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At 7 billion, realizing the economic benefits of family planning

Cristian Baeza's picture

JE-GH060621_32957 World BankSlideshow: At 7 Billion Mark, Reproductive Health Critical

With the 7 billionth baby joining the planet, many of us are rightly concerned about the challenges posed by a growing population and its impact on health care, climate change, food security, jobs, and poverty.

Here at the World Bank, we’ve been talking recently about the critical link between population change and economic growth. In some countries, where falling fertility rates have led to expanding working-adult populations and a smaller proportion of dependent children, the economic and social impact has been transformative.

For example, Thailand’s Minister of Finance said at a Bank panel last month that after his country introduced a national family planning policy in the 1960s, more women had the time and opportunity to access education, and take jobs in manufacturing and services. This shift was matched by greater government investment in health, education, gender equality, and skills training for women and the growing young population, together with reforms improving the country investment climate, all resulting in a generation of healthier, more educated and more productive citizens.

As a result, people’s opportunities and quality of life improved. This way, Thailand put in place long-term policies to ensure economic benefit from its demographic transition—it harnessed the “demographic dividend.”

But Thailand isn’t alone. Other countries, such as Indonesia and South Korea, have followed similar paths.

Governments have found that, the more rapid the pace of fertility decline, the more favorable the ratio of young dependents to productive workers to potentially realize the dividend. But there is a short window of opportunity during which fertility and dependency ratios fall to invest in education and health care, and to create job opportunities to benefit from the demographic transition.

Failure to address high fertility with large and growing population cohorts results in unsustainable health care and schooling costs and lags in economic growth, and may increase the risk of social and political unrest. But, addressing high fertility is a necessary, but not sufficient, condition to harness the demographic dividend.

To do so, countries also need to invest in new generations and create an environment conducive to good jobs.

Greater investment and policy efforts to reduce the barriers to family planning and reproductive health services (including availability of contraceptives and services, as well as empowering women to access them) is essential if the demographic dividend is to materialize at all. This is a priority for the Bank in our Reproductive Health Action Plan.

So let’s treat this milestone as an opportunity.  In a world of 7 billion, if we empower women to plan for their families, if we invest wisely in women’s and children’s health and education, if we create the conditions for good jobs, the demographic dividend is there for the taking.

 

Related

Slideshow: At 7 Billion Mark, Reproductive Health Critical

World Development Report on Gender

Getting To Equal: Promoting Gender Equality through Human Development

World Bank Reproductive Health Action Plan

World Bank and Labor Markets

 

Comments

Submitted by Faith on
Interestingly, the front page story of the Washington Post today (October 31, 2011) looks at the other side of this coin - the effect of falling birthrates in developed countries and the economic and social impact of an aging population. South Korea was one of the countries they referenced with a fertility rate of 1.2 children per woman which they say is dramatically lower than the replacement rate of 2.1 children. The question therefore is how the Bank will help developing countries to manage population growth in such a manner that it does not become a negative factor in social and economic development. As developed countries age, more of the population of developing countries will likely be "exported" to these developed countries, the risk being that often these are the brightest, most educated and skilled persons whom the developed countries have invested their resources to nurture, educate and train.

Submitted by Anonymous on
Totally the population is going up to much and tooo fast. PS: Most government in many countries already had population/ family-planning policies but lacking of an action with conviction to reduce fertility, promote birth-control and population growth. For a better world, it may cross-cutting contributions to focus on poverty reduction, better health, disaster protection, enhanced education, gender equality, and the environment make continued investment in family planning compelling etc.

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