A gender dimension of energy: Modern cooking fuels connected to quicker demographic transition

cooking with charcoal
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Switching to modern cooking fuels like gas or to electricity can improve the well-being of women in the global South, and eventually be connected to falling birth rates, a new study by researchers from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research shows. This highlights, for the first time, a connection between the global energy transition and the demographic transition in poorer countries.

"We find that switching to modern fuels like gas or to electricity not only improves health, it also relieves of the need to have many children to do time-consuming housework like fetching firewood or cooking on open fires. This frees up time to seek information and education—and eventually helps women realize their reproductive rights. This is a direct line connecting the switch from modern energies to the demographic transition," Camille Belmin, lead author and researcher at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact research lays out.

"Our study results are highly relevant given that more than half of the world's population lacks access to modern cooking fuels. This is a gendered problem, as its consequences fall mostly on women and girls: Their time consuming chores and lack of electricity keep some of them off the schoolyards and modern media like TV or the internet, a crucial source of information. And not least, burning wood or charcoal carries health hazards for everyone in the home." says Belmin.

Based on a panel data spanning 25 years and 44 countries in the global South, the researchers applied to find the connection between access to modern energy and a lower fertility to be significant. The strongest effects were found in countries with initially high fertility rates Helga Weisz, co-author from the Potsdam Institute says that "education is undoubtedly key, too. Access to modern cooking fuels and electricity, which we sum up as modern energy, is complementary to education. Both modern energy and education are paths to more choice for women about the number of children they bear. This means that expanding access to modern energy is likely to accelerate the , too—with lower overall carbon emissions required," Weisz says.

The results have policy implications, too: "Recognizing the multiple benefits of modern for women's lives opens new avenues for development policies. Such programs would target women's well-being, self-determination, and reproductive choice, and fertility decline would merely be a consequence", Belmin concludes.

The research was published in Nature Sustainability.

More information: Helga Weisz, Fertility transition powered by women's access to electricity and modern cooking fuels, Nature Sustainability (2021). DOI: 10.1038/s41893-021-00830-3. www.nature.com/articles/s41893-021-00830-3

Journal information: Nature Sustainability

Citation: A gender dimension of energy: Modern cooking fuels connected to quicker demographic transition (2021, December 13) retrieved 9 June 2023 from https://phys.org/news/2021-12-gender-dimension-energy-modern-cooking.html
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