Dec 12 2010
*Note: We only got to spend a few minutes discussing this topic the last day before exams, so I am including this nice post by IanN from last year.
There are two “Human Population Problems” that we discussed in class:
- The Annual Growth Rate (AGR) of a population is too high, leading to problems with overpopulation.
- The AGR of a population is too low, leading to problems involving supporting a “graying,” or aging overall population.
Big Picture: How to responsibly address an AGR that is too high.
There are 3 primary methods to addressing an Annual Growth Rate that is too high:
- Family Planning: This doesn’t just include things like the government handing out condoms. Governments can fight high population growth by promoting sex-ed courses that help people in the community learn how to practice safe sex and avoid unwanted pregnancies. A good example of this method being used would be Thailand, where family planning programs helped to reduce the AGR from 3.2% in 1971 to 1.6% in 1986.
- Industrialization: Most high AGRs come hand-in-hand with poverty. The poorer a nation’s population is, the less likely it is that the people in the population will use birth control or other means to avoid unwanted pregnancies. By industrializing, a nation increases its Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which in turn allows its population to raise its standard of living by making more money. As a population increases its standard of living, it will begin to be more cautious when it comes to sexual practices, causing its AGR to go down. Many Asian countries helped to reduce their AGR by industrializing and increasing their GDP.
- Improve Education and Opportunities for Women: One of the biggest causes of a high AGR is the inability of the women in a population to have a say over how many children they have. In these societies, the men essentially decide how many children a woman will have, and a large amount of children (especially sons) is often seen as a positive thing. If women in these societies were to be given greater opportunities, they would be able to get better educations, become working members of society, and get a much greater say in the number of children that they bear. By empowering women, a nation is able to greatly reduce its population’s AGR.
What Can One Nation Do to Regulate Its AGR?
A nation can use policies, laws, regulations, and taxes to help control the growth of its population.
- China cut its Crude Birth Rate (CBR) in half by implementing its One Child Policy in 1972. This is one of the strictest programs in the world. The government gives a ton of incentives such as extra food, larger pensions, better housing, free medical expenses, free school tuition, and salary bonuses to parents who follow the One Child Policy. After the couple has had one child (or two children in select cases), either the woman is required to wear an intrauterine device that greatly reduces the chance of pregnancy or one of them is required to be sterilized. If a couple chooses not to follow the policy, they are faced with a series of penalties, including fines, loss of land grants, and even discharge from the Chinese Communist Party.
- Countries could use tax deductions and tax credits to control AGR. In short, if AGR is too low, the government can offer to reduce people’s taxes if they have more children, and if AGR is too high, the government can offer to reduce people’s taxes if they get sterilized . Tax deductions are expenses you are allowed to use to reduce your gross income that affects how much you are taxes, while tax credits are amounts subtracted directly from the amount of tax you already owe.
- Governments can also use rebates to control a population’s AGR. Rebates are direct payments from the government to you, and can be given in exchange for a couple either having more children or having less children. You are probably most familiar with the rebates that are offered to you after you buy something in a store.