How Economic Prosperity Can Cure the Population Crisis
This past September, the UN released a report stating that the world’s population would hit seven billion by late October. According to the United States Census Bureau, it did indeed surpass that mark, and as of today, Earth has 7,007,482,813 inhabitants and counting.
The population crisis has many scientists and economists fretting over resource scarcities and the possibility of wars, economic collapse, genetically-engineered crops and the spread of disease. The world’s two most populace countries, China and India, continue to have expanding populations, but both nations are experiencing low fertility rates and unprecedented economic growth. On the other hand, sub-Saharan Africa faces a bleak future as populations soar and economic opportunities become scarce.
According to a recent article in the NY Times, “nearly all of the increase is in sub-Saharan Africa, where the population rise far outstrips economic expansion. Of the roughly 20 countries where women average more than five children, almost all are in the region.” The article goes on to say that “Across sub-Saharan Africa, alarmed governments have begun to act, often reversing longstanding policies that encouraged or accepted large families. Nigeria made contraceptives free last year, and officials are promoting smaller families as a key to economic salvation, holding up the financial gains in nations like Thailand as inspiration.”
Contraceptive initiatives are only a small piece to solving the problem as research shows that lower fertility rates correlate with rising income. Women in sub-Saharan Africa are still largely uneducated and often follow cultural and religious beliefs that encourage (in some cases) having up to 12 children. The lack of education and the existence of polygamous societies continue to keep women in the role of caretaker and mother rather than as a financial contributor.
As governments begin to adopt and implement policies hinged on combined actions involving education, equitable access to healthcare and to family planning, economic advances and improved living standards could slowly become a reality in Sub-Saharan Africa.
But for now, small families remain a luxury for most sub-Saharan Africans . “It shouldn’t be surprising that poorer countries like Nigeria, Mali, and Uganda have some of the highest birthrates among countries around the world, while wealthier nations like the United States, Germany, and Japan are near the bottom. When people achieve a certain level of income, they can afford to worry about having fewer kids and investing more in each because they no longer have to worry as much about concerns like whether enough food will be on the table (GOOD).
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