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National Security Study Memorandum (NSSM) 200: Part One – Analytical Section




The present world population growth is unique. Rates of increase are much higher than in earlier centuries, they are more widespread, and have a greater effect on economic life, social justice, and — quite likely — on public order and political stability. The significance of population growth is enhanced because it comes at a time when the absolute size and rate of increase of the global economy, need for agricultural land, demand for and consumption of resources including water, production of wastes and pollution have also escalated to historically unique levels. Factors that only a short time ago were considered separately now have interlocking relationships, inter-dependence in a literal sense. The changes are not only quantitatively greater than in the past but qualitatively different. The growing burden is not only on resources but on administrative and social institutions as well.

Population growth is, of course, only one of the important factors in this new, highly integrated tangle of relationships. However, it differs from the others because it is a determinant of the demand sector while others relate to output and supply. (Population growth also contributes to supply through provision of manpower; in most developing countries, however, the problem is not a lack of but a surfeit of hands.) It is, therefore, most pervasive, affecting what needs to be done in regard to other factors. Whether other problems can be solved depends, in varying degrees, on the extent to which rapid population growth and other population variables can be brought under control.


Since 1950, world population has been undergoing unprecedented growth. This growth has four prominent features:

  1. It is unique, far more rapid than ever in history.
  2. It is much more rapid in less developed than in developed regions.
  3. Concentration in towns and cities is increasing much more rapidly than overall population growth and is far more rapid in LDCs than in developed countries.
  4. It has a tremendous built-in momentum that will inexorably double populations of most less developed countries by 2000 and will treble or quadruple their populations before leveling off — unless far greater efforts at fertility control are made than are being made.
Therefore, if a country wants to influence its total numbers through population policy, it must act in the immediate future in order to make a substantial difference in the long run.

For most of man’s history, world population grew very slowly. At the rate of growth estimated for the first 18 centuries A.D., it required more than 1,000 years for world population to double in size. With the beginnings of the industrial revolution and of modern medicine and sanitation over two hundred years ago, population growth rates began to accelerate. At the current growth rate (1.9 percent) world population will double in 37 years.

  • By about 1830, world population reached 1 billion. The second billion was added in about 100 years by 1930. The third billion in 30 years by 1960. The fourth will be reached in 1975.
  • Between 1750-1800 less than 4 million were being added, on the average, to the earth’s population each year. Between 1850-1900, it was close to 8 million. By 1950 it had grown to 40 million. By 1975 it will be about 80 million.
In the developed countries of Europe, growth rates in the last century rarely exceeded 1.0-1.2 percent per year, almost never 1.5 percent. Death rates were much higher than in most LDCs today. In North America where growth rates were higher, immigration made a significant contribution. In nearly every country of Europe, growth rates are now below 1 percent, in many below 0.5 percent. The natural growth rate (births minus deaths) in the United States is less than 0.6 percent. Including immigration (the world’s highest) it is less than 0.7 percent.

In less developed countries growth rates average about 2.4 percent. For the People’s Republic of China, with a massive, enforced birth control program, the growth rate is estimated at under 2 percent. India’s is variously estimated from 2.2 percent, Brazil at 2.8 percent, Mexico at 3.4 percent, and Latin America at about 2.9 percent. African countries, with high birth as well as high death rates, average 2.6 percent; this growth rate will increase as death rates go down.

The world’s population is now about 3.9 billion; 1.1 billion in the developed countries (30 percent) and 2.8 billion in the less developed countries (70 percent).

In 1950, only 28 percent of the world’s population or 692 million, lived in urban localities. Between 1950 and 1970, urban population expanded at a rate twice as rapid as the rate of growth of total population. In 1970, urban population increased to 36 percent of world total and numbered 1.3 billion. By 2000, according to the UN’s medium variant projection, 3.2 billion (about half of the total) of world inhabitants will live in cities and towns.

In developed countries, the urban population varies from 45 to 85 percent; in LDCs, it varies from close to zero in some African states to nearly 100 percent in Hong Kong and Singapore.

In LDCs, urban population is projected to more than triple in the remainder of this century, from 622 million in 1970 to 2,087 in 2000. Its proportion in total LDC population will thus increase from 25 percent in 1970 to 41 percent in 2000. This implies that by the end of this century LDCs will reach half the level of urbanization projected for DCs (82 percent) (See Table 1).

