UN Population Division, Department of Economic and Social Affairs,
with support from the UN Population Fund (UNFPA)

Pop. Growth and Eco. Devel: The Policy Response of Governments


For further information please contact the United Nations Population Fund 

at 220 East 42nd Street, New York, NY 10017 USA or via email: 



FROM:  Population Growth and Economic Development: Report on the 

Consultative Meeting of Economists Convened by the United Nations 

Population Fund, 28-29 September 1992, New York.  New York:UNFPA, 1993




              Background Paper Prepared by UNFPA

I.   Introduction

  This report presents the concerns of Governments of developing

countries regarding the consequences for economic development of

rapid population growth.  The focus is on the policy response of

Governments that view high rates of population growth as detrimental

to their development efforts.  Other population issues, such as

migration and high rates of urbanization, are not addressed in this


     As of 1990, a little more than half of all developing-country

Governments viewed their population growth rates as too high and

therefore unsatisfactory (United Nations, 1990a and 1990b).  These

perceptions corresponded largely with the Governments' perceptions

of high fertility rates.  These dual perceptions will undoubtedly

influence policy prescriptions aimed at lowering population growth

rates.  The perceptions and policy responses stem from the actual

levels of population growth and their functional relationships to

individual countries' distinctive social, economic, cultural and

environmental conditions.

     Many Governments have adopted either implicit or explicit

policies to lower population growth rates.  Explicit population

policies may include sections of development plans, legislation,

documents from government ministries or commissions, or statements

by high-level officials.  They usually involve statements of

intention or planned activities with regard to reducing or

stabilizing current or anticipated population growth rates.

     The rationale for policies aimed at lowering population growth

rates is in large measure derived from the view that rapid population

growth without a commensurate increase in production and productivity

impedes socio-economic development.  Reductions in population growth

rates are sought to redress imbalances between available resources

and national goals, in turn facilitating socio-economic development.

     Overwhelming support for this view has come from the Govern-

ments of both developing and the developed countries.  In 1990, the

South Commission Report on Population and Population Policy declared:

"The present high rates of population growth increase the burden of

dependency and reduce the resources available for raising produc-

tivity to what is sufficient just to maintain subsistence levels. ...

It is therefore necessary that countries with high birth rates should

act without delay and adopt policies which will have an impact on

population growth in a reasonable period of time." (The Population

Council, 1990c). A similar view on this issue was issued by the OECD

countries in 1990 (see box above).

     There are generally two competing perspectives on what

constitutes effective population strategies in the face of rapid

population growth rates.  One view is that demographic variables are

an essential aspect of socio-economic development, and demographic

policies are as essential to overall development as economic

policies; consequently, specific attention has to be given to

population interventions.

     The other perspective, expressed by many developing countries

at the World Population Conference of 1974, is that demographic

variables are wholly a function of social and economic development,

and overall social transformation will result in demographic adjust-

ments.  The views of many Governments, however, have changed from

that extreme view (see Section IV).  The latter view is still adhered

to by some Governments, notably Brazil's.  At the 39th meeting of the

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Governing Council in

1992, the delegation of Brazil stated: "The provision of better

standards of living is fundamental for dealing with the issue of

population.  It has been clearly demonstrated that the promotion of

economic development is the best tool to curb population pressures."

     Policy makers and Governments of many developing countries have

increasingly adopted the former view, sometimes classified as

population-oriented development.  The economic success of countries

where the reduction of fertility has been seen as an essential aspect

of development policy  including Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea and

Thailand  has not gone unnoticed (see, for example, UNFPA, 1986,

1991 and 1992b).  In addition, the social and economic malaise of

many developing countries where population growth is still high,

especially those of sub-Saharan Africa, may have given added impetus

to the policy trend towards reviewing dynamic and structural

demographic elements as integral parts of development planning

policies and models.  The Kilimanjaro Plan of Action (1984) reflected

the individual and collective commitments by African Governments to

adopt and implement population-influencing policies.

II.  Regional Focus

     This section discusses the problems associated with rapid

population growth as seen from the standpoint of national Governments

in the regions of Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, Asia and

the Pacific, and Western Asia.  The views on the issue are mainly

those expressed by Governments in response to the Sixth Population

Inquiry conducted by the United Nations in 1988 (United Nations,


     At that time, 53 per cent of the developing-country Governments

viewed their population growth rates as too high, and approximately

80 per cent of the Governments with this view had policies aimed at

reducing their population growth rates.

  A. Africa

     The Africa region is characterized by some of the highest

population growth rates (over 3 per cent per year) in the world.

Nevertheless, many Governments have not given high priority to the

issue of rapid population growth until recently.  In the case of sub-

Saharan Africa, for example, only Mauritius, Ghana and Kenya had

adopted population policies before the 1974 International Conference

on Population.  Today, however, many countries of the region have

begun to formulate and/or implement population policies.

     In response to the Sixth Population Inquiry, 30 out of 52

African Governments responded that they viewed their population

growth rates as too high.  These Governments generally agreed that

rapid population growth is detrimental to socio-economic development.

They identified some common concerns relating to rapid population

growth; these included the high dependency ratio resulting from a

young population, and the difficulties in raising or even maintaining

current living standards.  A number of the Governments expressed

concern about the strains placed on farm land, food, energy, employ-

ment opportunities, and health and education services.

     The response of the Government of Kenya to the Sixth Population

Inquiry typifies these concerns.  The Government stated that Kenya's

population growth rate, "currently estimated at 3.8 per cent, places

considerable constraints on social and economic development goals.

Some of the effects of this population growth have already manifested

themselves in social problems such as high and growing dependency

burden, unemployment, unplanned parenthood and increasing demand on

basic services such as health, education, nutrition and shelter."

