Population policies and reproductive patterns in Vietnam
Abstract Summary Background Vietnam's population policy since the 1980s had stipulated a limit on family size to two children, born 3-5 years apart, and recommends a minimum age of 19 for the mother of a first child. We analysed trends in the timing of marriages and births, and in fertility and abortion rates, among women born between 1945 and 1970, to assess the impact of these policies on reproductive patterns. Methods Reproductive histories were recorded in a random sample of 1432 married women aged 15-49 in a rural province in northern Vietnam. Mean age at marriage and at birth of the first child, birth intervals, fertility, and abortion rates were examined in relation to the woman's year of birth. Findings Later-born women married and had their first child at a younger age than women born earlier. Birth intervals had increased among later-born women but 25% still had only a 1-year interval between first and second child. Fertility had gradually decreased while abortion ratios had increased rapidly. Childbearing patterns had become "earlier, longer, and fewer" rather than "later, longer, and fewer" as stipulated by the policies. The results also show that women with more schooling married and had their first child later. Women involved in farming had shorter spacing between children. Interpretation There are signs that Vietnam's population policy has focused too strongly on contraception and abortion while ignoring the connection between fertility and women's opportunities for education and employment. In these respects, rural women are at particular risk.
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