Impact of Population Growth By Malik Ashraf

All modern day growth models invariably include a component of the strategy to check and reduce the population growth. This subject has been debated for more than a century. One of the major causes of poverty in Pakistan is the alarming rate of increase in the population. At the time of partition, the area constituting current Pakistan had a population of 32 million which according to the latest census has shot up to 220 million. Pakistan’s current rate of population growth is 2.1 % which is much higher than in the countries of the region. Iran, India, Bangladesh and China have a population growth of 1.1 percent, 1.1, 1.04 and 0.59 respectively. It is estimated that if the population growth continues with the same rate it could reach the 450 million mark in another thirty years as revealed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Saqib Nisar at a symposium in Islamabad last week. It is indeed a ticking time-bomb.
Unfortunately the permeating situation is a sequel to the low priority given to this issue by successive governments and lack of awareness among the masses. There was also a lack of political will on the part of the governments due to the opposition by the clergy. Prime Minister Imran Khan while addressing the symposium rightly remarked that a strong political will was needed to tackle the issue of mushroom growth in population adding that education and technology would be used to control the population and all the stakeholders including Ulema and media will have to play a role in this effort and mosques should spearhead the message. Population trends and dynamics can have an enormous effect on prospects for poverty reduction and sustainable development. Poverty is influenced by – and influences – population dynamics, including population growth, age structure and rural-urban distribution. All of this has a critical impact on a country’s development prospects and prospects for raising living standards for the poor. Investments in better health, including reproductive health, are essential for individual security and for reducing mortality and morbidity, which in turn improve a country’s productivity and development prospects
Access to sexual and reproductive health, including family planning, can affect population dynamics through voluntary fertility reduction and reductions in infant and maternal mortality. Improved reproductive health also helps individuals, particularly young women to break out of intergenerational cycles of poverty. When women and couples are empowered to plan whether and when to have children, women are better enabled to complete their education; women’s autonomy within their households is increased; and their earning power is improved. This strengthens their economic security and well-being and that of their families. Cumulatively, this contributes to development progress and poverty reduction.
In addition to improving general health and well-being, meeting the reproductive health and contraceptive needs of all women in the developing world more than pays for itelf. According to surveys and reports done at the global level for every dollar invested in contraception, the cost of pregnancy-related care is reduced by $1.43. The lifetime opportunity cost related to adolescent pregnancy – a measure of the annual income a young mother misses out on over her lifetime – ranges from 1 per cent of annual gross domestic product in a large country such as China to 30 per cent of annual gross domestic product in small economies. A country’s economic growth is invariably shaped by overarching demographic trends. Developing countries with large youth populations and declining fertility rates could see their economies soar, provided they invest heavily in young people’s education and health and protect their rights. Potential economic gains could be realized through a ‘demographic dividend,’ which can occur when a country’s working age population grows larger relative to dependent populations.
Family planning is an important part of this process because many countries have large youth populations that will almost ensure continued rapid population growth unless fertility declines, which is what offers the possibility of the demographic dividend. Where rapid population growth far outpaces economic development, countries will have a difficult time investing in the human capital needed to secure the well-being of its people and to stimulate further economic growth. This issue is especially acute for the least developed countries, many of which are facing a doubling, or even a tripling of their populations by 2050.
The rapid growth in population also has very serious social consequences. It leads to increased unemployment which breeds crimes and other social evils. The governments in the less developed countries find it difficult to create required jobs for youth entering the job market as the share of the employment offered by the government is quite minimal. In Pakistan the share of the government to the job market is in the vicinity of 7-8% and the rest is in the private domain which means that the governments have to adopt such policies which lead to the creation of more and more jobs in the private sector. It is estimated that nearly 2 million youths are entering the job market every year in Pakistan. In that context the programme of the PTI government to create 10 million jobs in the next 5 years sounds quite an imaginative step. The effort can be made easier through population control as well. Now that the government has realized the gravity of the situation in regards to population growth and also shown the political will to accomplish the desired objective, it should make sure that there was no slackness in carrying it out.
— The writer is freelance columnist based in Islamabad.

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