The enormous built-in momentum of population growth in the less developed countries (and to a degree in the developed countries) is, if possible, even more important and ominous than current population size and rates of growth. Unlike a conventional explosion, population growth provides a continuing chain reaction. This momentum springs from (1) high fertility levels of LDC populations and (2) the very high percentage of maturing young people in populations. The typical developed country, Sweden for example, may have 25% of the population under 15 years of age. The typical developing country has 41% to 45% or its population under 15. This means that a tremendous number of future parents, compared to existing parents, are already born. Even if they have fewer children per family than their parents, the increase in population will be very great.

Three projections (not predictions), based on three different assumptions concerning fertility, will illustrate the generative effect of this building momentum.

a. Present fertility continued: If present fertility rates were to remain constant, the 1974 population 3.9 billion would increase to 7.8 billion by the hear 2000 and rise to a theoretical 103 billion by 2075.

b. U.N. “Medium Variant”: If present birth rates in the developing countries, averaging about 38/1000 were further reduced to 29/1000 by 2000, the world’s population in 2000 would be 6.4 billion, with over 100 million being added each year. At the time stability (non-growth) is reached in about 2100, world population would exceed 12.0 billion.

c. Replacement Fertility by 2000: If replacement levels of fertility were reached by 2000, the world’s population in 2000 would be 5.9 billion and at the time of stability, about 2075, would be 8.4 billion. (“Replacement level” of fertility is not zero population growth. It is the level of fertility when couples are limiting their families to an average of about two children. For most countries, where there are high percentages of young people, even the attainment of replacement levels of fertility means that the population will continue to grow for additional 50-60 years to much higher numbers before leveling off.)

It is reasonable to assume that projection (a) is unreal since significant efforts are already being made to slow population growth and because even the most extreme pro-natalists do not argue that the earth could or should support 103 billion people. Famine, pestilence, war, or birth control will stop population growth far short of this figure.

The U.N. medium variant (projection (b)) has been described in a publication of the U.N. Population Division as “a synthesis of the results of efforts by demographers of the various countries and the U.N. Secretariat to formulate realistic assumptions with regard to future trends, in view of information about present conditions and past experiences.” Although by no means infallible, these projections provide plausible working numbers and are used by U.N. agencies (e.g., FAO, ILO) for their specialized analyses. One major shortcoming of most projections, however, is that “information about present conditions” quoted above is not quite up-to-date. Even in the United States, refined fertility and mortality rates become available only after a delay of several years.

Thus, it is possible that the rate of world population growth has actually fallen below (or for that matter increased from) that assumed under the U.N. medium variant. A number of less developed countries with rising living levels (particularly with increasing equality of income) and efficient family planning programs have experienced marked declines in fertility. Where access to family planning services has been restricted, fertility levels can be expected to show little change.

It is certain that fertility rates have already fallen significantly in Hong King, Singapore, Taiwan, Fiji, South Korea, Barbados, Chile, Costa Rica, Trinidad and Tobago, and Mauritius (See Table 2). Moderate declines have also been registered in West Malaysia, Sri Lanka, and Egypt. Steady increases in the number of acceptors at family planning facilities indicate a likelihood of some fertility reduction in Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, Colombia, and other countries which have family planning programs. On the other hand, there is little concrete evidence of significant fertility reduction in the populous countries of India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, etc.1

Projection (c) is attainable if countries recognize the gravity of their population situation and make a serious effort to do something about it.

The differences in the size of total population projected under the three variants become substantial in a relatively short time.

By 1985, the medium variant projects some 342 million fewer people than the constant fertility variant and the replacement variant is 75 million lower than the medium variant.

By the year 2000 the difference between constant and medium fertility variants rises to 1.4 billion and between the medium and replacement variants, close to 500 million. By the year 2000, the span between the high and low series — some 1.9 billion — would amount to almost half the present world population.

Most importantly, perhaps, by 2075 the constant variant would have swamped the earth and the difference between the medium and replacement variants would amount to 3.7 billion. (Table 3.) The significance of the alternative variants is that they reflect the difference between a manageable situation and potential chaos with widespread starvation, disease, and disintegration for many countries.

