This page features other countries and what has happened in the way of population growth in them. Some stories are heartening, others less so. Roger Plenty, Nailsworth
Africa: family planning myths hurting service delivery. This article discusses the efforts to counter misinformation, much of it deliberately spread.
Bangladesh. ‘The benefits of family planning can be seen clearly in controlled and “natural” experiments. One of the most compelling controlled experiments demonstrating the benefits of family planning is the landmark project undertaken by the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (icddr,b) in the Matlab district of Bangladesh. The Matlab population of 173,000 people was divided into two areas: an experimental area, where access to high-quality family planning services was greatly expanded to include home visits, a wide array of contraceptive choices, and follow-up care; and a control area, which received the standard set of less-intensive services that were available country-wide. Population Council research showed that the impact in the experimental area was large and immediate: contraceptive use increased markedly, fertility declined rapidly, and women’s health, household earnings, and use of preventive health care improved. Children living in households that received family planning outreach were more likely to survive to the age of five and to attend school than were children from households that did not participate’ (part of an article ‘Family Planning- a Key to Prosperity’)
Brazil. Brazil is another success story. Fertility has fallen from six children to 1.9 since the 1960s. Eighty per cent of women of reproductive age use some form of contraception. This is associated with high levels of literacy, and the influence of novellas on television (probably from Population Media Center, which is active in Brazil).
China. China is notorious because of its single child policy, dating from 1980. In 2007, this applied to 36% of the population, various minorities being excepted. According to the Chinese government, 400 million births were prevented, but this claim has been challenged: “…three-quarters of the decline in fertility since 1970 occurred before the launching of the one-child policy; and most of the further decline in fertility since 1980 can be attributed to economic development” . It is pointed out that similar declines in fertility have been achieved in other countries without the coercion associated with the one-child policy, for example in Bangladesh and Iran (qv above). Whatever the cause, however, growth in China has reduced, and is now about 0.47% (still above replacement levels). One consequence of China’s policy and its notoriety is that that many people associate population action with coercion.
An issue arising is that China, which was able to export a surplus of 10 million tons of grain in 2006, was importing 22 million tons by 2014. This compares with Australia’s annual wheat harvest of 24 million tons. China is therefore facing an increasing challenge of feeding itself. This is compounded by a looming water crisis, with the water table in the North China Plain dropping over 10 feet a year.
Europe. Most of Europe has a fertility close to replacement. This has resulted in an increase of the median age, which is an inevitable consequence of reduction of fertility, especially when accompanied by an increase in life expectancy. As may be expected, this has resulted in some anxieties about the support of the elderly and the cost of pensions, reduction of the workforce etc. Consequently it is difficult to find articles that don’t bewail the drop of fertility.
This Wikipedia article, ‘Ageing of Europe’, concentrates on the consequences of Europe’s increased life expectancy and diminishing fertility. The article typically sees the decline of fertility as something that needs to be reversed It deals with several countries separately, from Germany’s very low fertility of 1.42 to France’s fertility of 2.03. However, the point is made that (in the discussion of Belgium’s position, ‘The decline in the workforce will partly compensate by lowering unemployment which in turn lower the cost of childcare’.
This Wikipedia article, ‘List of European countries by population growth rate’, is useful, and shows that the overall growth of population in Europe is 0.25%, and has a useful map showing population change in European countries. UK’s growth is higher than that, at 0.25% pa.
This article from The Guardian is a case in point: ‘Europe needs many more babies to avert a population disaster’. It makes points about support of the elderly strongly, but does not, in my view, tell the whole story. It very much takes the economists’ line, that growth is an end in itself. I include it, though, partly because it is informative about the situation in parts of Europe, and partly because it makes the kind of points that we have to counter. Many of the readers’ comments disagree with it: typically one says, it is ‘yet another article attempting to induce panic about so-called “low birth rates” that doesn’t mention climate change or resource depletion.’
The issue is complicated by migration, of course, but although migration may alter the numbers and rate of growth in the countries immediately affected, it does not affect world totals.
Links: Ageing of Europe, http://tinyurl.com/z5chw3w
List of countries by population growth rate, http://tinyurl.com/zvra6wr
Guardian: ‘Europe needs more babies’, http://tinyurl.com/gu9bd2q
India. India has had rather mixed success with family planning. In the 1970s, Indira Ghandi implemented a forced sterilisation programme, the reaction to which created aversion to family planning. This has hampered Government programmes for decades.
