What accounts for the population explosion in developing countries during the last forty years? In what sense is rapid population growth a problem’ Population growth is a necessary phenomenon for growth and security in the any world economy. Within this essay I will explain and clarify why rapid population is significant issue especially in developing economies. I will also provide clarity on why population growth has become so rapid in these developing countries. At the present time the world’s population is just over 6.3 Billion, of which more than two-thirds live in the developing countries. At the present rate of increase world population will double every 65 years and by 2050 the population is predicted to rise to 8 billion if birth rates continue to fall dramatically or 12 billons if birth rates only come down slowly. Rapid Population growth plays a conflicting role in the development process; it can act as both a stimulus and a barrier to growth and development. However the main point to consider at what point do the economic disadvantages begin to outweigh the advantages? Where does the balance lie? The conventional view is that high levels and rates of population growth constitute a problem for the world as a whole and for the developing countries in particular. Population growth, it is argued, depresses human welfare because it: Uses up scarce resources, puts pressure on food supplies, leads to overcrowding and congestion in cities, adds to the employment problem, and reduces the savings ratio and dilutes the quantity of capital per person employed. The pessimistic view on population originates with Malthius who states ‘there is a constant tendency in all animated life to increase beyond the nourishment prepared for it. Thus every mouth is accompanied by a pair of hands, but ever pair of hands produces less and less additional output’. The effect of population growth also has an effect on savings, the traditional argument is that population growth reduces the community’s saving ratio by leading to a high dependency ratio of children who consumer but do not produce. However this ignores the fact, that many children in developing countries do in fact, the implication of the argument would seem to be that a reduction in population growth would increase the savings ratio by rising the average work age of the population. By analysing Professor A.P. Thirlwall’s Growth and Development, the section on optimum population is extremely interesting as it explains and demonstrates how an ‘optimum population’ is used in several different senses, but three in particular are commonly employed. First, ‘it is sometimes used to refer to the size of the population what maximizes the average product of income per head. It is in this situation that a society’s savings ratio is likely to be maximised’. The second approach to the concept of optimum population adopts the criterion of total welfare maximization. On this principle, the population would be suboptimal as long as the marginal product of labour was above some notional welfare subsistence level, and would reach the optimum when all incomes were equalized at the welfare subsistence level (assuming a diminishing marginal utility of income). The third approach of optimum population refers to the level of population beyond which the average product in an economy falls below the level of production necessary for subsistence, on the assumption that the total product is equally shared. In this case the term optimum simply refers to the maximum population that can be supported with existing resources, and is the point of Malthusian equilibrium. Population grows fastest in the world's poorest countries. High fertility rates have historically been strongly correlated with poverty and high childhood mortality rates. Falling fertility rates are generally associated with improved standards of living, increased life expectancy, and lowered infant mortality. Overpopulation and poverty have long been associated with increased death, and disease. However, most of the world's 1.2 billion desperately poor people live in less developed countries. However poverty does also exist in developed countries. “One in five Russians reportedly lives below the country's official poverty line”. “In the United States, million people - -one in eight Americans are below the official poverty line”. The rapid expansion of population size observed since the end of World War II in the world's poorest nations has been a cause of their poverty. It can be considered that there are two main reasons why rapid population growth may be regarded as an impeding influence on development. First, rapid population growth may not authorise a sufficient large rise per capita income to provide the savings necessary for the required amount of capital creation for increased growth. According to Professor A.P. Thirlwall the second reason is “that is population growth outstrips the capacity of industry to absorb new labour, either urban unemployment will develop of rural underemployment will be exacerbated, depressing productivity in the agricultural sector”. Professor A.P. Thirlwall also makes an interesting point by stating in the early stages of development the rises in per capita income may be accompanied by, or even induce, population growth in excess of income growth, holding down per capita income to a subsistence level. I strongly agree with this, because when an economy is just starting to develop population growth is essential to promote growth for example if population growth was obsolete growth would also be obsolete leading to an end to growth in every possible way. Conversely there is very fine line where population growth becomes ‘rapid’ population growth, and which leads to an overwhelming economic problem. According to population connection, population growth in developing countries since the 1950 is behind the clearing of 80 percent of rainforests, the loss of tens of thousands of plant and wildlife species, an increase in greenhouse gas emissions of around 400 percent and the development or commercialization of as much as half of the Earth’s surface land. However while population growth in most developed countries are levelling off or diminishing today, high levels of consumption make a huge drain on resources. For example, the United States of America who represent only 4 percent of the world population consume 25 percent of all resources. Low and middle income Population = 2002: 5232.4 2015: 6083.0 High Income Population = 2002: 966.2 2015: 1007.7
The statistics above taken from Professor A.P. Thirlwall Growth and Development shows the population dynamics of low and middle and high income population groups. From the statistics it is clearly evident that low and middle income population have the greater population, in fact nearly three quarters of the world’s population lives in low and middle income population. These figures are factual proof that rapid population growth causes depreciation in income, quite substantially in fact. This diagram (taken from A.P. Thirlwall Growth and Development), also shows the magnitude of the rapid population growth that has occurred. It can be seen, developed countries have had an insignificant increase in population, but however the world population shows how the developing countries account for the vast majority of the world population.
