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Finance Dev. 1984 Sep;21(3):10-5.

Population growth. Its magnitude and implications for development.



A summary of the 1984 World Development Report is provided. The 3 major points stressed in the report were: 1) rapid population growth adversely affects development, 2) governments must adopt policies to reduce fertility, and 3) policies adopted by many countries have effectively reduced fertility. World population growth began accelerating at 0.5%/year in the 18th century, and by 1950 the annual acceleration rate was 2%. Most of the increase in population size is occurring in less developed countries, and this increase is due in part to the recent decline in mortality experienced by these countries. Of the 80 million individuals who will be added to the world's population in 1984, 70 million will be in the developing countries. Since 1965 the population growth rate for developing countries as a group declined from 2.4% to 2%. However, because of the high proportion of younger aged individuals in developing countries, the decline in fertility is expected to level off. According to World Bank population projections, the world population will stabilize at around 11 billion in 2150. During the interium, the population of developing countries will increase from its present level of 3.6 billion to 8.4 billion, and the population of developed countries will increase from 1.2 billion to 1.4 billion. These projections are probably overly optimistic. The adverse impact on development of rapid population growth is due to several factors. 1st, resources which could be used for investment must instead be used to fulfill the consumption needs of an increased number of people. 2nd, increases in the labor force must be absorbed by the agricultural sector, and this reduces agricultural productivity. 3rd, rapid population growth increases management problems. The adaption of policies by governments to reduce fertility is a necessary step in halting population growth. For poor families, children provide economic security. Therefore, governments must act to improve the economic conditions for poor families if they hope to reduce population growth. Education and job opportunities must be expanded and social security provided for the elderly. In the past it was assumed that fertility would only decline when urbanization, industrialization, and income reached a certain level. It is now known that appropriate policies can effectively reduce fertility even in the absence of economic advancement. Fertility declines are more closely related to increases in literacy and life expectancy than to increases in the gross national product. Family planning programs in China, Colombia, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Korea, Sri Lanka, and Tunisia have reduced fertility far below the level normally associated with the income levels prevailing in those countries.

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