Fertility has nevertheless declined slowly, from 5.7 in 1966 it has dropped to 2.7 in 2009. Fertility levels vary widely across the country, as shown by this map, some states having less than replacement fertility
Iran. Iran’s population was growing at more than 3% per year up to 1986, doubling between 1966 and 1986, but in the early 1990s the government instigated a major programme of family planning, realising the costs of population rise would far exceed their capacity to provide food, education, housing and employment. The Government declared that Islam favoured families with only two children. Iran’s Health Ministry launched a campaign to introduce the whole range of contraceptives including vasectomies. Between 1986 and 2001 the growth rate dropped from 3.2% to 1.2%. However, this policy was reversed by Ahmajinedad in 2012, making vasectomies and tubectomies criminal offences.
Ireland, Northern. The big issue with Northern Island as far as reproductive rights go is abortion. It is the only part of the United Kingdom with a complete ban on abortion except only where the woman’s life is at risk or there is a threat to her mental or physical health.
The referendum in the Republic has led to calls for NI to adopt the same standards, especially as a survey has shown that a majority favour a change in the law. The problem is that Theresa May’s administration depends on the support of 10 DUP MPs, who strongly oppose the move to reform the law. NI is supposed to have devolved government, and May does not act, saying that this is a matter for the NI government: however NI has not had an effective government since the collapse of power sharing in NI. NI has amongst the most restrictive laws on abortion in Europe: about three women a day come to UK to receive abortions. It’s ironic that they may soon be able to get an abortion in the Republic
Links: Huffington Post: https://tinyurl.com/yb4zw2a6
Guardian article ‘Now give us the right to abortion’: https://tinyurl.com/ya8nn5sz
Ireland, Republic of. The Republic was from the beginning heavily under the influence of the Catholic Church, and followed the Church’s teaching on matters concerning reproduction and families. Contraception was therefore illegal until 1980, when it was legalised with strong restrictions. Subsequent legislation has made contraception more available, formerly only by prescription by a doctor, but now contraception is readily available, including ‘morning after’ medication.
Abortion is currently illegal but is in process of reform after a referendum was passed replacing a provision in the Constitution of Ireland, which gave equal value to the life of the unborn foetus to that of its mother, with one permitting the Irish Parliament to legislate for the termination of pregnancies. Here again acceptance has been gradual, with legislation allowing exception in extreme cases such as when the pregnancy was a danger to the life of the mother, but the probable spur that drove the overwhelming support for change was the death of Savita Halappanavar in 2012, who had been deprived an abortion while suffering a septic miscarriage, contrary to the law at that time which permitted abortion in cases where the mother’s health was at risk
The change of attitude in Ireland is undoubtedly linked to the weakening of the authority of the Church resulting from sexual abuse scandals and the cruelties of the Magdalene Laundries.
Abortion referendum: https://tinyurl.com/ydgzxhjw
Contraception in the Republic of Ireland https://tinyurl.com/y7nsy9ey
Current availability of contraceptives https://tinyurl.com/y8yxjd9y
Malawi. The first article reports a visit to a maternity wing in Mzimba, north Malawi, and reveals rampant overcrowding. The writer reports the district commissioner lamenting that local population growth is becoming ‘terrifyingly perturbing’. Fertility remains elevated at about 4,9: annual population growth is over 500,000 and the growth rate is 3% With this in mind, we can commend Chief Inkosi ya Makosi M’belwa of Mzimba, who in late December ( http://tinyurl.com/zwj4ahh ) urged his subjects “to slow down on child bearing”. The chief also noted at that time, “We’re bearing too many children. We’re growing at an alarming rate, and yet the size of our land is the same.” The youthful traditional leader encouraged those planning to marry to have “a maximum of two children.” http://tinyurl.com/zl57ovb
The second article deals with the crisis of forest destruction for charcoal, and the resulting failure of water supply to the capital, Lilongwe. http://tinyurl.com/htqh8mk
Niger ‘Niger is, by the reckoning of the UN’s Human Development Index, the poorest place on earth. Most of its inhabitants eke out a living growing subsistence crops on small plots of dusty, infertile land. Despite this agricultural bias, the drought-stricken country cannot feed itself, even in good years. An estimated 2.5m people out of a total of 17m have no secure source of food. When harvests fail, which they do almost annually, that number shoots up. In 2012, when the worst of the recent food crises ravaged the Sahel region, almost a quarter of Niger’s population was said to be going hungry, prompting desperate relief campaigns by international donors. This perpetual food crisis is compounded by doggedly high fertility rates. With an average of 7.6 children per woman, Niger has the world’s highest rates.’ from an article in ‘The Economist’, Aug 16, 2014
Nigeria. According to the United Nations, Nigeria has been undergoing explosive population growth and has one of the highest growth and fertility rates in the world. By their projections, Nigeria is one of eight countries expected to account collectively for half of the world’s total population increase from 2005–2050. By 2100 the UN estimates that the Nigerian population will be between 505 million and 1.03 billion people (middle estimate: 730 million). In 1950, Nigeria had only 33 million people.
