is the practice of limiting population increase, usually by reducing the birth rate
. The practice has sometimes been voluntary, as a response to poverty
, environmental concerns
, or out of religious ideology, but in some times and places it has been socially mandated. This is generally conducted to improve quality of life for a society or as a solution to overpopulation
. While population control can involve measures that improve people's lives, giving them greater control of their reproduction
some programs have exposed them to exploitation. In general, proponents of population control call for maintain constant birth rates across all populations to result in better economic and political conditions, raise/maintain the standard of living, and to ensure resources are not expended prematurely.
Control of the population increase implies the use of one or more of the following practices:
The method(s) chosen can be strongly influenced by the religious and cultural beliefs of the community's members. Failures of the other methods can lead to the use of abortion or infanticide, in which case it is regarded as a necessary drastic last resort. A specific practice may be allowed or mandated by law in one country while prohibited or severely restricted in another, an indicator of the controversy this topic generates.
Surviving records from Ancient Greece
document the first known examples of population control. Their initial response to overpopulation was the colonization
movement, which saw Greek outposts being built across the Mediterranean
and Black Sea
basins to accommodate the excess population of individual states - roughly equivalent in effect to modern emigration
. As the number of available sites decreased, the Greeks - beginning with the Cretans
- turned to pederasty
, the formal practice of pairing young adult males with adolescent boys for educational and bonding purposes. This was done in concourse with delaying the age of marriage for men to thirty. The Greeks also used abortifacients
and some cities practiced infanticide, though the latter is considered to have been an early form of eugenics
The Siwans also used pederasty and boy marriage until the early twentieth century in order to control population size in an environment with finite resources and no natural enemies. Men were generally not allowed to marry before the age of forty. Thus the overwhelming majority of men took adolescent boys as lovers, a social contract often sealed with a formal and public marriage ceremony - a practice documented into the twentieth century in a controversial book called Oasis, Siwa: from the Inside Traditions, Customs and Magic, by Fathi Malim.
In China, among the proponents of population control were Han Fei (ca. 280–233 BC) and Hong Liangji (1746-1809)
It is generally accepted that overpopulation is aggravated by poverty and gender inequality with consequent unavailability, and lack of knowledge of contraception, and third world evidence usually bears this theory out. However, first and second world fertility rates, in the Depression era United States, Modern Russia, Japan, Italy, Sweden, Estonia and France suggest that these populations are responding inversely to poverty and economic pressures especially on women
Thus France is increasing social and women's services like childcare and parental leave, expecting the policy to stop the aging of its population. Italy is regarded as alleviating overpopulation more rapidly than Sweden as a result of less gender equality and fewer children's services.
Newer research has been done by the U.S. National Security Council, in a study entitled National Security Study Memorandum 200, under the direction of Henry Kissinger in 1974. This report stressed that only 13 countries are projected to account for 47 percent of the world population increase by the year 2050. This, it is argued, (due to its impact on development, food requirements, resources and the environment) adversely affected the welfare and progress of countries concerned. It further argued that this would undermine the stability of countries friendly to the US and therefore harmed the "national security" of the United States as well.
David Pimentel, professor of ecology and agriculture at Cornell University, and Mario Giampietro, senior researcher at the National Research Institute on Food and Nutrition (INRAN), place in their study Food, Land, Population and the U.S. Economy the maximum U.S. population for a sustainable economy at 200 million. To achieve a sustainable economy and avert disaster, the United States must reduce its population by at least one-third, and world population will have to be reduced by two-thirds, says the study.
The authors of this study believe that a agricultural crisis will develop, yet that they will only begin to impact us after 2020, and will not become critical until 2050. Geologist Dale Allen Pfeiffer claims that coming decades could see spiraling food prices without relief and massive starvation on a global level such as never experienced before.
Another study had been done by the National Audubon Society which recently released a 16-page document called "Population and Habitat: Making the Connection". In this study, population control is widely supported.
The need for population control has lately also been researched by several organisations. The organisations below are active in population policy, advocating reduction in population growth:
Renewed support from private people and media
Population control is also increasingly being featured in many environmental documentaries and films. An example is the The Planet
-documentary, which describes the ongoing rising human population, its effects on the planet and the necessity of population control.
