(Online Course) Contemporary Issues for IAS Mains 2012: Yojana Magazine – Population Growth & Millennium Development Goals

Yojana Magazine


Question : How population growth can affect the Millennium
Development Goals?

Answer: Population growth is the resultant of both
natural increase and net-migration. Natural increase is the net of birth rate
over death rate while net-migration is the excess of in-migration over out
migration. Population growth has direct impact on seven of the eight MDGs. At
the micro level, rapid population growth creates a demographic-poverty trap.
Large families tend to be poorer, suffer disproportionately from illness, makes
less use of health services. Smaller families invest more in each child’s
nutrition and health. At the macro level, the amount of resources, personnel and
the infrastructure required to meet the MDGs will be substantially higher with
higher population growth.

Population growth and eradication of extreme poverty and

Goal one of MDGs aims at eradication of poverty and hunger
between 1990 and 2015. While poverty is measured with respect to consumption /
income, hunger is measured by reduction of underweight children under-five years
of age and population below minimum level of dietary consumption. Higher
population growth adversely affects the reduction of poverty and hunger in the
population, both at micro and macro level.

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At the micro level, large families tend to be poorer and it
creates demographic-poverty trap. At the macro level, the higher rate of
population growth means that in order to reduce poverty, the economies must not
only grow at a sustained higher pace but generate new jobs and income earning
opportunities at an accelerated rate. Similarly, poverty and under nutrition are
intimately related. A higher proportion of children belonging to poorer and
large households are undernourished.

The population growth in last decade, the crude birth rate,
the poverty estimates and the trends in under-nutrition among states of India
reflect a similar pattern. The estimates show that the states with higher
population growth rate, for example Bihar, tend to have higher percentage of
population below poverty line and higher under-nutrition than states like Kerala
which have lower population growth rates.

The same trend can be seen in the smaller states, for example
while comparing the figures for Meghalaya and Goa. The high growth rates in
Union Territories are largely due to migration and the estimates of poverty and
nutrition are not available. Studies have documented that the progress towards
the MDGs have been slower than the required rate in the states of Uttar Pradesh,
Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, experiencing higher
populationgrowth (Ram, Mohanty and Ram 2009).

Population Growth and Universal Primary Education

Goal 2 of MDGs is to achieve the universal primary education
and is measured by the net enrolment ratio in primary school, the proportion of
pupils reaching last grade of primary and the literacy rate of 15-24 years old.

While many states have made commendable progress in primary
enrolment in last decades, the school dropout rates and the quality of schooling
is a concern. About 42% young people aged 15-24 years in Bihar are non-literate
or literate without formal schooling compared to 31% in Jharkhand, 29% in
Rajasthan, 16% in Andhra Pradesh, 7% in Maharashtra and 4% in Tamil Nadu (IIPS
and Population Council 2006-07).

Population growth, gender equality and empowerment of women

Goal 3 of MDGs aims at promoting gender equality and
empowerment of women. The corresponding indicatorswere ratio of girls to boys in
primary, secondary and tertiary education, share of women in wage employment and
proportion of seats in national parliament. The recent trends showed improvement
in all levels of education among girls, but the gender gap continued to be
higher in the states with low level of literacy and higher population growth.
However, the decline in sex ratio of 0-6 year children (not an indicator of MDGs)
in many progressive states is the most worrying factor. The sex ratio of 0-6
population indicates the number of girls per 1000 boys in the age group of 0-6
years. The decline in sex ratio is due to three possible factors, namely,
increase in sex selective abortion, higher child mortality and under-enumeration
of girls. While the under-enumeration of girls has minimized in recent censuses,
the gender differentials in childmortality has also narrowed down. Hence,
increasing practice of sex selective abortion in the wake of reduction in
fertility and strong son preference is leading to decline in child sex ratio.
This phenomenon is more among better educated and economically better off
sections of the population across the states.

Population growth and health related goals

Reduction of child mortality (goal 4) and improvement in
maternal health are two of the health related goals of MDGs. The monitoring
indicators to measure progress in child mortality are under-five mortality,
infant mortality rate and the proportion of 1 year-old children immunized
against measles. The under-five mortality is the probability of not surviving
till fifth birth day while the infant mortality is the probability of not
surviving till first birth-day. These are two sensitive indicators that reflect
the health situation of the population. India accounts for one-fifth of
under-five mortality.

The underlying cause of under-five mortality are pneumonia,
diarrheal diseases, neo-natal infection and birth asphyxia, prematurely and low
birth weight, birth trauma (The Million Death Study Collaboration 2010) and
closely related to poverty. Regional pattern in child mortality shows that the
empowered action group (EAG) states such as Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh,
Uttarakhand, Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Orissa account
for more than two-thirds of under-five and infant mortality rate.These are also
states with higher population growth. The infant mortality is highest in the
state of Madhya Pradesh and higher in Uttar Pradesh. Maternal health is measured
by the proportion of births attended by skilled health personnel. In 2007-08,
about half of the deliveries in India were conducted at home without any medical
assistance (IIPS 2010). The medical assistance at delivery is almost universal
in the states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu where fertility and natural growth rate
of population is low. On the other hand, it is low in the states of Uttar
Pradesh and Bihar. Several government schemes including the Janani Surakhaya
Yojana are operational to increase the medical assistance at delivery. The
higher population growth rate increases the cost of service provision such as
ante-natal care, natal care and child immunization to national and state


The progress towards attaining the MDGs is slow and uneven
across the states of India. The prime responsibility for achieving the MDG lies
with individual states. The increase in population due to high birth rate is
definitely affecting the reduction of multidimensional poverty in many of the
states. With limited resources and low levels of income, reduction of population
growth will be beneficial to reduce the cost of resources, personnel and the
infrastructure required to meet the MDGs.

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