The diagram (also taken from A.P. Thirlwall Growth and Development) shows Total Fertility (children per woman) for least developed countries, World, and More Developed regions. From the diagram it can be seen that a definite negative relationship exists. It is also true that through time the fertility rate decreases at a given rate of per capita income, and that there are big differences in the fertility rate between countries at the same level of income. The data also clearly shows that fertility is decreasing in all regions with the world fertility rate declining to two children per woman in 2050. According Professor Thirlwall, the number of children per woman required for the population to replace itself is 2.1. From the diagram you can see, in the developed countries, fertility has already fallen below this critical level with an average of 1.6 children per woman. The stark contrasts in fertility between least and developed countries is vast from an historical perspective. Even though least developed countries have declined their fertility rate substantially, more developed regions have been at or below that magic number of 2.1 for number of years and least developed countries will not achieve this target even by 2045-50 (according to the diagram). The orthodox perception used to be that fertility decline would come only with rising levels of per capita income, urbanisation and industrialization. This is the theory of demographic transition. Thomas Malthus’s (1776 to 1834) theory is an interesting on as he is highly regarded for his research on population growth, however he has also been criticised. Malthus thought that the dangers of population growth would preclude endless progress towards a utopian society. He indicated “the power of population is indefinitely greater than the power in the earth to produce subsistence for man”. Malthus also wrote “that the increase of population is necessarily limited by the means of subsistence, that population does invariably increase when the means of subsistence increase, and, that the superior power of population is repressed, and the actual population kept equal to the means of subsistence, my misery and vice”. Conversely there are also some critics to Thomas Malthus’s theory, like Karl Marx, argued that Malthus failed to recognise the potential of human population to increase food supply. Malthus is accused by many to have “failed to comprehend man’s ability to use science and technology to increase food supply to meet needs of an increasing population”. Also thinkers from the field of social sciences have criticized Malthus for his belief that the human society could never be made perfect. From writing this essay I have acknowledged how rapid population growth can have a profound effect on a countries economy. There is no surprise that the least developed countries also have the highest population by some significant margin. Nevertheless it is imbalanced not to consider the fact that population growth is essential in the early stages of development because without it, as mentioned before an economy would be stagnant as I believe it is the key to sustain growth within an economy. However population growth needs to be controlled and sustained at a particular level for it not to hinder the growth and development of an economy. Nevertheless in my opinion the population trends of the next few years will have far reaching consequences. Ultimately, the developed and developing nations of the world must cooperate and share information, resources, and common vision to solve the problem of rapid population growth which I believe is the primary cause for poverty in developing and certain developed countries.
[ 1 ]. Professor A.P. Thirlwall; Growth and Development, Eight Edition, Chapter 8 [ 2 ]. http://www.gian.co.nz/population.php
[ 3 ]. http://www.gian.co.nz/population.php
[ 4 ]. Professor A.P. Thirlwall; Growth and Development, Eight Edition, Chapter 8 [ 5 ]. http://www.populationconnection.org/site/PageServer
[ 6 ]. Professor A.P. Thirlwall; Growth and Development, Eight Edition, Chapter 8 [ 7 ]. Professor A.P. Thirlwall; Growth and Development, Eight Edition, Chapter 8 [ 8 ]. http://www.buzzle.com/articles/thomas-malthus-theory-of-population.htm [ 9 ]. http://www.buzzle.com/articles/thomas-malthus-theory-of-population.htm [ 10 ]. http://www.buzzle.com/articles/thomas-malthus-theory-of-population.htm