Population growth poses many benefits and challenges. It can boost business and economies while leading to an increase in innovation. It can also threaten finite resources like water, property and food.
The United Nations estimates that the world's population will grow to 9.7 billion by 2050. But by 2100, Pew Research Center predicts that population growth will level off. The annual growth rate will slow to 0.1 percent or less. Both scenarios provide a point to ponder. What are the benefits and drawbacks of population growth?
Advantage: It’s Good for Business
As the population grows, businesses have a larger potential customer base. Although more people means more demand, it also means more supply. But for businesses, it also means you're competing with other businesses for new customers. In a shrinking population, you're competing for established customers, according to Forbes.
How does population growth boost business? Retailers have more consumers looking to buy goods. Food suppliers and agricultural professionals are tasked with feeding more people. Utility companies have more homes to power. Healthcare workers have a wider range of people in need of services.
Disadvantage: It Strains Natural Resources
Researchers worry about property, food and natural resource shortages. As the population grows, the finite natural resources on the planet are becoming stretched. The Washington University in St. Louis points out that many of our resources have a limit. More people to provide for means less energy or water available.
The concern is more about long-term availability. Population growth stresses the supply of resources lies behind the scarcity of resources like energy and water. Climate change is part of the growing scarcity of water around the world. But it has less impact than population growth according to New Security Beat.
Advantage: It Leads to Economic Growth
There's some controversy over whether population growth helps or hurts the economy. Many researchers contend that it helps. As more working-age Americans retire, fewer tax dollars are available to support them. With very low or halted population growth, tax revenue drops off. Also, government debt rises and there are fewer people spending, notes The Atlantic.
Another notable factor is this: Population growth goes hand in hand with urbanization. This is important for sustained economic growth. Urban centers encourage innovation. They also create an environment that allows companies to produce more goods for less money. In the end, this lets businesses serve a larger population.
Disadvantage: It Increases Aging Dependency
Population growth isn’t only about more babies being born. People are also living longer lives. The U.S. Census Bureau predicts that by 2030, the number of older Americans will outnumber children for the first time in the country's history. There will be fewer people working. As the labor force decreases, more elderly people will rely on government-sponsored programs. Government spending on social programs and healthcare will rise. This can all have a negative effect on the economy.
Advantage: A Boom in Innovation
More people means more minds that can tackle the leading problems of the times. Back when man first discovered fire, there were far fewer people testing the waters. With a large population, there's a larger pool of people available to navigate the challenges people face. More people can develop solutions to combat the challenges of a rising population.
For example, in 2009 many worried that energy resources were being depleted after oil prices exceeded $100. Alternative fuels and energy efficiency have since balanced the scales. Many countries are dealing with an excess supply, as noted by the Irish Examiner.