Furthermore, after replacement level fertility is reached, family size need not remain at an average of two children per family. Once this level is attained, it is possible that fertility will continue to decline below replacement level. This would hasten the time when a stationary population is reached and would increase the difference between the projection variants. The great momentum of population growth can be seen even more clearly in the case of a single country — for example, Mexico. Its 1970 population was 50 million. If its 1965-1970 fertility were to continue, Mexico’s population in 2070 would theoretically number 2.2 billion. If its present average of 6.1 children per family could be reduced to an average of about 2 (replacement level fertility) by 1980-85, its population would continue to grow for about sixty years to 110 million. If the two-child average could be reached by 1990-95, the population would stabilize in sixty more years at about 22 percent higher — 134 million. If the two-child average cannot be reached for 30 years (by 2000-05), the population at stabilization would grow by an additional 24 percent to 167 million.

Similar illustrations for other countries are given below.

As Table 4. indicates, alternative rates of fertility decline would have significant impact on the size of a country’s population by 2000. They would make enormous differences in the sizes of the stabilized populations, attained some 60 to 70 years after replacement level fertility is reached. Therefore, it is of the utmost urgency that governments now recognize the facts and implications of population growth determining the ultimate population sizes that make sense for their countries and start vigorous programs at once to achieve their desired goals. FUTURE GROWTH IN MAJOR REGIONS AND COUNTRIES Throughout the projected period 1970 to 2000, less developed regions will grow more rapidly than developed regions. The rate of growth in LDCs will primarily depend upon the rapidity with which family planning practices are adopted.

Differences in the growth rates of DCs and LDCs will further aggravate the striking demographic imbalances between developed and less developed countries. Under the U.N. medium projection variant, by the year 2000 the population of less developed countries would double, rising from 2.5 billion in 1970 to 5.0 billion (Table 5). In contrast, the overall growth of the population of the developed world during the same period would amount to about 26 percent, increasing from 1.08 to 1.37 billion. Thus, by the year 2000 almost 80 percent of world population would reside in regions now considered less developed and over 90 percent of the annual increment to world population would occur there.

The paucity of reliable information on all Asian communist countries and the highly optimistic assumptions concerning China’s fertility trends implicit in U.N. medium projections2 argue for disaggregating the less developed countries into centrally planned economies and countries with market economies. Such disaggregation reflects more accurately the burden of rapidly growing populations in most LDCs.

As Table 5. shows, the population of countries with centrally planned economies, comprising about 1/3 of the 1970 LDC total, is projected to grow between 1970 and 2000 at a rate well below the LDC average of 2.3 percent. Over the entire thirty-year period, their growth rate averages 1.4 percent, in comparison with 2.7 percent for other LDCs. Between 1970 and 1985, the annual rate of growth in Asian communist LDCs is expected to average 1.6 percent and subsequently to decline to an average of 1.2 percent between 1985 and 2000. The growth rate of LDCs with market economies, on the other hand, remains practically the same, at 2.7 and 2.6 percent, respectively. Thus, barring both large-scale birth control efforts (greater than implied by the medium variant) or economic or political upheavals, the next twenty-five years offer non-communist LDCs little respite from the burdens of rapidly increasing humanity. Of course, some LDCs will be able to accommodate this increase with less difficulty than others.

Moreover, short of Draconian measures there is no possibility that any LDC can stabilize its population at less than double its present size. For many, stabilization will not be short of three times their present size.

NATO and Eastern Europe. In the west, only France and Greece have a policy of increasing population growth — which the people are successfully disregarding. (In a recent and significant change from traditional positions, however, the French Assembly overwhelmingly endorsed a law not only authorizing general availability of contraceptives but also providing that their cost be borne by the social security system.) Other western NATO members have no policies.3 Most provide some or substantial family planning services. All appear headed toward lower growth rates. In two NATO member countries (West Germany and Luxembourg), annual numbers of deaths already exceed births, yielding a negative natural growth rate.

Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria, and Czechoslovakia have active policies to increase their population growth rates — despite the reluctance of their people to have larger families. Within the USSR, fertility rates in RSFSR and the republics of Ukraine, Latvia, and Estonia are below replacement level. This situation has prevailed at least since 1969-1970 and, if continued, will eventually lead to negative population growth in these republics. In the United States, average fertility also fell below replacement level in the past two years (1972 and 1973). There is a striking difference, however, in the attitudes toward this demographic development in the two countries. While in the United States the possibility of a stabilized (non-growing) population is generally viewed with favor, in the USSR there is perceptible concern over the low fertility of Slavs and Balts (mostly by Slavs and Balts). The Soviet government, by all indications, is studying the feasibility of increasing their sagging birth rates. The entire matter of fertility-bolstering policies is circumscribed by the relatively high costs of increasing fertility (mainly through increased outlays for consumption goods and services) and the need to avoid the appearance of ethnic discrimination between rapidly and slowly growing nationalities.