     Policies to lower population growth rates usually include

integrating maternal and child health with family planning; this is

the case, for example, in Egypt, Niger and Rwanda. A number of

Governments have instituted public-sector family planning systems,

while some support private family planning organizations.  Some

emphasize enhancing the status of women; Nigeria, for example, estab-

lished a commission for women's affairs.  An increasing number of

Governments (for example, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, and Zambia) are

adopting specific goals both in terms of population growth rates and

fertility rates.  In addition, many countries have adopted rural

development strategies to stem rural-urban migration.  Some have made

efforts to integrate population policies into development plans.

There are also ongoing efforts to improve laws on such issues as age

at marriage, sale and distribution of contraceptives, and women's

rights of ownership.

     In many countries of the region, the implementation of

population activities is hindered by the limited availability of

financial and technical resources.  Population programmes are still

in their infancy in much of sub-Saharan Africa.  In many countries

the demand for family planning is still low.  However, as the

detrimental impacts on development of a rapidly growing population

become more and more pronounced, there is a concomitant strengthening

of political commit-ment to adopt population policies aimed at

stabilizing and reducing population growth rates.

  B. Latin America and the Caribbean

     In Latin America, population variables are gradually being

incorporated into the development plans of Governments.  In the

interim, several non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have played

a key role in bringing down fertility rates and slowing overall

population growth rates. With the rise of "population consciousness"

in the region, Latin American Governments are increasingly adopting

the view that a linkage between population programmes and develop-

mental programmes on health, education and employment is essential

for sustained and sustainable development (UNFPA, 1990a).

     In response to the Sixth Population Inquiry, 17 out of 33

Governments in the region considered their population growth rates

too high and reported interventionist policies to lower them.  In the

Caribbean subregion, 10 of 13 Governments viewed their population

growth rates as too high.  In Central America, most Governments (for

example, Mexico, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Honduras)

shared a similar view.

     In South America, in contrast to Central America and the

Caribbean, only Ecuador and Peru viewed their population growth rates

as too high and reported interventionist policies. Peru has

incorporated the principles of its population policies in its laws.

In a similar manner, the population policy of Ecuador is embodied in

its Constitution.  The federal Government of Brazil does not

intervene to lower fertility or population growth.  Instead, the

Government views social and economic development as a solution to

demographic problems.  Nevertheless, fertility rates are declining

substantially in Brazil, and also in Costa Rica and Panama.  This is

mainly due to the active involvement of many NGOs in family planning,

and to state-sponsored family planning activities for health-related


     As in Africa, many Latin American and Caribbean countries are

concerned about their high dependency ratios resulting from a young

population, and the impact this has had on socio-economic develop-

ment.  This is evident from Mexico's response to the Sixth Population


     "The Government of Mexico considers the rate of growth and the

     age structure of the population to be very important factors for

     economic and social development. ... While population growth has

     decreased significantly, it is still rapid and the age structure

     remains young (about 50 per cent of the population is under 15),

     which will lead to an increasing demand for employment, housing,

     and other benefits in the coming decades." (United Nations,


     The Caribbean Governments, while sharing many of the concerns

common to Governments in the region, also have concerns that are

specific to small island nations.  Although population growth rates

are comparatively low (1.5 per cent for the subregion during

1985-1990), the Governments view them as high because population

densities are relatively high and natural resources are limited.

There is also concern about the impact of population growth on the

growing problems of degradation of coastal regions, deforestation,

silting up of streams and rivers, water pollution and waste disposal.

     In policy measures, most Governments have been promoting family

planning and population education and, at the same time attempting

to ease their dependency on primary products and tourism by

encouraging greater economic diversification.  Many Governments

(Jamaica, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago,

for example) have adopted formal population policies and are engaged

in efforts to integrate population factors into development planning

(UNDP, 1991b).

     Few countries in the region have explicit targets for population

growth.  (Among those that do are Mexico, with a target of 1.9 per

cent growth by 1998; and Peru, 2 per cent by 2000.)  Policies aimed

at modifying demographic variables are combined with those aimed at

creating employment opportunities, particularly for women, and

economic restructuring policies.  Some Governments (including those

of Honduras, Mexico and Peru) are increasingly concerned about the

roles and status of women and their impact on the development

process, and have adopted education and employment policies to

improve the status of women in their societies.

     During the past decade, family planning has won acceptance among

growing segments of the populations of Latin American countries.

This is especially true in urban areas where family planning

programmes tend to be concentrated.  In many countries of the region,

however, family planning services are not easily available in rural


     Although some Governments have started to incorporate population

issues into development plans and important legislation, others still

resist linking population goals with national development strategies,

for both ideological and technical reasons (see, for example, the

position of Brazilian President Fernando Collor at the time of the

United Nations Conference on Environment and Development: Collor,


  C. Asia and the Pacific

     The Asian and Pacific countries have had a head start over

Africa and Latin America in confronting the issue of rapid population

growth.  Governmental commitments to adopt and implement population

policies are generally strong.  Asian countries (e.g., India,

Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand) have largely succeeded in

integrating family planning with national maternal and child care and

primary health services (UNFPA, 1992b).

     The largest countries of the Asia and the Pacific region

(Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia and Pakistan) have all set

explicit population targets and goals in their development plans, and

agree on the aim of reducing population growth rates through rapid

reductions of fertility.  Their Governments see population growth as

a major development-related problem and largely agree that the

reduction of population growth rates will impact positively on socio-

economic development and living standards.

     In response to the Sixth Population Inquiry, 18 Governments out

of 35 reported that they considered their population growth rates too

high, and 16 reported governmental intervention aimed at lowering

population growth rates.