One in four Africans is a Nigerian. Presently, Nigeria is the seventh most populous country in the world. 2006 estimates claim 42.3% of the population is between 0–14 years of age, while 54.6% is between 15–65; the birth rate is significantly higher than the death rate, at 40.4 and 16.9 per 1000 people respectively.
Nigeria’s largest city is Lagos. Lagos has grown from about 300,000 in 1950 to an estimated 15 million today, and the Nigerian government estimates that city will have expanded to 25 million residents by 2015. (from Wikipedia article, probably written in 2012)
This article, headed ‘Basic Infrastructures can no longer support Nigeria’s population’, is from the Nigerian ‘Daily Post’, and is by Ikenna Asomba.
This article, by Akin Mabogunje, a Nigerian geographer, is entitled ‘Nigeria must take Family Planning Serious’ (sic). It appeared in ‘AllAfrica’.
Another article, originally from the Nigerian national newspaper ‘This Day’, discusses uncontrolled population growth: this is an extract. ‘If the recently released world population figures are anything to go by, Nigeria has a lot to worry about. By all projections, the population of our country is estimated to hit 200 million in the next three years, from an estimated 178.5 million as at July last year. Currently, Nigeria ranks 7th in the list of countries by population with a density of 193 persons per kilometre while 51 per cent of that population is urban and the median age is 17.8 years. According to the United Nations in its new population prediction, by the year 2050, three of the 10 most populous countries in the world will be in Africa.’
On the other hand, this article from Population Media Center, headed ‘Mother with a Big Heart: Newest Nigerian Chief works for empowerment in villages’ is heartening
Links: http://tinyurl.com/j2cowpb on ‘Basic Infrastructure’,
http://tinyurl.com/zmjcom6 on ‘Why Nigeria must take Family Planning Serious’, and
http://tinyurl.com/htb5rdn on ‘uncontrolled population growth’
http://tinyurl.com/zuj57mz on Mother with a big heart
Northern Ireland. See Ireland, Northern
Philippines The Philippines have long suffered from determined resistance of the Church to family planning. Pope Francis’ recent remark to the effect that ‘people should practice responsible parenthood, rather than breeding like rabbits’, was followed by the less reported observation that no outside institution should impose it views about regulating family size on the developing world. “Every people” he insisted, should be able to maintain its identity without being “ideologically colonised”. The irony of this is that in the Philippines it is precisely the Church that has been the ideological coloniser. It is the Church, after all, that has vigorously sought to impose its opposition to contraception on the population.
Meanwhile, surveys show that most Filipinos favour making contraception available: not surprising, considering the unreliability of the church-approved methods of birth control. It is hard to believe that had the Philippines been colonized by the British, rather than by Spain, the use of contraception would have been an issue there today.
In spite of the passing of a Reproductive Health law in 2012, the Supreme Court is still obstructing the use and distribution of contraceptives. The population of these overcrowded islands are still increasing at over 1.8 million annually. This is “a major stumbling block for the government to reduce maternal and newborn deaths in the country, decrease poverty, and uplift the lives of Filipinos by providing information and access on the full range of modern family planning methods.”
