World Population Day in its 30’s

World Population day UPAY NGO

The Five Billion Reason

Today on 11th July 2021, World Population Day has turned 31. While the name speaks for itself, it still begs the question of what we are celebrating and why 11th July in particular? It’s not as if we know the population started on this day. Then why 11th?! 

There is a reason. It’s the ‘Five Billion’ reason. On 11th July 1987, the United Nations Population Fund recorded the global population reaching the 5 Billion milestone. This day saw a sudden spike of public interest in the world’s population. It inspired Dr K.C. Zachariah to recommend marking the 11th of July as world population day. Consequently, it was adopted by the United Nations. On 11th July 1990, the world observed the first World Population Day. 

The main focus of this day is to bring attention to the issues that arise with the rapidly rising population. These cover territories like family planning, maternal health, poverty and human rights, among many others. 

The 31st World Population Day aims to reinforce the prioritisation of reproductive health and the rights of all people. The UN fears that alarm over sudden and extreme changes in fertility rates due to the pandemic may lead to violation of basic reproductive rights of individuals. Thus, this World Population day aims to remind the world about its importance.

The concern regarding the increasing population has been a debate in India for some time now. Uncertain fertility rate changes in a post-covid world have fueled this concern in the past few months. But what do the numbers say? How concerned should we really be?

What is population explosion? Is it something to be afraid of?

Population explosion is a common term associated with a sudden increase in the population. 

A population explosion would lead to pressure on resources and planning of the government. Usually, when the government plans for its citizens, it keeps in mind statistics such as growth and GDP rates. However, an event such as a population explosion may overthrow all planning and allow mismanagement to set in.

Population Explosion can have profound effects that may carry over well into the next generation. Thus, concern about the same was on many minds at the beginning of COVID lockdowns. However, research tells us otherwise. The fallout from the pandemic has made the future look bleak. Decreasing optimism about the future has led families to have fewer to no kids than what was feared. 

Is the population really spiking?

The debates in India regarding population control are based on the assumption that our population is rising.

Is this true? Is the population really increasing?

The answer to this is yes and no. Let’s look deeper.

As we welcome a newborn into the world, our population increases by one. There is no absolute stop to this growth. However, it is the population growth rate that shows how quickly it’s happening, and if it should be a cause for worry.

Many factors affect this growth rate. They include – fertility rate (average number of offspring that a woman has in her lifetime), life expectancy, and urbanisation. When these are affected, the population is also affected accordingly. We can see that over the last many decades the population growth rate has been on the decline. 

 In 1971, the global population growth rate stood at 1.97%, while in India it stood at 2.5%. The Fertility Rate of 4.47 was recorded globally, while in India, the rates were as high as 5.3. The following decades saw a steep fall in these rates- globally and in our country.  

This fall can be seen in the latest statistics. The latest data on the worldwide growth rate comes from the year 2020. It stands at 1.05%, and the fertility rate is 2.47. For the Indian population, the latest stats are from the year 2016. The growth rate stands at 1.3%, and the fertility rate 2.3. Projections estimate this to decline even further to 0.5% by the year 2041.

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World population day
Population Statistics in 1971 vs 2016(Growth rate and fertility rate)

To conclude from all this data, the population is increasing, but the growth rate is declining each year.

The bill which was tabled 35 times

The famous Two-Child Policy bill has been debated many times over the years. It is a controversial document that says that parents with more than two children will be excluded from government services and schemes. It was put forward to restrict families to two children. The bill has been presented and debated in the parliament 35 times now! However, no majority decision to convert it into law was reached. 

Are the laws needed to control the population in India?

The simple answer is, no.  We don’t need laws to restrict the number of offspring a couple has. We can clearly see that the growth rate of the population is declining. From the 1970s to 2018 the fertility rate and the growth rate in India have halved. The growth rate has come down to 1.3% in 2016 from 2.5 % in 1971. The fertility rate on the other hand has more than halved going from 5.3 in 1971 to 2.3 in 2016. Thus, the government’s efforts, over the last few decades, have already worked to curb the population growth. Further rules and more strict approaches may backfire.

Yet, we need to remember that this low growth rate was not achieved in one day. It took decades of encouraging advertisements and awareness programs displaying the disadvantages of having more than two offspring. Only after these efforts have we reached the current trend of “hum do humare do”. Just because we do not require a law does not mean we have the freedom to abandon family planning altogether. Family planning must always remain within the conscience of potential parents. Only then can we exist peacefully and harmoniously without pressuring resources.

World population day has been celebrated for more than 30 years now. It has been successful to a certain extent in fulfilling its purpose of creating awareness of the difficulties that come with overpopulation and its impact on our environment. However, much work is still needed. Decreasing growth rates are not an all-in-one solution to overpopulation related issues. These rates need to be maintained, and laws need to be put in place to tackle the environmental impact of the ever-growing human population.

Written by: Chinmay Jumde
Edited by: Ananya Shetty

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