     China and India, for example, have policies to control

population growth through the promotion of family planning.  The

Chinese Government has stepped up efforts to reduce fertility in the

wake of a recent surge which surpassed official targets and caused

concern about its impact on gains due to economic reforms.  Thus,

there is a renewed emphasis on the "one couple, one child" policy,

public education for family planning, stricter enforcement of laws

relating to the age of marriage, and the integration of family

planning programmes with maternal and child health care.

     The Government of India also has an extensive family planning

programme aimed at curbing population growth rates and fostering

smaller and healthier families.  For over three decades, the

Government has recognized the negative consequences of India's

population growth rate on economic development efforts.  This

recognition has influenced the incorporation of comprehensive

population policies as well as support for family welfare programmes

in successive development plans (United Nations, 1992a).

     In Bangladesh, population is seen not just a high-priority issue

but as a matter of national survival.  One of the Government's major

goals is to increase contraceptive prevalence from the current level

of about 33 per cent to 66 per cent by the mid-1990s. The Govern-

ment's response to the Sixth Population Inquiry indicates its

fertility objectives and the consequences of not achieving these


     "Planners, demographers and friendly donors pointed out that a

     10-year delay in achieving an NRR [net reproduction rate] = 1

     from 1990 would result in an increase of 12 million people by

     the turn of the century; an additional 2.1 million tons of food

     grains to maintain the current meagre average per capita intake

     of 16 ounces per day; an additional work force of 3.1 million;

     an increase in the number of children of school-going age by

     about 8 million.  The social and economic cost of absorbing this

     addition would be enormous.  Being fully aware of the social and

     economic costs and consequences of accelerated growth of

     population, the Government declared population as the number one

     problem and the population control programme as a high-priority

     programme, and commits itself to bring down the rate of growth

     of population to 1.8 per cent by 1990 with a view of achieving

     NRR = 1 by 2000 at the latest". (United Nations, 1990a)

     The Government of Pakistan also maintains that a reduction of

its population growth rates is extremely critical for socio-economic

development.  Unless it succeeds in reducing the country's population

growth rate, the Government foresees rising unemployment, illiteracy,

overcrowded cities, strained social services and over-stretched basic

facilities.  Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif spoke of the dire

consequences of rapid population growth and the reasons for previous

failures of population policies, in his address to the National

Population Conference in Islamabad on 11 July 1991:

     "Population growth has a direct impact on national progress and

     development and indeed on the well-being of the people.  Popu-

     lation in Pakistan is growing at a rate of 3.1 per cent.  At the

     current rate of growth, it would double in 23 years.  It means

     that even if we succeed in doubling our food output, our schools

     and colleges, our hospitals and clinics, our roads and highways

     and the number of housing units, the standard of living of our

     people would not have improved a bit at the end of the year

     2014. ... It is indeed regrettable that despite a run of 40

     years, this programme has produced no results. ... I believe

     success has eluded this programme so far because of the lack of

     proper liaison between the people and those who had to carry the

     programme to the nooks and corners of Pakistan".

     Indonesia's Population Policy aims at promoting smaller and more

prosperous families.  Efforts are being made to increase community

participation in the management and implementation of family planning

services.  Although free family planning services are available at

government health centres and hospitals, campaigns have been launched

to motivate and encourage couples to buy their family planning

supplies from private medical sources. Tax-disincentives, income-

generating activities for acceptors of family planning, and efforts

to improve the status of women are some of the strategies intended

to reduce the country's population growth rate to 1.9 per cent per

year by 1994 (Government of Indonesia, 1990).

     In addition to the various policies of directly regulating

population growth, many Asian countries have built incentives and

disincentives into their family planning programmes to influence the

choices of the number and the spacing of children in each family.

In China, for example, those who sign the one-child pledge receive

cash awards (UNDP, 1989).  The Government of India offers additional

retirement benefits for families having a limited number of children.

In Bangladesh, female participants in family planning programmes

receive a new sari (UNFPA, 1990b).  Some countries such as

Bangladesh, India, Indonesia and Thailand have used community-based

schemes to promote social responsibility.  Rewards in the form of

employment projects are given to communities on the basis of their

family planning records.

     Population growth rates have moderated in many countries in East

and South-east Asia.  However, growth rates are still high in a

number of South Asian countries, partly as a result of pervasive

poverty, illiteracy, especially among women, and limited access to

family planning.

  D. Western Asia

     With few exceptions, the population growth rates of countries

in the Western Asia region average about 3 per cent per year.

However, in contrast to the other regions, nearly all the countries

of Western Asia, with the exception of Turkey and Jordan, view their

population growth rates as either satisfactory or too low.

     High fertility rates in the region (women are likely to bear six

to eight children during their reproductive years) are usually

attributed to a combination of sociocultural factors.  These include

early marriage, pro-natalist attitudes, non-availability or non-

acceptance of contraception, and low participation of women in the

labour force (UNFPA, 1984).

     The health hazards of excessive fertility and the young age

structure of the population have recently led to wider acceptance of

the health rationale for family planning.  There is also increased

awareness of the need to bring population growth rates under control.

     In response to the Sixth Population Inquiry, Cyprus, Iraq,

Israel, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia expressed strong pro-natalist

sentiments.  Several pro-natalist countries of the region encourage

population growth through a combination of policies aimed at

encouraging fertility, reducing mortality and affecting immigration.

     Four Governments (Bahrain, Lebanon, Syria and Yemen) reported

that they view their population growth rates as satisfactory.  Yemen

and Syria have indirect policies to influence fertility as well as

population growth.  These include providing educational opportunities

for women and improving access to health and educational services.

