Reducing population growth

Managing population numbers
Stabilizing population numbers
Limiting population growth
Strengthening population intervention
Implementing population control
Achieving decline in birth rate
Reducing unsustainable population levels
Curbing world population increase

Initiate, sponsor, support and facilitate management development activities in population, family planning and primary health care programmes and other related projects by research, training, consultancy and publications; provide assistance for improvement in areas of population-related programme management; help the design and implementation of programmes through the application of modern management approaches and techniques; foster links between population and family welfare programmes and the management resource community in developing as well as developed countries; promote mutual support and cooperation among developing countries by information exchange, meetings, training, visits and related activities in family welfare and population; provide a forum for donors, recipient countries and non-governmental organizations.


The increase in human population in the 1990s has exceeded the total population in 1600. The population has grown more since 1950 than it did during the previous four million years. The world is still growing, at nearly a record pace equivalent to a New York City every month, almost a Mexico every year, almost an India every decade. But the rate of growth is slowing; it is no longer "exponential," "unstoppable," "inexorable," "unchecked," "cancerous." If current trends hold, the world's population will all but stop growing before the twenty-first century is out.

The UN Population Fund's The State of World Population 1993 reported that world population growth had settled at 1.7%, below its record pace of over 2% in the early 1970s. However, the explosive population growth of the past few decades means there exists more people of reproductive age than has ever before. As a result, the number of people added to the human population each year will continue to rise, peaking between 1995 and 2000 at about 98 million.

Most developing countries have rapidly expanding populations, and most already have great difficulty meeting their needs for food, water, health care, sanitation, housing, jobs, energy and productive land. Rapid population growth adds to these difficulties and undermines prospects for sustainable development, because governments must draw on scarce financial reserves or add to their foreign debt to meet needs. This in turn often prompts them to increase demands on their shrinking resources. It is widely agreed that the only way humanity can live within the carrying capacity of the Earth is to control and/or decrease the population.

In 1989, and UNCTAD report forecast that the two most critical population issues for the developing countries in the l990s and beyond would be: (a) the rapid increase of population resulting both from relatively "higher" levels of fertility and from successively expanding numbers of women in reproductive ages, which would continue well into the twenty-first century; (b) the rapid increase in the urban population, particularly in large metropolitan areas, brought about by both rural-urban migration and natural increase of population in urban areas. Although the additional socio-economic, political and environmental pressures that this will create are well there is a need for recognition that failure to reduce population pressures in the near future may lead to unsustainable social, economic and environmental costs in the long run.

A 1993 statement on world population issued by fifty-eight scientific academies dealt with consumption in a similar vein. The academies, which include the U.S. National Academy, the British Royal Society, the French, German, Swedish, Russian, and Indian Academies, and the Third World Academy, represent the global scientific community. They concluded: If all people of the world consumed fossil fuels and other natural resources at the rate now characteristic of developed countries (and with current technologies), this would greatly intensify our already unsustainable demands on the biosphere.... As scientists cognizant of the history of scientific progress and aware of the potential of science for contributing to human welfare, it is our collective judgement that continuing population growth poses a great risk to humanity. Furthermore, it is not prudent to rely on science and technology alone to solve problems created by rapid population growth, wasteful resource consumption, and poverty.


In 2003, the United Nations cut its world population forecast for 2050 by 400 million. In 2001, the UN Population Division estimated that 9.3 billion people would inhabit the Earth by 2050, however falling birth rates and the AIDS epidemic have caused them to scale-down the estimate to 8.9 billion. According to the Population Division future fertility levels in the majority of the developing world will fall below 2.1 children per woman, which is generally replacement-level fertility. This means that, for the first time, deaths will outnumber births in the majority of poor countries by the end of the 21st century. Even so, experts predict that the number of people in the developing world will increase from 4.9 billion to 7.7 billion over the next 47 years. Meanwhile, the current 1.2 billion population of the world's wealthy countries is expected to be roughly the same in 2050.

