Chapter Four NSSM 200, Pages 103-110


Rapid population growth adversely affects every aspect of economic and social progress in developing countries. It absorbs large amounts of resources needed for more productive investment in development. It requires greater expenditures for health, education and other social services, particularly in urban areas. It increases the dependency load per worker so that a high fraction of the output of the productive age group is needed to support dependents. It reduces family savings and domestic investment. It increases existing severe pressures on limited agricultural land in countries where the world's "poverty problem" is concentrated. It creates a need for use of large amounts of scarce foreign exchange for food imports (or the loss of food surpluses for export). Finally, it intensifies the already severe unemployment and underemployment problems of many developing countries where not enough productive jobs are created to absorb the annual increments to the labor force.

Even in countries with good resource/population ratios, rapid population growth causes problems for several reasons: First, large capital investments generally are required to exploit unused resources. Second, some countries already have high and growing unemployment and lack the means to train new entrants to their labor force. Third, there are long delays between starting effective family planning programs and reducing fertility, and even longer delays between reductions in fertility and population stabilization. Hence there is substantial danger of vastly overshooting population targets if population growth is not moderated in the near future.

During the past decade, the developing countries have raised their GNP at a rate of 5 percent per annum as against 4.8 percent in developed countries. But at the same time the LDCs experienced an average annual population growth rate of 2.5 percent. Thus their per capita income growth rate was only 2.5 percent and in some of the more highly populated areas the increase in per capita incomes was less than 2 percent. This stands in stark contrast to 3.6 percent in the rich countries. Moreover, the low rate means that there' very little change in those countries whose per capita incomes $200 or less per annum. The problem has been further exacerbated in recent months by the dramatic increases in oil and fertilizer prices. The World Bank has estimated that the incomes of the million inhabitants of the countries hardest hit by the oil crisis will grow at less than 1% per capita per year of the remainder of the 1970s. Taking account of inequalities in income distribution, there will be well over 500 million people, with average incomes of less than $100 per capita, who will experience either no growth or negative growth in that period.

Moderation of population growth offers benefits in terms of resources saved for investment and/or higher per capita consumption. If resource requirements to support fewer children are reduced and the funds now allocated for construction of schools, houses, hospitals and other essential facilities are invested in productive activities, the impact on the growth of GNP and per capita income may be significant. In addition, economic and social progress resulting from population control will further contribute to the decline in fertility rates. The relationship is reciprocal, and can take the form of either a vicious or a virtuous circle.

This raises the question of how much more efficient expenditures for population control might be than in raising production through direct investments in additional irrigation and power projects and factories. While most economists today do not agree with the assumptions that went into early overly optimistic estimates of returns to population expenditures, there is general agreement that up to the point when cost per acceptor rises rapidly, family planning expenditures are generally considered the best investment a country can make in its own future.

II. Impact of Population Growth on Economic Development

 In most, if not all, developing countries high fertility rates impose substantial economic costs and restrain economic growth. The main adverse macroeconomic effects may be analyzed in three general categories: (1) the saving effect, (2) "child quality" versus "child quantity", and (3) "capital deepening" versus "capital widening." These three categories are not mutually exclusive, but they highlight different familial and social perspectives. In addition, there are often longer-run adverse effects on agricultural output and the balance of payments.

(1) The saving effect. A high fertility economy has perforce a larger "burden of dependency" than a low fertility economy, because a larger proportion of the population consists of children too young to work. There are more non-working people to feed, house and rear, and there is a smaller surplus above minimum consumption available for savings and investment. It follows that a lower fertility rate can free resources from consumption; if saved and invested, these resources could contribute to economic growth. (There is much controversy on this; empirical studies of the savings effect have produced varying results.)

(2) Child quality versus quantity. Parents make investment decisions, in a sense, about their children. Healthier and better-educated children tend to be economically more productive, both as children and later as adults. In addition to the more-or-less conscious trade- offs parents can make about more education and better health per child, there are certain biologic adverse effects suffered by high birth order children such as higher mortality and limited brain growth due to higher incidence of malnutrition. It must be emphasized, however, that discussion of trade-offs between child quality and child quantity will probably remain academic with regard to countries where child mortality remains high. When parents cannot expect most children to survive to old age, they probably will continue to "over-compensate", using high fertility as a form of hedge to insure that they will have some living offspring able to support the parents in the distant future.