Republic of Ireland. See Ireland, Republic of
The Sahel. This is a region rather than a country. It is the zone of transition between the Sahara to the north and the Sudanian Savannah to the south, incorporating parts of several countries from Senegal in the west and Ethiopia in the East. The country is semi arid, and has been subject to extreme droughts
UN demographers predict that by 2100 the Sahel’s population will grow from 125 million to 650 million, this increase being 25% greater than the current population of the EU, whereas the IPCC project that the region’s temperature will rise between 4.5 and 6.5 degrees, making it virtually uninhabitable.
A recent article marks the awareness of the governments of the Sahel of the dangers of population growth. An article in the Bangladesh News reveals how Bangladesh, with its successful population policies, has hosted a week-long international conference titled ‘Sahel-Bangladesh Knowledge Exchange on Population Policy and Reproductive Health’: participants include several Sahel countries (Mali, Niger, Mauritania, Cote d’Ivore and Chad). The objective is to learn about Bangladesh population and reproductive health policies. In his opening remarks, Qimio Fan, World Bank Country Director for Bangladesh said that Bangladesh is successful because they put women at the centre of the agenda for development, including addressing family planning and population challenges.
The following is from another article, ‘Climate change: Time to think “Family Planning”
“The Sahel is that part of North Africa including parts of Chad, Burkina Faso, Eritrea, the Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal and Sudan and it is “among the most chronically vulnerable regions in the world due to many factors, including poverty, population growth, and the variable climate.” It is a region where all the issues in this paper come together to cause a perfect storm. This arid region is particularly vulnerable to climate change, having suffered numerous severe droughts and low rainfall over recent years. These impacts have in turn led to declining agricultural production, and related knock-on effects on food security. As populations grow, due in part to a lack of access to family planning, environmental pressures increase and so does the need to migrate to safety. Government instability in Sahel countries hampers responding to all of these interrelated challenges. The fertility rate in the Sahel is around 5. Few parts of the world are in greater need of the demographic dividend, many countries suffer from extreme levels of human rights abuse and much of the Sahel suffers from weak health infrastructure. These issues are summarised in a recent publication stating, “Four of the 10 countries with the highest total fertility rates in the world are in the [Sahel]. Contraceptive use by married women is extremely low—for example, less than 2% of married women in Chad use contraception. Continuing this trajectory of high fertility and low contraceptive use will severely undermine these countries’ abilities to respond to social sector needs. […] In Niger, population growth is 4% annually and will double in just 20 years. ‘‘This growth will require a massive investment in schools, health clinics, and job creation for youth,’’ with additional investment also needed in agriculture and livestock systems to ensure food security.” This combination of climate change, unmet family planning need, population growth, political instability and food insecurity has the potential to manifest in a catastrophic humanitarian disaster. Investing in family planning must be one of the elements of a package of actions to enhance resilience in the region.”
This report , ‘Crisis in the Sahel’, is longer than you would probably wish to read, but there is a good executive summary at the beginning
San Salvidor. San Salvidor has the most severe law on abortion in the world. Any woman who has the misfortune to have a miscarriage is likely to be charged with abortion, and may serve a sentence of many years. According to this article in The Guardian, the Church is complicit in this. Doctors who attend a miscarriage are liable to similar punishment if they fail to report it.
Thailand. This is a success story. Due to a comparatively relaxed attitude of Thais, and the fact of greater equality between the sexes than in most developing countries, and to the efforts of one man, Mechai Viravaidya, the average number of children in Thai families has fallen from 7 to 1.5. Co-operative partnerships, innovative marketing, and a sense of fun have helped Thailand defuse the population bomb.
Mechai Viravaidya, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mechai_Viravaidya
Uganda. In spite of a population policy, lack of funding is crippling family planning in Uganda. This article, (link below), by Eric Wakabi, paints a picture of contraceptive availability in Uganda which can only be described as atrocious. The article is titled ‘Uganda: Rampant Contraceptive Stock-Outs Frustrate Family Planning’, and reveals that at some health facilities have been out of pills for over a year. It was originally published in the Ugandan paper ‘The Observer’.
Uganda’s current fertility is 5.9, and with the paucity of domestic funding for family planning information and services, it is little wonder that Uganda will be 10th largest contributor to population growth by 2050, adding 62 million to its current 40 million.