As early as 1798, Thomas Malthus stated in his Essay on the Principle of Population that population control needed to be implemented into society. Around the year 1900, Sir Francis Galton said in his publication called "Hereditary Improvement" that "the unfit could become enemies to the State, if they continue to propagate. In 1968, Paul Ehrlich noted in "The Population Bomb" that "we must cut the cancer of population growth" and that, if this was not done there would only be one other solution, namely the ‘death rate solution’ in which we raise the death rate through war-famine-pestilence etc.” In the same year, another prominent modern advocate for mandatory population control was Garrett Hardin, who proposed in his landmark 1968 essay The Tragedy of the Commons that society must relinquish the "freedom to breed" through "mutual coercion, mutually agreed upon." Later on, in 1972, he reaffirmed his support in his new essay “Exploring New Ethics for Survival”, by stating that “We are breeding ourselves into oblivion.” Other people advocating population control in the past were: Bertrand Russell, Margaret Sanger (1939), John D. Rockefeller, Frederick Osborn (1952), Isaac Asimov, Jacques Cousteau, ...
Today, some influential people advocate population control. They are:
Finally, the head of the UN Millennium Project Jeffrey Sachs is also a heavy proponent of decreasing the effects of overpopulation. In 2007, Jeffrey Sachs gave a number of lectures (2007 Reith Lectures) about population control and overpopulation. In his lectures (called "Bursting at the Seams"), he featured a integrated approach that would deal with a number of problems associated with overpopulation and poverty reduction.
Present-day practice by countries
An important example of mandated population control is China
's one-child policy
in which having more than one child is made extremely unattractive. China's population policy has been credited with a very significant slowing of China's population growth which had been very high before the policy was implemented. It has come under criticism that the implementation of the policy has involved forced abortions
and forced sterilization
. However, while the punishment of "Unplanned" pregnancy is a fine, both forced abortion and forced sterilization can be charged with intentional assault, which is punished with up to 10 years' imprisonment.
The Chinese government introduced the policy in 1979 to alleviate the social and environmental problems of China
. According to government officials, the policy helped prevent 400 million births. However, the reduction in fertility could be more due to the modernisation of China than government policies . The policy is controversial both within and outside China because of the issues it raises; because of the manner in which the policy has been implemented; and because of concerns about negative economic and social consequences.
In India, only people with two or fewer children are eligible for election to a Gram panchayat
has succeeded in sharply reducing its birth rate in recent years. Iran is the only country where mandatory contraceptive courses are required for both males and females before a marriage licence can be obtained. Although a conservative religious regime, the government emphasises the benefits of small families and contraception .
Enacted in 1970 as Title X
of the Public Health Service Act
provides access to contraceptive services, supplies and information to those in need. Priority for services is given to persons of low-income. The Title X Family Planning program is administered within the Office of Population Affairs within the Office of Public Health and Science. The Office of Family Planning directs Title X. In 2007, Congress appropriated roughly $283 million for family planning under Title X, at least 90 percent of which was used for services in family planning clinics.
Title X is a vital source of funding for family planning clinics throughout the nation. Family planning clinics are very important in providing reproductive health care. The education and services supplied by the Title X-funded clinics support young individuals and low-income families. Goals of developing healthy families are accomplished by helping individuals and couples decide whether and when to have children.
Titles X has made possible the prevention of unintended pregnancies. It has allowed millions of American women to receive necessary reproductive health care, plan their pregnancies and prevent abortions. Title X is dedicated exclusively to funding family planning and reproductive health care services.
Title X as a percentage of total public funding to family planning client services has steadily declined from 44% of total expenditures in 1980 to 12% in 2006. Medicaid has increased from 20% to 71% in the same time. In 2006, Medicaid contributed $1.3 billion to public family planning.
Population control and Economics
There is a diversity of opinions among economists on the effects of population reduction or increase on national economic health. Some believe that reduction of the population is a key to economic growth. Others argue that population reduction should be focused on what they judge to be undesirable sections of the population (see Eugenics). Other economists doubt the correlation between population reduction and economic growth. Some economists, such as Thomas Sowell and Walter E. Williams have argued that poverty and famine are caused by bad government and bad economic policies, and not by overpopulation. In his book The Ultimate Resource, economist Julian Simon argued that higher population density leads to more specialization and technological innovation, and that this leads to a higher standard of living. Simon also claimed that if you look at a list of countries ranked in order by population density, there is no correlation between population density, and poverty and famine, and instead, if you look at a list of countries ranked in order by government corruption, there is a huge correlation between government corruption, and poverty and famine.
is the philosophical
position that asserts a negative value judgement
. Supporters of population control may, more or less, be affirmed with its reasons. In contrast, natalism
supports population growth
- Thomlinson, R. 1975. Demographic Problems: Controversy over Population Control. 2nd ed. Encino, CA: Dickenson.