NEW YORK -- A new study by the Guttmacher Institute has confirmed that women’s ability to use contraceptives, and to determine whether and when to have children, enhances their education and employment chances. This, in turn, improves their income, family stability, mental health and happiness, as well as the well-being of their children.
Following a review of 66 studies conducted over the past 30 years, the Guttmacher experts concluded that contraceptive use would lead to:
- Educational attainment: Legal access to contraception contributed significantly to more young women obtaining at least some college education and to more college-educated women pursuing advanced professional degrees.
- Workforce participation and economic stability: Access to contraception has allowed more young women to participate in the labour force and has significantly contributed to increasing women's earning power and to decreasing the gender pay gap.
This re-enforces a recent recommendation by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OEDC) that, in order to promote growth, governments should focus on further narrowing the "gender gap" that continues to hold women back in education, employment and entrepreneurship. The OECD findings, released in December 2012, noted that women continued to earn less than men. The OECD then declared that closing the gender gap must be a central part of any strategy to create more sustainable economies and inclusive societies.
- Union formation and stability: Contraception helped spark a trend towards later marriage, helping women and men to find stable, economically attractive matches; relationships are more likely to dissolve after an unplanned pregnancy or birth than after a planned one.
- Mental health and happiness: Women and men who experience unintended pregnancy and unplanned childbirth are more likely than those who do not to experience depression, anxiety and lower reported levels of happiness.
- Well-being of children: Individuals are particularly likely to start off unprepared to be parents and to develop a poor relationship with their children if the birth of a child is unplanned.
The Guttmacher review, released on Thursday, also says that not all women have shared equally in the social and economic benefits of contraception. That’s why there should be more efforts to advance contraceptive access and help all women achieve their life goals if and when they decide to become mothers. Consequently, efforts to reduce unintended and teen pregnancy— alongside programmes that provide financial support, nutrition assistance and child care, and that prevent family violence and abuse—must remain a priority for national development strategies.