     Although Turkey and Jordan view their population growth rates

as too high, only Turkey has implemented population policies aimed

at reducing growth rates.  When compared with the other countries of

the region, Turkey's population growth rate of about 2 per cent per

year is relatively low.  Nevertheless, the Government has adopted

population policies aimed at reducing the growth rate to 1.8 per cent

by the year 2000 (United Nations, 1991).

III. Policy Responses to Sectoral Issues

  A. Health

     Governments generally view expenditures on health as major

investments in human-capital formation.  Human capital, they believe,

is an indispensable factor in the attainment of sustained socio-

economic development.  In light of this, many Governments have

endorsed the 1978 Alma Ata Declaration that called for "Health for

All by the year 2000."

     India's Eighth Five-Year Plan (1992-1997) (Government of India,

1992) reflects this view: "Health of the people is not only a

desirable goal but also an essential investment in human resources.

The National Health Policy reiterated India's commitment to attaining

Health for All by 2000 A.D.  Primary health care has been accepted

as the main instrument for achieving this goal."

     Governments tend to see enormous difficulties in attaining the

goal of "Health for All" in the face of rapid population growth,

however.  A case in point is the view on this issue expressed in

Sierra Leone's National Population Policy Document adopted in 1989:

     "Continuously rapid population growth makes the achievement of

     this goal much more difficult at least on two scores.  First,

     the number of high-health-risk persons such as women in their

     reproductive span and children below five will increase rapidly.

     Second, the growth in the total population, taking into account

     the existing shortfalls in health-care coverage, will stretch

     to the utmost resources: financial; qualified staff; equipment;

     etc." (Government of Sierra Leone, 1989)

     A number of other Governments (for example, Lesotho, Nigeria,

Ghana and India) have similarly noted that rapid population growth

will adversely affect health and, consequently, the quality of human

capital through household and sectoral effects.  At the household

level, women will be restricted from furthering their education and

accepting employment outside the home due to the detrimental effects

of frequent and excessive child-bearing.  Moreover, too-closely

spaced children tend to have health problems which may impact

negatively on their educational and skills development.

     A similar view is endorsed by the Government of the Philippines

(1990):  "Continued high fertility is thus expected to worsen

malnutrition, maternal, infant and child mortality, and poor

performance in school.  Such conditions combine to lower the quality

of family life in the short run and the quality of human resources

in the long run."

     At the macro level, some Governments foresee increasing

pressures on the quantity and quality of health-care systems arising

from rapid population growth.  Maintaining quantity and improving

quality generally require diverting resources needed for investment

in agriculture and industry.  This difficulty is further magnified

in countries with structural adjustment programmes and huge debt-

servicing requirements.  Thus, in some cases, the net effect of rapid

population growth would be a decline in per capita health

expenditure, with adverse impact on human-capital development.

     In terms of policy orientation, many Governments have integrated

family planning into their primary health-care systems.  Family

planning information and services are thus provided not only to

improve maternal and infant health and well-being but also to

influence the number and spacing of births.

  B. Education

     In the context of socio-economic development, Governments view

education, like health, as an investment of human-capital formation.

The quality and amounts of education provided largely determine the

skills and productivity of the labour force.  More importantly,

Governments see the educational level of the labour force as a major

determinant of a country's capability to utilize and develop new and

cost-effective technologies for the development of physical and

technical infrastructure.  They also see education as a key component

in strategies for reducing population growth rates.  Literate people,

they recognize, take better advantage of family planning, and

educated women tend to have fewer children.  Thus, providing

educational opportunities for women may not only promote greater

productivity, but may also help reduce population growth rates.

     President Soeharto of Indonesia stressed the impact of education

in his country (Soeharto, 1989): "One of the results of development,

namely the rising level of education, has had a substantial impact

on the decline of the population growth rate.  In general, wider and

higher education has broadened the community's horizon for further

advance and acceptance of new ideas and innovations, including a

perception of the future, the motivation to have only a small family,

responsibility towards children, marriage at a more mature age, and

so forth."

     Against this background, most Government development plans

include policies aimed at reducing illiteracy, increasing primary

enrolment, and developing a pool of scientific and technical talent

to achieve rapid technical progress in a number of fields. Many

Govern-ments, however, see rapid population growth as seriously

hindering their ability to attain these targets.  Many see

difficulties in maintaining current levels of their educational

systems; indeed, most actually foresee an overall deterioration.

     A typical reaction to the negative consequences of population

growth for education is that of the Government of Lesotho, which

projects its population will double in less than three decades:

     "The existing number of 171 secondary schools and 1,181 primary

     schools needs to be doubled simply to maintain current levels

     of educational facilities, but the resources needed for these

     will be enormous, which will be difficult to ensure under the

     prevailing economic situation.  At present in primary and

     secondary schools, student-teacher ratios are respectively 56:1

     and 26:1.  This situation is bound to deteriorate if needed

     resources to appoint more teachers and build more schools

     commensurate with the growing number of school-age population

     cannot be provided.  Whatever progress so far  achieved in the

     education sector cannot be sustained, rather it will

     deteriorate.  Per capita educational expenditure will be less

     and less, and thus, the quality of education cannot be ensured."

     (Government of Lesotho, 1992)

     Most Governments contend that primary education must necessarily

compete for resources with other priority sectors of the education

system, such as vocational and technical schools, education pro-

grammes for women, and adult literacy programmes.  Rapidly rising

primary school enrolment due to rapid population growth will pose

difficult choices in terms of priority and funding in the overall

education budget.  In many instances, resources that might have been

directed towards primary education are diverted to technical and

vocational education.  These decisions usually have adverse long-term

implications for the quality of primary education, ultimately leading

to a reduction in the quality of human capital and a further

exacerbation of income inequalities.

