The world’s highest fertility in Asia’s newest nation: an investigation into reproductive behaviour of women in Timor-Leste

Udoy Sankar Saikia, Flinders University
Gouranga L. Dasvarma, Flinders University
Tanya Wells Brown, Curtin University of Technology

Data from the Timor-Leste Demographic and Health Survey 2003 shows that Timor-Leste had the world’s highest total fertility rate (7.8). This paper investigates the exceptionally high fertility in Timor-Leste and its apparent increase in recent years especially since receiving the status of a new nation in 1999 after a prolonged political conflict with Indonesia. The drastic changes in the political scenario which immediately led to the collapse of the family planning program and changes in the ethnic composition of the population are considered to have contributed to this increase. Focus group discussions and in-depth interviews clearly show that their reproductive decisions are highly influenced by their deeply rooted pro-natalist cultural norms. Moreover a perceived post-genocidal psychology among the male members who believe that they have lost many members of their families during the conflict and who must be replaced is also shaping their reproductive decisions in favour of pro-natalist ideology.

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Presented in Session 149: High fertility societies, stagnation in the fertility decline: Where, why and future prospects?