U.N. medium projections to the year 2000 show no significant changes in the relative demographic position of the western alliance countries as against eastern Europe and the USSR. The population of the Warsaw Pact countries will remain at 65 percent of the populations of NATO member states. If Turkey is excluded, the Warsaw Pact proportion rises somewhat from 70 percent in 1970 to 73 percent by 2000. This change is not of an order of magnitude that in itself will have important implications for east-west power relations. (Future growth of manpower in NATO and Warsaw Pact nations has not been examined in this Memorandum.)

Of greater potential political and strategic significance are prospective changes in the populations of less developed regions both among themselves and in relation to developed countries.

Africa. Assessment of future demographic trends in Africa is severely impeded by lack of reliable base data on the size, composition, fertility and mortality, and migration of much of the continent’s population. With this important limitation in mind, the population of Africa is projected to increase from 352 million in 1970 to 834 million in 2000, an increase of almost 2.5 times. In most African countries, population growth rates are likely to increase appreciably before they begin to decline. Rapid population expansion may be particularly burdensome to the “least developed” among Africa’s LDCs including — according to the U.N. classification — Ethiopia, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Upper Volta, Mali, Malawi, Niger, Burundi, Guinea, Chad, Rwanda, Somalia, Dahomey, Lesotho, and Botswana. As a group, they numbered 104 million in 1970 and are projected to grow at an average rate of 3.0 percent a year, to some 250 million in 2000. This rate of growth is based on the assumption of significant reductions in mortality. It is questionable, however, whether economic and social conditions in the foreseeable future will permit reductions in mortality required to produce a 3 percent growth rate. Consequently, the population of the “least developed” of Africa’s LDCs may fall short of the 250 million figure in 2000.

African countries endowed with rich oil and other natural resources may be in a better economic position to cope with population expansion. Nigeria falls into this category. Already the most populous country on the continent, with an estimated 55 million people in 1970 (see footnote to Table 5), Nigeria’s population by the end of this century is projected to number 135 million. This suggests a growing political and strategic role for Nigeria, at least in Africa south of the Sahara.

In North Africa, Egypt’s population of 33 million in 1970 is projected to double by 2000. The large and increasing size of Egypt’s population is, and will remain for many years, an important consideration in the formulation of many foreign and domestic policies not only of Egypt but also of neighboring countries.

Latin America. Rapid population growth is projected for tropical South American which includes Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia. Brazil, with a current population of over 100 million, clearly dominates the continent demographically; by the end of this century, its population is projected to reach the 1974 U.S. level of about 212 million people. Rapid economic growth prospects — if they are not diminished by demographic overgrowth — portend a growing power status for Brazil in Latin America and on the world scene over the next 25 years.

The Caribbean which includes a number of countries with promising family planning programs (Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Cuba, Barbados and also Puerto Rico) is projected to grow at 2.2 percent a year between 1970 and 2000, a rate below the Latin American average of 2.8 percent.

Perhaps the most significant population trend from the viewpoint of the United States is the prospect that Mexico’s population will increase from 50 million in 1970 to over 130 million by the year 2000. Even under most optimistic conditions, in which the country’s average fertility falls to replacement level by 2000, Mexico’s population is likely to exceed 100 million by the end of this century.

South Asia. Somewhat slower rates are expected for Eastern and Middle South Asia whose combined population of 1.03 billion in 1970 is projected to more than double by 2000 to 2.20 billion. In the face of continued rapid population growth (2.5 percent), the prospects for the populous Indian subregion, which already faces staggering economic problems, are particularly bleak. South and Southeast Asia’s population will substantially increase relative to mainland China; it appears doubtful, however, that this will do much to enhance their relative power position and political influence in Asia. On the contrary, preoccupation with the growing internal economic and social problems resulting from huge population increases may progressively reduce the ability of the region, especially India, to play an effective regional and world power role.

Western South Asia, demographically dominated by Turkey and seven oil-rich states (including Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Kuwait) is projected to be one of the fastest growing LDC regions, with an annual average growth rate of 2.9 percent between 1970 and 2000. Part of this growth will be due to immigration, as for example, into Kuwait.