     To counter these detrimental effects on education, Governments

pursue population policies that focus on fertility declines through

family planning, together with mutually reinforcing programmes to

provide health care, adult literacy, and career opportunities for

women independent of child-bearing.

  C. Labour Force and Employment

     For most Governments, rising unemployment and widespread

underemployment have been seen as a major cause of poverty and

underdevelopment.  Thus, one of the key objectives of Government

plans is to generate a sufficient number of productive and

remunerative jobs.  India's Eighth Five-Year Plan expresses a common


     "The phenomenon of growing unemployment has of late emerged as

     a major problem and therefore the expansion of employment

     opportunities has to be the central objective of the planning

     effort. An accelerated expansion of employment opportunities is

     necessary both for poverty alleviation and the effective

     utilization of human resources for economic and social

     development of the country."  (Government of India, 1992)

     Governments generally share the view of the Philippines that

rapid population growth is further aggravating the problems of

unemployment (Government of the Philippines, 1992): "A continued

rapid population growth rate also means more people entering the

labour force, exerting even greater pressure on employment

generation, given the already large number of unemployed and

underemployed."  Some Governments foresee not only pressure on the

unemployment situation but also a concomitant rise in social and

political unrest, which in turn would make demands for non-productive

investment in security forces or in disguised unemployment


     In policy orientation, most Governments view a reduction in the

population growth rate through fertility reduction as a way of

alleviating the problem.  They are aware, however, that policies to

reduce population growth may not exert a significant short-term

impact on unemployment problems in the short run, since most of the

expected entrants into the labour force have already been born.

Nevertheless, in the long term, they see a decline in fertility as

having a positive impact on the employment situation.  This view has

been put forward by a number of Governments, including Kenya, Nigeria

and Thailand. Sierra Leone's National Population Policy Document

(Government of Sierra Leone, 1989) states, "A fall in fertility can

help to provide the future labour force entrants with better health,

nutrition, education and training, etc., and extra matching

productive investment to brighten the employment aspects."

     Many Governments (India, Nigeria and Thailand, for example) have

made projections of future employment prospects based on targets of

fertility declines.  The Nigerian Government offered this rationale

for its present population policy aimed at reducing the total

fertility rate:

     "With a decline in the total fertility rate to four children,

     the population over the same period of 20 years will be 80

     million less than when total fertility is placed between six and

     seven.  Given the present rate of our economic development via

     the ongoing Structural Adjustment Programme and with an average

     number of children by a family kept at four, full employment can

     be envisaged." (New Nigeria, 1992)

     In their attempt to lower fertility rates, Governments generally

pursue policies and programmes aimed at reducing mortality and

increasing life expectancy through integrated family planning and

primary health care.  Emphasis is usually placed on improving the

status of women through a combination of education, health and

employment programmes.  This tends to produce improvements in life

expectancy and the status of women, and reductions in mortality

(especially at the youngest ages), inducing lower fertility.  This

in turn impacts positively on employment through reductions in labour

supply and by improving the quality of the new entrants to the labour


     Many Governments note that a larger labour force can be an asset

if it is well trained, well educated and healthy and if it is

equipped with capital equipment and infrastructure.  However,

Governments of countries with continuing high population growth rates

see a large labour force as a liability.

  D. Income distribution

     Some Governments (for example, Botswana, India and Thailand)

have noted that rapid population growth exacerbates income


     In Thailand, the Government recognizes that declines in

fertility have helped to accelerate a more equitable distribution of

health, education and employment opportunities, all of which tend to

impact positively on income distribution.  In its Seventh National

Economic and Social Development Plan (1992-1996), the Government

outlined its income distribution targets by focusing on the poor and

disadvantaged groups, and noted that its ability to improve income

distribution by 1996 will depend largely on whether the population

growth rate can be reduced to 1.2 per cent by that year.  Fertility

is a major concern of Thailand's development policy.  To achieve

fertility reduction, Thailand has relied on a government-sponsored

and -implemented national family planning programme (Government of

Thailand, 1992).

     Botswana, with a very rapid population growth rate of over 3 per

cent per year, dealt with income distribution in its Seventh National

Development Plan (1991-1996).  The issue is to be addressed through

creating income-earning opportunities, in combination with a compre-

hensive population policy that calls for reducing the rate of

population growth and improving family planning and education

Government of Botswana, 1991, and UNFPA, 1992a).

  E. Savings

     Several Governments (for example, India, Namibia, the

Philippines, Turkey and Yemen) have expressed alarm over the

detrimental effects of rapid population growth on the generation of

savings for productive investment.  High fertility reduces the

ability of families to accumulate private savings that would finance

development efforts.  From a societal point of view, high fertility,

which usually means a high proportion of population under age 15,

leads to a diversion of resources from productive capital investments

to expansion of less-productive services such as health care and


     These perceptions were endorsed in India's Seventh Five-Year

Development Plan, which proposed a target net reproduction rate (NRR)

of 1 by the year 2001, together with policies aimed at reducing

mortality rates considerably in order to encourage the intended

decline in fertility (United Nations, 1992a).

     A similar view is contained in Yemen's National Population

Strategy 1990-2000: "At the national level, the growing numbers of

births burden the Government with increasing budgetary demands for

education, health, public housing and other essentials of life, and

thereby limit its ability to direct sufficient financial resources

to capital formation" (Government of Yemen, 1992).  The strategy

calls for choosing family planning policies and programmes that help

to reduce population growth rates to "safe" levels, using all

available resources and channels without explicit fertility targets.

