned to encourage them to give birth. The problem is that sometimes you can encourage the population to give birth to more children,” Kabano said. Across the developed world, fertility rates have been falling in such a way that the share of the working-age population has declined while that of older persons has increased, leading to rising dependency ratios. Developed nations in East Asia have seen a decline to ultra-low fertility rates, with South Korea’s dropping to 0.92 in 2019, putting it among several countries globally where deaths have begun outnumbering births. Most Western countries have yet to see such a stark decline, but the total fertility rate for England and Wales hit a record low of 1.58 in 2020. “African countries and Rwanda need to be careful to not always go with one message of asking people to reduce giving birth. Later, issues may arise, and when you go back to ask people to give birth, they will say no,” Kabano noted. In Japan, for example, low fertility rate has led to concerns about labour shortages and the effects on a country’s economic and social stability. The Asian country is facing a shrinking labour force and issues related to caring for a growing number of elders. A population forecast published in The Lancet in 2020 cautions that ‘in countries with slower economic growth and with rising shares of the population who are retired compared with those who are still working, the fiscal sustainability of national health insurance and social security programmes will be challenged’.