(3) Capital deepening versus widening. From the family's viewpoint high fertility is likely to reduce welfare per child; for the economy one may view high fertility as too rapid a growth in labor force relative to capital stock. Society's capital stock includes facilities such as schools and other educational inputs in addition to capital investments that raise workers' outputs in agriculture and manufacturing. For any given rate of capital accumulation, a lower population growth rate can help increase the amount of capital and education per worker, helping thereby to increase output and income per capita. The problem of migration to cities and the derived demand for urban infrastructure can also be analyzed as problems of capital widening, which draw resources away from growth-generating investments.

In a number of the more populous countries a fourth aspect rapid growth in numbers has emerged in recent years which 1: profound long-run consequences. Agricultural output was able keep pace or exceed population growth over the many decades population rise prior to the middle of this century, primer through steady expansion of acreage under cultivation. More recently, only marginal unused land has been available in India, Thailand, Java, Bangladesh, and other areas. As a result (a) la holdings have declined in size, and (b) land shortage has led deforestation and overgrazing, with consequent soil erosion and severe water pollution and increased urban migration. Areas that once earned foreign exchange through the export of food surpluses are now in deficit or face early transition to dependence on food imports. Although the scope for raising agricultural productivity is very great in many of these areas, the available technologies for doing so require much higher capital costs per acre and much larger foreign exchange outlays for "modern" inputs (chemical fertilizer, pesticides, petroleum fuels, etc.) than was the case with the traditional technologies. Thus the population growth problem can seen as an important long-run, or structural, contributor to current LDC balance of payments problems and to deterioration of the basic ecological infrastructure.

Finally, high fertility appears to exacerbate the maldistribution of income which is a fundamental economic and social problem in much of the developing world. Higher income families tend to have fewer children, spend more on the health and education of the children, have more wealth to pass on to these children in contrast to the several disadvantages that face the children of the poor. The latter tend to be more numerous, receiving less of an investment per child in their "human capital", leaving the children with economic, educational and social constraints similar to those which restrict the opportunities of the parents. In short, high fertility contributes to the intergenerational continuity of maldistributions of income an related social and political problems.

III. The Effect of Development on Population Growth

The determinants of population growth are not well understood, especially for low income societies. Historical data show that declining fertility in Europe and North America has been associated with declining mortality and increasing urbanization, and generally with "modernization". Fertility declined substantially in the West without the benefit of sophisticated contraceptives. This movement from high fertility and high mortality to low fertility and low mortality is known as the "demographic transition". In many low income countries mortality has declined markedly since World War II (in large part form reduction in epidemic illness and famine), but fertility has remained high. Apart from a few pockets of low fertility in East Asia and the Caribbean, a significant demographic transition has not occurred in the third world. (The Chinese, however, make remarkable claims about their success in reducing birth rates, and qualified observers are persuaded that they have had unusual success even though specific demographic information is lacking.)

There is considerable, incontestable evidence in many developing countries that a larger (though not fully known) number of couples would like to have fewer children than possible generally here and that there is a large unsatisfied demand by these couples for family planning services. [** It is also now widely believed that something more that family planning services will be needed to motivate other couples to want smaller families and all couples to want replacement levels essential to the progress and growth of their countries.**]

There is also evidence, although it is not conclusive, that certain aspects of economic development and modernization are more directly related to lowered birth rates than others, and that selective developmental policies may bring about a demographic transition at substantially lower per capita income levels than in Europe, North America, and Japan [See James E. Kocher, Rural Development, Income Distribution, and Fertility Decline (Population Council, New York, 1973), and William Rich, smaller Families through Social and Economic Progress (Overseas Development Council, Wash., 1973)]. Such selective policies would focus on improved health care and nutrition directed toward reduced infant and child mortality; universal schooling and adult literacy, especially for women; increasing the legal age of marriage; greater opportunities for female employment in the money economy; improved old-age social security arrangements; and agricultural modernization focused on small farmers. It is important that this focus be made in development programs because, given today's high population densities, high birth rates, and low income levels in much of Asia, Africa, and Latin America, if the demographic transition has to await overall development and modernization, the vicious circle of poverty, people, and unemployment may never be broken.