IV.  Some Changing Perceptions

     This section focuses on countries where Governments have

hitherto viewed their population growth rates as satisfactory, and

considered population as an issue that could be dealt with through

social and economic changes. Recently, a combination of environmental

and socio-economic factors has led them to take a fresh look at rapid

pop-ulation growth and its implications for sustainable development.

Some countries have come to the view that population issues,

particularly population growth, may be addressed directly and should

not be viewed exclusively as a consequence of socio-economic policies

and changes.

     Tables 1 and 2 show the changes in perception over the period

1976-1991.  Below, some examples are given of changes in the views

of individual Governments (United Nations, 1992b and 1990a, and

UNFPA, 1991).

     Malawi: In its response to the Sixth Population Inquiry, the

Government emphasized the right of families to have as many children

as they wish.  Nevertheless, the Government acknowledged that rapid

population growth is making it increasingly difficult to provide

adequate social services, especially for the younger age groups.

There also are growing concerns about the detrimental impacts of

rapid population growth on food production, the availability of

arable land, literacy and employment.

     The Government does not have a specific population policy at

present.  However, it has been providing child-spacing services in

an effort to improve the health of mothers and children. The

Government is also using a variety of population education programmes

to inform its people of the implications of a rapidly growing

population for economic development (Marshall, A., 1989, and Republic

of Malawi, 1992, pp. 7-10 and p. 17).

     Zambia: The Government previously dismissed the importance of

population to development.  Recently, however, there has been a

change of perception regarding the role of population in the develop-

ment process (see box above), stemming from a growing realization

that Zambia's present population growth rate of about 3.8 per cent

per year would imply a doubling of its population in less than 20

years.  In light of this, the Government announced details of a

population policy as part of its Fourth National Development Plan.

The policy is comprehensive in response to nationally perceived

developmental problems.  It also calls for a reduction in total

fertility rate of about seven per woman to six by the year 2000 and

to four by 2015.

     Syrian Arab Republic: The Government has expressed concern about

the relatively young age structure of the country's population.  In

the past, it took the view that the population problem could be

solved through social and economic development.  However, the

pressure of population growth on social services has led to a gradual

change in perception regarding the role of population in the

development process.  Increasingly, policies aimed at influencing

population growth directly are considered a viable option (UNFPA,

1992c, and UNDP, 1990).

     Jordan: The Government is concerned about the age structure of

Jordan's population: about 40 per cent of the population is under age

15.  Although it has no official policy statement on population

growth, the Government is attempting to lower the population growth

rate by focusing on measures that would have an impact on fertility

and limit immigration.

     Congo: Although the official position of the Government is still

pro-natalist, the detrimental effects of rapid population growth on

overall economic development have become a major concern.

Specifically, concerns about the employment situation, the

availability of food and increased rural-urban migration are now

changing the Government's perception of its rapidly growing


     Recently, the Government began to draft a population policy

aimed at confronting rapid population growth on many fronts:

improving health services for mothers and children; improving women's

status by providing them with educational and employment

opportunities; and improving education, health and nutrition services

for the population as a whole.  In addition, a number of rural

development projects have been proposed to stem rural-urban migration

and environmental degradation (Government of the Congo, 1992, and

UNDP, 1991a).

     Bhutan: In its response to the Sixth Population Inquiry, the

Government reported that it viewed its population growth rate as too

low.  The number of people was seen to be relatively small in

relation to the country's development objectives.  The Government

foresaw population growth as helping to increase the labour supply,

thus reducing reliance on foreign workers.

     In the past three years, however, the Government's perception

of Bhutan's population growth rate has changed, as a result of the

increasing pressure of population growth on arable land and the

environment.  Although the population is sparse and small, its

density in terms of arable land is comparable to the most-populated

areas in South Asia.  Faced with an annual population growth rate of

about 2.3 per cent, the Government has recognized family planning as

a tool for reducing fertility and maternal and infant mortality

(UNFPA, 1992b).

V.   Concluding Remarks

     That rapid population growth puts enormous pressures on many

aspects of a nation's economy has been the common perception of

Governments of most developing countries. In policy orientation with

respect to population growth and economic development, Governments,

with few exceptions, share the view that a comprehensive population

policy must be integrated with development planning.

     Increasingly, many Governments are incorporating into their

population policies and programmes the key factors that determine

family size.  These include, women's role and status in society,

maternal and child health care, information about and access to

family planning services, family income, and education for women.

There is also a growing awareness that all these factors tend to be

mutually reinforcing if they are introduced simultaneously.

     Moreover, Governments of developing countries largely agree that

a reduction in family size can make a direct contribution to better

health, education and nutrition at both the household and national

levels.  They are aware that the benefits for economic development

derive not just from slower population growth itself, but from all

the factors associated with it.

     Governments of many developing countries are increasingly con-

cerned about the challenges rapid population growth poses for

sustained and sustainable development and prosperity in the coming

decades.  In the face of rapid population growth, many developing

countries are struggling to keep pace with the basic needs of their

people.  A large share of investment is required merely to maintain

the same level of capital investment per person.  The inability to

increase capital investment per person, in turn, impedes development

of human resources.

     The successes of some population programmes (e.g., in China,

Indonesia, Republic of Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, Singapore, Thailand

and Tunisia) in slowing national population growth rates have not

gone unnoticed.  Countries with slower population growth tend to have

higher savings and investment ratios and faster-growing per capita

income than countries with rapid population growth.  In addition,

several countries not only have managed to slow their population

growth rates, but in the process have also achieved improvements in

education, health and availability of female labour.  This has placed

them in a better position to attract foreign investment and to move

up the ladder of industrial development.

