Is Population Policy Inevitable?*
In the modern world, every country has to deal with fundamental economic issues such as;
employment, prosperity, equal income distribution and positive economic growth. All these
problems are actually the logical extension of sustainable economic development.
Accordingly, every government which desires a sustainable development has to conduct a
population policy in order to maintain or reinforce its economic growth and to prevent
undesired consequences as follows; unemployment, poverty, unbalanced income distribution
and negative economic growth.
Sustainable development is a pattern of growth in which resource use aims to meet
human needs while preserving the environment so that these needs can be met not only in the
present, but also for generations to come. While developed economies largely achieved this
goal, especially underdeveloped or developing countries are closely concerned with this issue
nowadays. Towards sustainable development, the most important obstacle for under-
developed countries is over population. Moreover, development theories underline the risks of
over population. In such an environment with insufficient investment and capital scarcity, as
one can easily guess, unemployment and poverty are directly stemmed from over population.
Generally, less developed countries have high fertility rates which obstruct economic
A population policy is a deliberately constructed arrangement or program through
which governments influence, directly or indirectly, demographic change. These
arrangements typically are legislative measures, administrative programs, and other
governmental actions intended to alter or modify existing population trends in the interest of
national survival and welfare. The demographer John May has written that "population
policies are designed to regulate and, if possible, mitigate the problems (e.g. over population)
by adjusting population size and structure to the needs and aspirations of the people." There
are only three ways to change the size of a population, namely, through births, deaths, and
migration. Therefore, any policies aimed at restoring demographic balance must be oriented
toward one or more of the three demographic processes.
Historically, the world has been witnessing many different population policies which
are, in general, pro-natalist policies, anti-natalist policies and policies related to international
* Ahmet G. Zeyrek, Planning Expert at North Anatolian Development Agency, MA Student at Hacettepe Unversity
Institute of Population Studies, July 2012
migration. Many of them caused by significant social events: Diseases, wars, economic
Population policies are mostly stemmed from economic concerns (as one can also
observe in the near history); however, in our day, population policies are also conducting
without economic concerns, but for protecting the existing population. At first glance,
population policies seem very close to economic concerns. However, considering population
as the key subject in the whole social adventure, it also closes to every social issue in the
deep. Nowadays the most important issue for developed countries is aging and aging
countries try to boost their fertilities in order to protect and continue their bloodlines.
Otherwise, many of them will face the "demographic winter" and the danger of extinction in
the near future. Similarly, in developing countries, lots of government has family ministries or
institutions in order to underline the importance of family planning.
It can be seen that there are successful population policies. Considering China's
success story, Chinese population policy achieved the targeted goal with "one child" policy.
They were able to decrease the TFR from 5.4 to 1.6. in 50 years. Besides successful nations,
there are also failing ones in terms of population policy. India was barely able to decrease its
TFR from 5.8 to 2.7 in 50 years, as World Bank data shows.
Nowadays there are some countries discussing whether population policy is a must or
not (e.g. Australia, New Zealand). Their main argument is also their stable population which
doesn't require a regulation through fertility and mortality. Their birth and death rates seem
normal. However, they skip the importance of migration. As Todaro emphasized, there will
always be migratory flows between developed and non-developed areas. Considering the
pacific migrations, these countries have to conduct a population policy, at least in migration
level. In short run, countries can claim such suggestions but in the long run every country
needs the help of demographic policies.
To summarize, whether developed or not, there is no country that can entirely ignore
the issue of population policy. Countries or nations may become dissimilar only in their
policy aims. Some try to achieve growth economically, some try to over jump social problems
and some try to stay steady. It can be briefly said that every social issue, profoundly, require a