Eric Wakabi is a health activist and communications officer with HEPS-Uganda (Coalition for Health Promotion and Social Development)
United Kingdom The UK’s current total fertility rate (TFR) is 1.8, below the replacement rate of 2.1. It has not been above 2.1 since 1972 but ‘population momentum’, (caused by numbers of births when babies born at the peak of population growth reach reproductive age) and net immigration have led to a population rise of nearly 10 million people since then.
A radical overhaul of sex and relationship education has been widely welcomed, (March 2017), although some campaigners express concern that the opt-outs for faith schools might leave some young people vulnerable. MPs across all parties had called for the change, calling the previous guidance published in 2000 hopelessly inadequate for a modern world where children can be exposed to pornography, online grooming and abuse at the touch of a button, and at an increasingly young age. This Guardian article is relevant.
I am not sure that this applies to Northern Ireland, however. This 2016 article in the Belfast Telegraph suggests otherwise
Links: Guardian, http://tinyurl.com/zxnzmas
Belfast Telegraph, http://tinyurl.com/jpez56o
United States of America
In other countries it is possible to state the position of that country in reference to population growth. In the US, on the other hand, the situation oscillates from extreme to extreme depending on which political party is in power.
The Mexico City policy is a case in point. This policy, also known as the Gag Rule, requires all bodies that receive Federal Funding to refrain from performing or promoting abortion. This policy has required foreign non-governmental organizations to certify that they will not ‘perform or actively promote abortion as a method of family planning’, even with non-US funds, as a condition of receiving US funds.
The policy was first introduced by President Reagan (Republican) in 1984, being announced in a UN conference on population in Mexico, and as a result, several international abortion agencies no longer received a portion of their funds from this source. The International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) did not alter its operation and lost more than 20% of its total funding, along with other organizations that refused to comply. Until challenged in the courts, this applied to US organizations also.
Bill Clinton (Democrat) rescinded the policy in 1993, stating that it had ‘undermined efforts to promote safe and efficacious family planning programs in foreign nations’. In 2001, George W. Bush reinstated it, but was challenged by an amendment in 2007, which he promised to veto. In 2009 it was rescinded again by Barack Obama, an act that was condemned by the Vatican almost immediately.
In January 2017 Donald Trump reinstated it, expanding it to cover all global health organizations that receive U.S. government funding, rather than only family planning organizations that do, as was previously the case.
Over the period from its first introduction, it has been expanded from dealing with abortion only to family planning in general. Critics point to the fact that lack of support of family planning will increase the number of unintended pregnancies, which in turn will increase the number of abortions, especially unsafe abortions.
In addition to the Gag Rule, the political right has been very hostile to women’s reproductive rights in the US. Congress has taken the first steps to unravel the Affordable Care Act and defund Planned Parenthood.
Trump’s nominees to run the Justice Department and the Department of Health & Human Services are anti-choice extremists.Tom Price, Trump’s pick for secretary of Health & Human Services, is so out of touch that he said there’s not a single woman in America who can’t afford to pay for birth control. Jeff Sessions, his attorney general nominee, has supported the unconstitutional 20-week abortion ban and has even voted to protect perpetrators of anti-choice violence from court-ordered fines.
One of the very first bills passed by the House was HR7, which would ban insurance coverage of abortion in the state exchanges, even for women using their own private funds to pay for insurance. And the bill is especially cruel to low-income women, civil servants and women in the military by permanently banning their abortion coverage. They’ve also introduced legislation to ban abortion after just 6 weeks, before most women even know they’re pregnant. Another bill would give fertilized zygotes full personhood rights—a blatantly unconstitutional bill that would criminalize most forms of birth control.
Links: Mexico City Policy, tinyurl.com/jszds49
War on Women, tinyurl.com/jyq2ap8
Zimbabwe: Chiredzi’s Rebel Women Defy Cultural Norm. An article from the Zimbabwe Herald, concerning women in Chiredzi. ‘In this part of Zimbabwe, contraception is not a matter of choice but is viewed negatively as it “erodes” cultural beliefs like that of giving birth to as many children as possible…’. ‘Here, the men will do everything and anything to stop their wives taking contraception.’ ‘Men want many children. They don’t want you to stop giving birth. When you complain, you are told that women are always wrong’.