Data back through the 17th century suggests a positive correlation between population growth and economic growth. However, if the population grows faster than the economy, you should be concerned.
We are living in an era of unprecedented population growth. Since the middle of the twentieth century, the world’s population has more than tripled in size, reaching almost eight billion people in 2022. Projections by the United Nations suggest that the size of the global population could grow to almost 11 billion by around 2100. However, the pace of global growth has slowed considerably since around 1970, and the world’s population is expected to stabilize by the end of the century.
The unprecedented growth of the global population which has occurred since 1950 is a result of two trends: one is the gradual increase in average human longevity due to widespread improvements in public health, nutrition, personal hygiene and medicine, and the other is the persistence of high levels of fertility in many countries.
The world’s poorest countries, especially those in sub-Saharan Africa have some of the fastest-growing populations and are projected almost to double in size between 2020 and 2050, accounting for most of the global increase expected by the end of the century.
Sustained, rapid population growth adds to the challenge of achieving social and economic development and magnifies the scale of the investments and effort required to ensure that no one is left behind. It also makes it more difficult for these countries to afford the increase in public expenditures on a per capita basis that is needed to eradicate poverty, end hunger and malnutrition, and ensure universal access to health care, education and other essential services.
Population growth amplifies such pressure on the country’s revenue by adding to total economic demand. This will make it difficult for the government to cater to everyone, which will lead to claims of marginalization, lesser people having access to basic tools of development which in turn will lead to more out-of-school children, vices and what it brings with it. All these are being witnessed in countries whose economic growth do not measure up to their population growth.
Moving the global economy towards greater sustainability will require a progressive decoupling of the growth in population and in economic activity from a further intensification of resource extraction, waste generation and environmental damage.
If this is happening in your country, then you should be concerned. If you’re concerned, these are things that can be done.
Give autonomy and opportunity to women and girls education and knowledge on reproductive health, education and gender equality. This will empower them to make informed choices and contribute to achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Having a youthful population presents an opportunity for accelerated economic growth on a per capita basis, if countries where the population is growing rapidly achieve a substantial and sustained decline in the fertility level, it will lead to an increased concentration of the population in the working-age range. The increased share of the population of the working ages can support an accelerated rise in income per capita, a phenomenon referred to as the “demographic dividend”.
Investments in education and health and the promotion of full and productive employment for all, including women, can greatly expand the positive economic impact of a favourable age structure created by a sustained decline in fertility.
Achieving sustainability, therefore, will depend critically on humanity’s capacity and willingness to increase resource efficiency in consumption and production and to decouple economic growth from damage to the environment, with high-income and upper-middle-income countries taking responsibility and leading by example.
It begins with speaking up, participating in governance and policy-making as well as holding power accountable.
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