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.