Under and over population Why do governments feel the need to control the population of a country? Regions, countries or the world as a whole can be assessed by analysing the relationship between population and resources. Underpopulation – occurs where there are too few people to maximise the use of resources efficiently using current levels of technology. In this scenario, an increase in population would result in a greater use of resources and an increase in living standards. Low levels of unemployment and in-migration would be common in these areas. Overpopulation – occurs where there are too many people in relation to the amount of resources available. Therefore, with no changes in the level of technology or discovery of more natural resources then standards of living will decline. There does not necessarily need to be a large population for an area to be overpopulated if there is a lack of natural resources or technology. Optimum population is the level at which the standard of living is maximised Total population GDP per capita Under populated Over populated Optimum - population
Pessimistic view on population change In 1798, Thomas Malthus (an economist) wrote an essay titled ‘the Principle of Population growth as it Affects the Future Improvement of Society’ He argued that population growth is exponential (1,2,4,8,16,32…) whereas food supply growth is arithmetic (1,2,3,4,5,6…). As a result, a crisis point would be reached where famine would result unless population growth is controlled. In the 19 th century, Malthus’s predictions did not come true as the industrial revolution led to an agricultural revolution which resulted in significant increases in food production which kept pace with rapid population growth. Today, neo-Malthusians such as the Club of Rome still believe that his ideas are valid. They validate their ideas by quoting evidence such as 1/3 of the world’s population lacking food security, famines in Ethiopia, wars over agricultural lands in Sudan, increasing scarcity of clean water, urbanisation destroying farm land and climate change resulting in desertification.
Optimistic views on population change In 1965, Esther Boserup (an agricultural economist) wrote a book titled ‘The conditions of agricultural change’ to help explain why Malthus was proven wrong. She argued that despite inevitable environmental constraints, humans are able to alter these limits by developing new technology. The technological advances will be driven by necessity. Boserup saw that as populations grew in agricultural societies, people adapted by reducing fallow periods, using more fertilisers and manure and developing irrigation methods to increase agricultural productivity and support the increased population. More recently, Julian Simon has written a book called ‘The Ultimate Resource’ where he suggests that there are no actual finite resources in the world. This is because as supplies of resources become scarce, we invest more time and money in trying to discover more resources, develop ways of using the resources more efficiently and develop alternative resources (think about how this can be related to the current situation with oil). He suggest that the only real limited resource is human brain power.
In 1949 when the People’s Republic of China was formerly established the population was around 500 million. Chairman Mao had the philosophy that ‘a large population gives a strong nation’ so people were encouraged to have as many children as possible.
Death rates started to fall as medical care and food supplies improved.
In 1959 there was a warning of what might happen in the future when a serious famine resulted in over 20 million deaths.
Between 1960 and 1973, natural increase was at its greatest with fertility rates of 5.81 and growth of over 55 million (equivalent to the pop of the UK) people being added to the population every 3 years.
During the 1970s some attempts were made to slow the population growth through a slogan of “later, longer, fewer” (later marriages, longer gaps between births and fewer children).
In 1975 fertility rates had fallen to 3 but even at this level it was thought that this level of population growth would soon lead to widespread famine and starvation.
There are many reports of female births not being registered especially in rural areas and also female infanticide where the first born was a girl (parents want male heirs to work on farms, carry on the family name and support them in old age).
The dominance of male babies has led to a generation of ‘spoilt emperors’ as all attention is focussed on the only child.
There have been many reports of males divorcing their wives if they have a female child so that they can remarry and try for a son.
There are an estimated 30 million more males than females aged under 20 years old – resulting in a generation of males who won’t be able to find a wife.
The current fertility rate of 1.6 is below the required replacement level of 2.1 which will result in an increasingly ageing population.
Factories have reported shortages in youth labour in recent years
In 2007 there were 6 working people for every retiree, by 2040 it is estimated that the ratio will be 2 to 1.
It is likely that many elderly people will face neglect in the future.
In the 1950s, the total fertility rate in India was over 6 resulting in rapid natural increase. Many anti-natalist policies have been attempted in India as a result including offering men a free transistor radio when they had a vasectomy (which wasn’t very successful)
From the 1970s, many states started to adopt their own policies – Kerala (a state in Southern India) has now become a famous example as a result of its successful population policy.
The policy has focussed on decreasing mortality rates, reducing fertility rates and improving the health of young children
A key element of the policy is the emancipation of women to improve their role in society
through education, land ownership and having financial independence.
85% of women in Kerala are literate and girl outnumber boys in secondary education – this results in more women getting a job, delaying marriage and having less children.
The average age of marriage is the highest in India.
Infant mortality rates have fallen from 210/1000 live births in the 1930s to 14/1000 (compared with 47/1000 for India as a whole). This has happened by improving access to essential vaccinations for young infants, educating women about child nutrition and improving the health care provided to women during pregnancy.
Fertility rates in Kerala are now 1.8 children per woman compared with 2.7 in India as a whole