The causes of high birth rates in low income societies are generally explained in terms of three factors.

a. Inadequacy of information and means. Actual family size in many societies is higher than desired family size owing to ignorance of acceptable birth control methods or unavailability of birth control devices and services. The importance of this factor is evidenced by many sociological investigations on "desired family size" versus actual size, by the substantial rates of acceptance for contraceptives when systematic family planning services are introduced. This factor has been a basic assumption in the family planning programs of official bilateral and multilateral programs in many countries over the past decade. Whatever the actual weight of this factor, which clearly varies from country to country and which shifts with changes in economic and social conditions, there remains without question a significant demand for family planning services.

b. Inadequacy of motivation for reduced numbers of children. Especially in the rural areas of underdeveloped countries, which account for the major share of today's population growth, parents often want large numbers of children (especially boys) (i) to ensure that some will survive against the odds of high child mortality, (ii) to provide support for the parents in their old age, and (iii) to provide low cost farm labor. While these elements are present among rural populace, continued urbanization may reduce the need for sons in the longer term. The absence of educational and employment opportunities for young women intensifies these same motivations by encouraging early marriage and early and frequent maternity. This factor suggests the crucial importance of selective development policies as a means of accelerating the reduction of fertility.

c. The "time lag". Family preferences and social institutions that favor high fertility change slowly. Even though mortality and economic conditions have improved significantly since World War II in LDCs, family expectations, social norms, and parental practice are slow to respond to these altered conditions. This factor leads to the need for large scale programs of information, education, and persuasion directed at lower fertility.

The three elements are undoubtedly intermixed in varying proportions in all underdeveloped countries with high birth rates. In most LDCs, many couples would reduce their completed family size if appropriate birth control methods were more easily available. The extent of this reduction, however, may still leave their completed family size at higher than mere replacement levels i.e., at levels implying continued but less rapid population growth. Many other couples would not reduce their desired family size merely if better contraceptives were available, either because they see large families as economically beneficial, or because of cultural factors, or because they misread their own economic interests.

Therefore, family planning supply (contraceptive technology and delivery systems) and demand (the motivation for reduced fertility) would not be viewed as mutually exclusive alternatives; they are complementary and may be mutually reinforcing. The selected point of focus mentioned earlier old age security pro-grams, maternal and child health programs, increased female education, increasing the legal age of marriage, financial incentives to "acceptors", personnel, are important, yet better information is required as to which measures are most cost-effective and feasible in a given situation and how their cost-effectiveness compares to supply programs.

One additional interesting area is receiving increasing attention: the distribution of the benefits of development. Experience in several countries suggests that the extent to which the poor, with the highest fertility rates, reduce their fertility will depend on the extent to which they participate in development. In this view the average level of economic development and the average amount of modernization are less important determinants of population growth than is the specific structure of development. This line of investigation suggests that social development activities need to be more precisely targeted than in the past to reach the lowest income people, to counteract their desire for high fertility as a means of alleviating certain adverse conditions.

IV. Employment and Social Problems

 Employment, aside from its role in production of goods and services, is an important source of income and of status or recognition to workers and their families. The inability of large segments of the economically active population in developing countries to find jobs offering a minimum acceptable standard of living is reflected in a widening of income disparities and a deepening sense of economic, political and social frustration.

The most economically significant employment problems in LDCs contributed to by excessive population growth are low worker productivity in production of traditional goods and services produced, the changing aspirations of the work force, the existing distribution of income, wealth and power, and the natural resource endowment of a country.

The political and social problems of urban overcrowding are directly related to population growth. In addition to the still-high fertility in urban areas of many LDC's, population pressures on the land, which increases migration to the cities, adds to the pressures on urban job markets and political stability, and strains, the capacity l to provide schools, health facilities, and water supplies.

It should be recognized that lower fertility will relieve only a portion of these strains and that its most beneficial effects will be felt only over a period of decades. Most of the potential migrants from countryside to city over the coming 15 to 20 years have already been born. Lower birth rates do provide some immediate relief to health and sanitation and welfare services, and medium- term relief to pressures on educational systems. The largest effects on employment, migration, and living standards, however, will be felt only after 25 or 30 years. The time lags inherent in all aspects of population dynamics only reinforce the urgency of adopting effective policies in the years immediately ahead if the formidable problems of the present decade are not to become utterly unmanageable in the 1990s and beyond the year 2000.

Семья и демография | Оглавление NSSM 200