Population is often considered to be the root cause of all the problems in many countries. China, the most populous country of the world, has therefore been trying to control the population growth by incentivising couples opting for only one child. In India too, similar policies have been adopted by certain states. World Population Day is observed every year to address the issues related to the increasing population.
On the other side of the spectrum, a huge population is considered to be the backbone to economic development. This is why many European countries are encouraging couples to have more children. Canada, for example, has a majority of the population in the age-group of baby boomers; which is why it is opening doors for emigrants to carry the burden of its economy.
World Population Day – History
Population is a complex issue with both positive as well as negative implications. In order to focus attention on the urgency and importance of population issues, World Population Day is observed on 11th July every year. The day was established by the then-Governing Council of the United Nations Development Programme in 1989 as an outgrowth of the interest generated by the Day of Five Billion, which was observed on 11 July 1987.
World Population Day 2020 – Theme
The COVID-19 crisis has taken a staggering toll on people, communities and economies everywhere. But not everyone is affected equally. Women, who account for the largest share of front-line health workers, for example, are disproportionately exposed to the coronavirus. Supply chains around the world are being disrupted, impacting the availability of contraceptives and heightening the risk of unintended pregnancy. As countries are on lockdown and health systems struggle to cope, sexual and reproductive health services are being sidelined and gender-based violence is on the rise. To address these concerns, the theme of World Population Day 2020 is – Putting the brakes on COVID-19: how to safeguard the health and rights of women and girls now.
According to a recent UNFPA research, if the lockdown continues for 6 months with major disruptions to health services, then 47 million women in low and middle-income countries may not be able to access modern contraceptives resulting in 7 million unintended pregnancies. 31 million additional cases of gender-based violence can also be expected. The disruption of UNFPA’s programmes on the ground could result in 2 million cases of female genital mutilation and 13 million child marriages between 2020 and 2030 that could have been averted.
Moreover, women disproportionately work in insecure labour markets and are harder hit by the economic impacts of COVID-19. Nearly 60 per cent of women worldwide work in the informal economy and are at a greater risk of falling into poverty. Women’s unpaid care work has increased as a result of school closures and the increased needs of older people.
This is why, on this World Population Day, UNFPA aims to raise awareness about the sexual and reproductive health needs and vulnerabilities of women and girls during the pandemic.
Population in India
India is the second-most populous country after China. According to estimates in a recently released United Nations report, India is expected to add 273 million people by the year 2050. The report stated that in the year 2019, India has an estimated population of 1.37 billion and China, 1.43 billion and by the year 2027, India’s population is projected to surpass China’s, making India the most populous nation in the world.
30 years down the line, the global population is projected to increase by another 2 billion people by the year 2050, (from 7.7 billion in 2019 to 9.7 billion). The report has highlighted higher fertility rates, growing older population and migration as a few reasons behind projections of the population growth.
Health economists claim that the major implications of population growth will be for the young population that will face a situation of lack of resources in the future.
Nature of Population Growth in India
The population in India is not growing uniformly. The latest National Family Health Survey (NFHS) has indicated that the Total Fertility Rate (TFR) varies significantly across various wealth quintiles. The poorest wealth quintile has a TFR of 3.2 children per woman, whereas the richest wealth quintile has a TFR of 1.5 children per woman. This shows that population growth is more concentrated in economically weaker sections of society.
Implications of Population Growth in India
1. Population growth constantly acts as a hurdle in addressing effectively the problem of poverty, hunger and malnutrition and also in providing the better quality of health and education.
2. SDGs 1, 2, 3 and 4 are going to be affected adversely because of India’s existing pattern of growth in the population.
3. Presently, India is producing around 25 million job seekers in the country, however, the country is able to provide jobs only to 7 million. This gap of 18 million is increasing the burden of unemployment and underemployment in the country, turning a demographic dividend into a demographic disaster.
Population Related Challenges in India
The population of India has an average age of about 39 years. This is very beneficial if the country is able to take advantage of it to convert the huge population into a huge demographic dividend. Therefore, the challenge is not about how to contain the population but about how the government can exploit the population growth to its best economic advantages i.e. train this large young population to make it productive, effective, competent and contributing to economic growth.
The Indian government, for the next 15 years has to face the challenge to raise the economic status of India from being a low middle-income country to at least a high middle-income country. For this, the government needs to take necessary steps in creating the economic growth momentum by ensuring that investments are adequately made in key infrastructure areas, particularly social infrastructure like education, water and health so that a demographic dividend does not become a demographic liability or disaster. The requirement of creating so many jobs will not be a challenge if the economy starts growing at a faster rate.
Way Forward for India
There is a need in the country to invest more in the health sector. India invests only 1.3% of its GDP. The family planning budget is only 4% of the entire health budget and within that India spends only 1.5% on birth spacing methods.
In addition to this, education plays an extremely important role in empowering women as well as to bring about a decline in fertility. In order to achieve this, education should be made free for women till college-level because better education will help women in better decision making for family planning. Unless women are part of the workforce, no society can bring down fertility rates with progress. Therefore, policies must look at the whole issue of declining workforce participation by women.
India also needs to give huge stress on declining sex ratios and the discrimination towards girls so that people don’t have a high number of children in the hope of having a boy.
India can achieve a number of SDGs if it links them with family planning. It is the prerogative of the country’s government, citizens, civil societies as well as the corporates to promote family planning measures and to ensure that every child that is born proves to be an asset to the country. This World Population Day, let us take the necessary steps on our part to ensure that.