Population Growth – A Problem For Developing Countries!

According to the neo-Malthusians, population growth is a central problem for less developing countries.

The question comes, whether population growth can be accommodated?

Well, we observed that in sparsely populated counties like Europe as a whole, Japan and North America, economic growth has been accompanied by moderate population growth.

Of course, increase in demand, technological improvement etc. took place in those countries.

But how? Well, the answer is by means of educated labor force.

So, far ‘accommodation of population’ is concerned in less developed economies, we should first of all understand what is meant by a change in population.

Actually, components of population change means, (birth-death) or natural increase + (immigrants – emigrants) or net migration = growth or decrease.

The LDCs particularly in Asia, Africa and Latin America- had both higher birth and death rates in the 1900s which continued throughout the 20th century.

Now, in the demographic transition, death rates fell rapidly in LDCs through the introduction of medical and public health technology, which led to continued population growth in such countries.


Population Growth Trend In Africa:

The largest regional percentage increase in population by 2050 will be in Africa (particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa), who’s population be expected to at least double from 1.1 billion to about 2.3 billion with TFR around 3.0.

Population Growth Trend In Asia:

By 2050, the total population will reach to around 5.3 billion with TFR around 2.2.

So, as a result rapid population growth has slowed development, lost opportunities for raising living standard and beyond the question of accommodation.

Another reason is SAP (structural adjustment programme ) sponsored by the World Bank and the IMF ( it refers to a set of measures that countries need to implement in order to qualify for loans from these agencies), primarily set up towards achievement of fiscal and balance-of – payment stability, rather than stimulation of economic growth.

Actually, for developing countries, SAP is designed to:

1) Cut government spending on education, sanitation, health, subsidies to farmers etc.

2) Privatization of Government industries and as a result many workers lost their jobs.

3) Devalue the countries’ currency so that the countries’ exports are cheaper in the world market, in order to earn foreign dollars for paying back the W.B. /IMF loans! And so on.

The reason for mentioning the above is that, if a country can educate its population, the labor force can be engaged in more productive/ service areas, technological advancement can take place, unused land can be utilized for so many infrastructural purposes like agriculture, drainage, roads, highways and so on.

Even though Neo-Malthusians, believe in wide-spread use of contraception as a primary weapon against the population growth, Todd Buchholz (1999:43) said— “misery may have visited the poor, but not for Malthusian reasons”.

According to him:

First, poor countries cannot afford to save and invest in new technology because incomes are low.

And incomes are low because production technologies are inefficient.

Thus, they are caught in a vicious circle, which foreign aid attempts to break.

Second and much more important, many Governments with unstable political roots placate urban consumers by keeping food prices low.

But artificially low prices decrease investment by farmers and stunt further output. (Buchholz, 1999: 60).

Over the last decade, many scholars have re-examined the basic question of whether population growth hurts 3rd world countries and concluded that for some countries, especially those with plenty of arable land, rapid population growth may not be destructive.

A denser population may lower the cost of transporting goods to consumers and stimulate domestic demand for goods.

The World Bank suggests that most developing countries can absorb up to 2% growth without a decline in standard of living.  (Buchholz 1999: 61).

Finally, long run macroeconomic and sectoral policies to reduce population growth can make an important contribution for development.