Economist, McCarthy Marie, has expressed concern about the steady population decline in Dominica.
Using information provided by the Ministry of Health, Immigration Department and Central Statistics Office, Marie noted a significant decrease in the number of births from 1,501 in 1995 to 796 in 2016.
He attributed this to social issues, including women’s pursuit of higher education, which, in addition to medical advice against pregnancy after the age of forty, hinders procreation.
“Women go to school longer, so they put off having children… So, most women have their first child when they’re about twenty-eight; and since it is not advisable to have children after forty, the amount of time for a woman to have a child safely, is kind of limited,” Marie explained.
Marie is also of the view that there is sufficient circumstantial evidence to formulate a hypothesis that the decline in births is also partly due to significant infertility in the male population, which he believes is mainly caused by a once-popular chemical pesticide used in banana production. According to him, the ministry of health should seriously look into the reproductive capacity of the population with a view to formulating and implementing policies and programmes to reverse the alarming decline in births.
“It would seem reasonable to formulate a hypothesis that many men are infertile… and they would have been made so by a chemical called Dibromochloropropane (DBCP) which was sold in Dominica under the brand name nemagon…” he remarked. “Nemagon is a nematicide that was widely used in banana production. In the 1980s in particular, Dominica had a large amount of bananas planted everywhere… lots of people were banana farmers and/or workers who came into direct contact with the product. Other persons could have come into contact with the chemical from the runoff from banana farms into rivers and streams.”
Meanwhile, Marie pointed out that in most years in the period between 1995 to 2016, out-migration exceeded inward migration with an average net out-migration of 519 persons per year.
“Interestingly, in 2012 and 2014 inward migration exceeded out migration by 142 and 1421 respectively. Generally, the early years during the period had higher rates of out migration than the later years,” he stated. “For example, 1995, 1996 and 1999 had net out migration in excess of 1000 persons. In more recent times, from 2001 to 2016 net out migration has been modest, averaging about 390 per year.”
Marie also noted an increase in deaths in Dominica, from 584 in 1995 to 686 in 2016. This, he credited to an older population, and various non-communicable diseases (NCDs).
In response to the question as to what is to be done, Marie warned that the country will “simply collapse” for lack of people if the trends in births and deaths continue, as Dominica is quite literally dying.
“A robust, targeted immigration programme should be put in place if we are to avoid the fate of Japan” he opined.
In September 2016, Chief Medical Officer, David Johnson, stated that NCDs were the main causes of death in Dominica.
Diabetes and cancer have been said to be the most prevalent NCDs among Dominicans.
Dominica’s population was calculated as 72,712 in 1995 and fell to 71,379 in 2016.