Around the world people are choosing to have fewer and fewer children – not just in China, where the government forces it on them, but in almost every nation outside the poorest parts of Africa. Population growth rates at the end of this century are lower than they have been at any time since the Second World War. In the past three decades the average woman in the developing world, excluding China, has gone from bearing six children to bearing four. In Bangladesh the average has fallen from six to fewer than four; in Iran it has dropped by four children. If this keeps up, the population of the world will not quite double again; United Nations analysts offer as their mid-range projection that it will top at 10 to 11 billion, up from just under six billion at the moment. This assumes that women in the developing world will soon average two children apiece.

National policies to lower fertility rates have been introduced in 85 countries (1997). Past interventions have had some effect. The annual rate of population growth in developing countries peaked around 2.53% in the 1967-1968 period. If that rate had continued, the population of developing countries at the beginning of 1989 would have been 4,200 million as against the actual 3,900 million.

The potential impact on global population size between no additional intervention at all and pursuing an expanded, aggressive and rigorous population programme between now and through the early decades of the next century could be a difference of almost 2,000 million persons by the year 2025. Aiming future population activities at achieving a low population projection would imply, for developing countries as a whole, an annual growth rate of 1.56% by the year 2000 and 0.73% by 2025. It is not unreasonable to expect to achieve this scenario if comprehensive population programmes effectively strengthen information, education and services; improve the role and status of women; and complement development projects which have the greatest demographic impact. If successful, this would mean that the world population in the year 2025 would be 7,600 million, rather than 8,500 million.

The 1994 Cairo Population conference plan of action focused both on population and on development. It broadens the scope of population policy from the narrow focus on family planning and fertility to other issues of sustainable development and empowerment of the individual, particularly women, to make decisions.

Though the countries of South Asia (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Nepal, and Sri Lanka) are often lumped together, these five nations have quite different demographic histories. In Pakistan and Afghanistan, birth rates have barely begun to decline, and the total fertility rates of these countries is between 5 and 6. At current birth rates, Pakistan and Afghanistan can expect their current populations to double in size in just 25 to 30 years time. In India and Bangladesh, birth rates have been slowly coming down for the last 30 years, but progress has been slower than in other regions of Asia (Korea, China, Vietnam) and average family size is still over 3 children. Because India already has a population of 1 billion people, even with falling fertility it is expected to add well over 300 million more people to the world's population over the course of the next 25 years – with another 250 million people to be added in the 25 years after that. Sri Lanka, on the other hand, already has a total fertility rate of just 2.1, making it the first country in Southern Asia to achieve replacement level birth rates. Though Sri Lanka's population of 20 million will continue to grow for the next 50 years due to demographic momentum, the total population addition is likely to be less than 3 million over the course of the next 50 years. How did Sri Lanka do it? According to W. Indralal De Silva at the University of Colombo (Sri Lanka), the government "relied heavily on population information, education and communication programmes" while at the same time "more and more resources were devoted to contraceptive service delivery particularly voluntary sterilization" which increased dramatically when cash incentives were offered. The government also took a "cafeteria approach whereby clients could select the contraceptive method of their choice from a wide assortment made available" by the government and various non-governmental organizations.


Three conditions must exist simultaneously and globally to help reduce population growth and stabilize population numbers. First, the education and empowerment of women – the ability of women to participate in the decisions about family size and in the decisions about the shape and nature of society. Second, the availability of family planning services and information. Three, the confidence of parents that their children will survive.

Counter Claim:

The Cairo meeting's vigorous defence of birth control was unaccompanied by atonement for population control abuses. Nor has it shed light on the establishment of a mechanism needed to deter the threat of coercion posed by an array of new reproductive technologies.

Type Classification:
D: Detailed strategies
Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 1: No PovertyGOAL 2: Zero HungerGOAL 3: Good Health and Well-beingGOAL 4: Quality EducationGOAL 5: Gender EqualityGOAL 6: Clean Water and SanitationGOAL 7: Affordable and Clean EnergyGOAL 8: Decent Work and Economic GrowthGOAL 9: Industry, Innovation and InfrastructureGOAL 10: Reduced InequalityGOAL 11: Sustainable Cities and CommunitiesGOAL 12: Responsible Consumption and ProductionGOAL 13: Climate ActionGOAL 14: Life Below WaterGOAL 15: Life on LandGOAL 16: Peace and Justice Strong InstitutionsGOAL 17: Partnerships to achieve the Goal