     In light of this, Governments of developing countries are

placing a high priority on addressing rapid population growth and its

interconnection with socio-economic development.  The successful

implementation of population programmes, however, will largely depend

on political commitment and the coordination of efforts between

government agencies and NGOs.

     Some developing countries with high population growth rates must

devote a large share of export earnings towards interest payments on

external debts.  In addition, many of these countries have

implemented Structural Adjustment Programmes.  Against this

background, these Governments are finding it increasingly difficult

to allocate resources for policy measures aimed at reducing

population growth rates.

     In general, many developing countries are aware that

developmental processes take time, but time is not on their side.

Many believe success will depend on action to reduce family size in

the very near future.  Finally, rapid urbanization and increasing

rural-urban migration, together with deforestation, soil erosion and

other ecological and environmental concerns, have also become a part

of the population-growth issue.  There is a growing recognition that

attention to population issues can help to achieve not only balanced

economic growth but also ecological balance.


Table 1:Perceptions and Interventions of Governments with Respect to

                           Population Growth


                                Third Population Inquiry,

                                  1976(111 countries)


Perception:             Africa                  Asia & Pacific

Growth too               Camercoon               Bhutan

low;                     C.A.R.                  Cambodia

Intervention             Cote d'Ivoire           Laos

to raise                 Eq. Guinea              DPR Korea

rate                     Gabon                   Mongolia

                         Libya                   Nauru

                        L. Am. & Carrib.        W. Asia

                         Argentina               Kuwait

                         Bahamas                 Oman

                         Paraguay                Qatar

                         Uruguay                 S. Arabia



                                                [Total: 21]


Perception:             Africa                  L. Am. & Carriib.

Growth                   Algeria                 Bolivia

satisfactory             Benin                   Brazil

                         Burkina Faso            Chile

                         Burundi                 Cuba

                         Cape Verde              Guyana

                         Chad                    Honduras

                         Ethiopia                Panama

                         Gambia                  Peru

                         Guinea                  Surinam

                         Mali                    Venezuela


                         Mauritania             Asia & Pacific

                         Niger                   Afghanisan

                         Rwanda                  Maldives

                         Sao Tome                Myanmar

                         Somalia                 Singapore


                         Tanzania               W. Asia

                         Togo                    Bahrain

                         Zaire                   Iraq

                         Zambia                  Jordan





                                                [Total: 42]


Perception:             Africa                   Guatemala

Growth too high;         Botswana                Haiti

Intervention             Comoros                 Jamaica

to lower rate            Egypt                   Mexico

                         Ghana                   Nicaragua

                         Kenya                   Trin. & Tob.


                         Liberia                Asia & Pacific

                         Mauritius               Bangladesh

                         Madagascar              China

                         Morocco                 Fiji

                         Senegal                 India

                         Seychelles              Indonesia

                         Sierra Leone            Iran

                         Swaziland               Rep. of Korea

                         Tunisia                 Malaysia

                         Uganda                  Nepal


                        L. Am. & Carrib.         Papua N.G.

                         Barbados                Philippines

                         Colombia                Sri Lanka

                         Costa rica              Thailand

                         Dominican Rep.          Tonga

                         Ecuador                 Viet Nam

                         El Salvador             W. Samoa



                                                [Total 46]


Other perceptions       Africa

and/or                   Congo

intervention             Guinea-Bissau


                                                [Total 2]



                                Sixth Population Inquiry

                                   1988(129 countries)


Perception:             Africa                   Loas

Growth too               Eq. Guinea              DPR Korea

low;                     Gabon                   Nauru


to raise rate           L. Am. & Carrib.        W. Asia

                         Uruguay                 Iraq


                        Asia & Pacific           Qatar

                         Cambodia                S. Arabia


                                                [Total: 11]


Perception:             Africa                   Colombia

Growth                   Angola                  Cuba

satisfactory             Benin                   Guatemala

                         Burkina Faso            Guyana

                         Chad                    Panama

                         Djibouti                Paraguay

                         Guinea                  Suriname

                         Libya                   Venezuela


                         Mauritania             Asia & Pacific

                         Mauritius               Brunei

                         Namibia                 Fiji

                         Sao Tome                Maldives

                         Somalia                 Myanmar

                         Sudan                   Vanuatu


                         Zaire                  W. Asia


                        L. Am. & Carrib.         Kuwait

                         Antigua                 Lebanon

                         Bahamas                 Syrian

                         Belize                  Yemen




                                                [Total: 39]


Perception:             Africa                   Haiti

Growth too high;         Algeria                 Honduras

Intervention             Botswana                Jamaica

to lower rate            Burundi                 Mexico

                         Cameroon                Nicaragua

                         Cape Verde              Peru

                         Comoros                 Saint Kitts

                         Egypt                   Saint Lucia

                         Gambia                  Saint Vincent

                         Ghana                   Trin. & Tob.


                         Kenya                  Asia & Pacific

                         Lesotho                 Bangladesh

                         Liberia                 China

                         Madagascar              India

                         Morocco                 Indonesia

                         Niger                   Iran

                         Nigeria                 Kiribati

                         Rwanda                  Rep. of Korea

                         Senegal                 Marshall Is.

                         Seychelles              Micronesia

                         Swaziland               Mongolia

                         Tunisia                 Nepal

                         Uganda                  Pakistan

                         Zambia                  Philippines

                         Zimbabwe                Samoa

                                                 Solomon Is.

                        L. Am. & Carrib.         Sri Lanka

                         Barbados                Thailand

                         Costa Rica              Tonga

                         Dominica                Tuvalu

                         Dom. Rep.               Viet Nam


                         El Salvador



                                                [Total: 62]


Other perceptions       Africa                  Asia & Pacific

and/or                   C.A.R.                  Afghanistan

intervention             Congo                   Bhutan

                         Cote d'Ivoire           Malaysia

                         Ethiopia                Papua N.G.

