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Course: Population Education-II (6574)
Q.1 Explain different constraints in population planning.
Proclaiming the end of the population explosion is premature. Likewise, it is mistaken to conclude from aggregate trends and projections that population growth is no longer a serious problem anywhere in the world or that family planning programs are no longer needed. There are several reasons why:
- Fertility rates are still high in many developing nations.Most of the world’s population growth occurs in poor, developing nations, which are least able to support rapid population growth and whose socioeconomic development is most likely to be hindered by high fertility. In most of these nations, fertility rates remain high. Sub-Saharan Africa in particular has experienced less change than Asia or Latin America: Its total fertility rate is 6.0, notwithstanding a downtrend in a few countries such as Kenya, Zimbabwe, Ghana, and Zambia. In Nigeria, the continent’s most populous nation, the average woman will give birth to 6.5 children in her lifetime.
- Population momentum is strong and will produce large population increases over the next 25 to 50 years.The total population continues to grow for some time after fertility stabilizes at replacement level, or the number of births required for couples to replace themselves, which is 2.1 births per woman. This phenomenon, known as “population momentum,” occurs when a large share of the population is young. If a large proportion of women are in their childbearing years, the total number of births can remain the same or even increase although the rate of childbearing per woman falls. Momentum is a powerful demographic force and will account for about half of the world’s population growth over the next 100 years (see Figure 2).
- A sizable population group is about to reach childbearing age.By the year 2000, nearly half a billion women—mostly in developing countries—will be in their young adult years, age 15 to 24. This means that more women will be of childbearing age than at any other time in history. This number will increase before it gets smaller. If women delay childbirth and increase spacing between their children, however, the resulting rate of population growth will be much lower.
The populations of developing countries are much younger on average and have a much greater proportion of their population in the reproductive years than those in industrial countries (see Figure 3). Even if couples in this age group have only two children each, for a number of decades births will outnumber deaths among the relatively small number of older people, and the population will continue to grow.
- A weakening of family planning programs could slow further fertility declines.Declining global fertility is in large measure a testimony to the success of family planning and related efforts to improve the education of women. Most projections of future fertility decline assume the continuation of these programs. These declines could slow if support for these programs is not maintained.
- There is a widespread preference in developing countries for smaller families.High fertility runs counter to the preferences of over 100 million women in developing countries, who would prefer to limit family size or increase spacing between births. This gap between stated preference and actual behavior is a measure of what demographers label the “unmet need for contraception.” This concept refers to the attitude of women who want no more children or want to delay their next pregnancy but face barriers to the use of contraception. The two barriers women most commonly cite are (1) lack of knowledge about contraceptive methods and availability and (2) concern about health effects. By increasing access to contraception and to a wider variety of methods as well as promoting wider knowledge about proper contraceptive use and low health risks, family planning programs have helped address these barriers. Reducing unmet need can also help to reduce the number of unintended pregnancies. Since these pregnancies are more likely to end in abortion, they increase health risks for women.
- Even in some countries where fertility is low, increased access to contraception is needed to reduce the heavy reliance on abortion.The fertility rate in Russia, for example, is currently about 1.2 children per woman. One way that Russian women achieve such a low fertility rate is by having one of the highest rates of abortion in the world. Russian women have an average of 2.5 abortions in their lifetime, a figure that has actually dropped from 4.5 in the last 20 years.
Increased access to contraception can help reduce the costly and often risky reliance on abortion by preventing unintended pregnancies, which have a higher likelihood of ending in abortion. For instance, 30-year trend data from Hungary show that abortion declined with increased contraceptive use, as do data from other settings, such as South Korea. Evidence from Russia and Kazakhstan also shows declines in abortion in the 1990s as contraceptive services have expanded. A more recent study from Bangladesh that compared two districts’ experiences with family planning showed that the one with a more effective family planning program also had a lower rate of abortion.
Family planning programs, which offer a range of contraceptive choices to couples, have led to sharp increases in the use of contraceptives in the developing world. This trend in turn has had a marked effect on fertility rates since the mid-1960s. Controlling for economic growth, which tends to reduce fertility in and of itself, it has been estimated that family planning programs have been responsible for approximately 43 percent of the decline in world fertility during the period 1965–1990. Moreover, effective family planning and economic growth together have a synergistic effect in helping to raise contraceptive prevalence and reduce fertility.
Granted, the success of family planning programs has not been uniform in all locales. It has depended on several factors, including strong political support, well-designed and implemented programs, the availability of quality services and a wide range of methods, flexibility and responsiveness in adapting to local conditions, and adequate funding sources. There are success stories on all continents and in all cultural settings. Much has been learned, in good part through research supported by the U.S. government, about how to design and operate successful programs, even in what would appear to be unfavorable social and cultural environments.
Reduced Risk of Maternal Mortality. Family planning can reduce the risk of mortality associated with childbirth. Death in childbirth is almost 20 times as likely for each birth in developing countries as in developed countries. Many successive pregnancies magnify this risk. At the total fertility rate in sub-Saharan Africa of about 6.0 children, the average woman has a 1 in 18 lifetime risk of dying in childbirth. Reducing fertility by half would also reduce this risk by about half.
Effective use of contraception can also reduce maternal mortality by enabling women to delay first births until age 20 or later, space births at least two years apart, and reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies that might otherwise end in abortion. Studies in Canada and Scandinavia showed that access to contraception, combined with effective sex education, decreased pregnancies and abortions among young women. Where safe abortions are not available, effective family planning is even more important as a means of reducing mortality associated with unwanted births.
Improved Health for Children. Lower fertility also produces healthier children. Closely spaced children (less than two years apart), children with many siblings, and children born to younger and older mothers are all more common at higher levels of fertility, and all face higher mortality risks. For example, data show that children born less than two years apart are twice as likely to die in the first year of life as those born after an interval of at least two years. Furthermore, closely spaced pregnancies are more likely to result in low-birthweight babies. Finally, close spacing also interferes with breast-feeding, which has a vital role in child nutrition and in building the child’s resistance against infectious disease. Family planning can help women achieve optimum spacing between births.
Improved Life Options for Women. Allowing women more control over their fertility can enhance their status and choices in settings where educational and economic opportunities are expanding. High levels of fertility generally mean that women become pregnant in their teen years. In some developing countries, this pattern of early pregnancy is associated with more than a quarter of female school dropouts, beginning as early as primary school. Furthermore, over their lifetimes, women in these countries may spend the equivalent of 6 continuous years being pregnant and 23 years caring for children younger than six years old.
Easing the Burden on Schools. Reducing the proportion of school-age children reduces the burden on schools. Reducing child dependency also allows families and nations to invest more in education, improving the quality of the future labor force. During the period between 1970 and 1990, fertility levels in South Korea fell from over four children per family to less than two. At the same time, net secondary enrollment increased from 38 percent to 84 percent, while per pupil expenditures more than tripled.
Reduced Pressures on the Environment and Public Services. Lower fertility can also reduce pressures on the environment and provide a grace period for dealing with other kinds of pressures, such as the needs for housing and employment, for public services such as health care, and for managing typically limited resources such as water.