Courtesy Reuters

Time Bomb or Myth: The Population Problem

The thesis which I will present in this article, and which I hope will be debated by the representatives of the 160 countries scheduled to attend the World Population Conference in Mexico City in August 1984, is this:

-Population growth rates in most developing countries fell significantly in the 1970s. This has led many to believe that the world in general, and most countries in particular, no longer face serious population problems and that efforts to deal with such problems can therefore be relaxed.

-Such a view is totally in error. Unless action is taken to accelerate the reductions in the rates of growth, the population of the world (now 4.7 billion) will not stabilize below 11 billion, and certain regions and countries will grow far beyond the limits consistent with political stability and acceptable social and economic conditions. Africa, for example, now with less than a half billion people, will expand sixfold to almost three billion; India will have a larger population than China; and El Salvador will grow from five million to 15 million.

-Rates of population growth of this magnitude are so far out of balance with rates of social and economic advance that they will impose heavy penalties on both individual nations and individual families. Nations facing political instability of the kind already experienced in Kenya, Nigeria and El Salvador-instability in part a result of high population growth rates-will more and more be tempted to impose coercive measures of fertility regulation. Individual families will move to higher levels of abortion, particularly of female fetuses, and higher rates of female infanticide.

-Developed and developing countries have a common interest in avoiding the consequences of current population trends. There is much they can do to change them, both through action to encourage couples to desire smaller families, and by moves to increase the knowledge and availability of contraceptive practices to families giving birth to more children than desired.

-Unless such action is initiated, the penalties to the poor of the world, individuals and nations

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