                         Malawi                  Singapore


                         Sierra Leone           W. Asia

                         Tanzania                Jordan


                        L. Am. & Carrib.




                                                [Total: 17]


Table 2: Perceptions and Interventions of Governments with Respect

                        to Fertility Levels


                                Third Population Inquiry

                                   1976(112 countries)


Perception:             Africa                   Uruguay

Fertility too            Gabon

low; Intervention        Libya                  Asia & Pacific

to raise rate                                    Cambodia

                        L. Am. & Carrib.



                                                [Total: 5]


Perception:             Africa                   Bolivia

Fertility                Algeria                 Cuba

satisfactory             Benin                   Guyana

                         Burkina Faso            Paraguay

                         Cape Verde              Peru

                         Chad                    Surinam

                         Congo                   Venezuela

                         Cote d'Ivoire          Asia Pacific

                         Ethiopia                Bhutan

                         Gambia                  Laos

                         Guinea                  DPR Korea

                         Guinea-Bissau           Maldives

                         Mali                    Mongolia

                         Malawi                  Myanmar

                         Mauritania              Nauru

                         Mozambique              Singapore


                         Nigeria                W. Asia

                         Sao Tome                Iraq

                         Somalia                 Kuwait

                         Sudan                   Lebanon

                         Tanzania                Oman

                         Togo                    Qatar

                         Zaire                   S. Arabia

                         Zambia                  Syria


                        L. Am. & Carrib.         Yemen




                                                [Total: 51]


Perception:             Africa                   Papua N.G.

Fertility too            Botswana                Phlippines

high;                    Egypt                   Nepal

Intervention             Ghana                   Sri Lanka

to lower rate            Kenya                   Thailand

                         Lesotho                 Tonga

                         Mauritius               Viet Nam

                         Morocco                 W. Samoa





                        L. Am. & Carrib.



                         Dominican Rep.

                         El Salvador






                         Trin. & Tob.

                        Asia & Pacific







                         Rep. of Korea




                                                [Total: 38]


Other perceptions       Africa                   Ecuador

and/or                   C.A.R.                  Guatemala

interventions            Cameroon                Nicaragua

                         Comoros                 Panama

                         Eq. Guinea

                         Liberia                Asia Pacific

                         Madagascar              Afghanistan


                         Senegal                W. Asia

                         Sierra Leone            Bahrain


                        L. Am. & Carrib.


                         Costa Rica


                                                [Total: 38]


Other Perceptions       Africa                   Ecuador

and/or                   C.A.R.                  Guatemala

interventions            Cameroon                Nicaragua

                         Eq. Guinea              Panama


                         Madagascar             Asia & Pacific

                         Rwanda                  Afghanistan


                         Sierra Leone           W. Asia


                        L. Am. & Carrib.         Jordan


                         costa Rica


                                                [Total: 18]



                                Sixth Population Inquiry

                                   1988 (129 countries)


Perception:             Africa

Fertility too low;       Eq. Guinea

Intervention             Gabon

to raise rate


                                                [Total: 2]


Perception:             Africa                  Asia & Pacific

Fertility                Benin                   Bhutan

satisfactory             Chad                    Brunei

                         Djibouti                DPR Korea

                         Libya                   Laos

                         Mali                    Maldives

                         Mauritania              Myanmar

                         Namibia                 Nauru

                         Sao Tome                Vanuatu


                         Sudan                  W Asia

                         Togo                    Bahrain

                         Zaire                   Lebanon


                        L. Am. & Carrib.         Qatar

                         Antigua                 S. Arabia

                         Argentina               Syria

                         Bahamas                 U.A.R.












                                                [Total: 41]


Perception:             Africa                   Haiti

Fertility too            Algeria                 Honduras

high;                    Angola                  Jamaica

Intervention             Botswana                Mexico

to lower rate            Burkina Faso            Nicaragua

                         Burundi                 Peru

                         Cameroon                Saint Kitts

                         Cape Verde              Saint Vincent

                         Comoros                 Trin. & Tob.


                         Gambia                 Asia & Pacific

                         Ghana                   Bangladesh

                         Guinea-Bissau           China

                         Kenya                   Fiji

                         Lesotho                 India

                         Liberia                 Indonesia

                         Madagascar              Iran

                         Morocco                 Kiribati

                         Niger                   Malaysia

                         Nigeria                 Marshall Is.

                         Rwanda                  Micronesia

                         Senegal                 Mongolia

                         Seychelles              Pakistan

                         Swaziland               Philippines

                         Tunisia                 Nepal

                         Uganda                  Samoa

                         Zambia                  Solomon Is.

                         Zimbabwe                Sri Lanka


                        L. Am. & Carrib.         Tonga

                         Costa Rica              Tuvalu

                         Dominica                Viet Nam

                         Dominican Rep.

                         Ecuador                W. Asia

                         El Salvador             Jordan

                         Grenada                 Yemen



                                                [Total: 66]


Other perceptions       Africa                   Saint Lucia

and/or                   C.A.R.                  Uruguay

intervention             Congo

                         Cote d'Ivoire          Asia & Pacific

                         Ethiopia                Afghanistan

                         Guinea                  Cambodia

                         Malawi                  Rep. of Korea

                         Mozambique              Papua N.G.

                         Sierra Leone            Singapore


                                                W. Asia

                        L. Am. & Carrib.         Iraq

                         Bolivia                 Kuwait



                                                [Total: 20]


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