The relatively low growth rate of 1.8 percent projected for East Asian LDCs with market economics reflects highly successful family planning programs in Taiwan, South Korea, and Hong Kong.

The People’s Republic of China (PRC). The People’s Republic of China has by far the world’s largest population and, potentially, severe problems of population pressure, given its low standard of living and quite intensive utilization of available farm land resources. Its last census in 1953 recorded a population of 583 million, and PRC officials have cited a figure as high as 830 million for 1970. The Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis projects a slightly higher population, reaching 920 million by 1974. The present population growth rate is about two percent.


Rapid population growth in less developed countries has been mounting in a social milieu of poverty, unemployment and underemployment, low educational attainment, widespread malnutrition, and increasing costs of food production. These countries have accumulated a formidable “backlog” of unfinished tasks. They include economic assimilation of some 40 percent of their people who are pressing at, but largely remain outside the periphery of the developing economy; the amelioration of generally low levels of living; and in addition, accommodation of annually larger increments to the population. The accomplishment of these tasks could be intolerably slow if the average annual growth rate in the remainder of this century does not slow down to well below the 2.7 percent projected, under the medium variant, for LDCs with market economics. How rapid population growth impedes social and economic progress is discussed in subsequent chapters.


Rapid population growth and lagging food production in developing countries, together with the sharp deterioration in the global food situation in 1972 and 1973, have raised serious concerns about the ability of the world to feed itself adequately over the next quarter century and beyond.

As a result of population growth, and to some extent also of increasing affluence, world food demand has been growing at unprecedented rates. In 1900, the annual increase in world demand for cereals was about 4 million tons. By 1950, it had risen to about 12 million tons per year. By 1970, the annual increase in demand was 30 million tons (on a base of over 1,200 million tons). This is roughly equivalent to the annual wheat crop of Canada, Australia, and Argentina combined. This annual increase in food demand is made up of a 2% annual increase in population and a 0.5% increased demand per capita. Part of the rising per capita demand reflects improvement in diets of some of the peoples of the developing countries. In the less developed countries about 400 pounds of grain is available per person per year and is mostly eaten as cereal. The average North American, however, uses nearly a ton of grain a year, only 200 pounds directly and the rest in the form of meat, milk, and eggs for which several pounds of cereal are required to produce one pound of the animal product (e.g., five pounds of grain to produce one pound of beef).

During the past two decades, LDCs have been able to keep food production ahead of population, notwithstanding the unprecedentedly high rates of population growth. The basic figures are summarized in the following table: [calculated from data in USDA, The World Agricultural Situation, March 1974]:

(excluding Peoples Republic of China)
| Food | Food | Food |
| production | production | production |
| | | |
| Popu- Per | Popu- Per | Popu- Per |
|lation Total Capita|lation Total Capita|lation Total Capita |
| 1954 | 100 100 100 | 100 100 100 | 100 100 100 |
| 1973 | 144 170 119 | 124 170 138 | 159 171 107 |
| | |
| Compound Annual Increase (%): |
| | 1.9 2.8 0.9 | 1.1 2.8 1.7 | 2.5 2.9 0.4 |
It will be noted that the relative gain in LDC total food production was just as great as for advanced countries, but was far less on a per capita basis because of the sharp difference in population growth rates. Moreover, within the LDC group were 24 countries (including Indonesia, Nigeria, the Philippines, Zaire, Algeria, Guyana, Iraq, and Chile) in which the rate of increase of population growth exceeded the rate of increase in food production; and a much more populous group (including India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh) in which the rate of increase in production barely exceeded population growth but did not keep up with the increase in domestic demand. [World Food Conference, Preliminary Assessment, 8 May 1974; U.N. Document E/CONF. 65/ PREP/6, p. 33.]

General requirements have been projected for the years 1985 and 2000, based on the UN Medium Variant population estimates and allowing for a very small improvement in diets in the LDCs.

A recent projection made by the Department of Agriculture indicates a potential productive capacity more than adequate to meet world cereal requirements (the staple food of the world) of a population of 6.4 billion in the year 2000 (medium fertility variant) at roughly current relative prices.

This overall picture offers little cause for complacency when broken down by geographic regions. To support only a very modest improvement in current cereal consumption levels (from 177 kilograms per capita in 1970 to 200-206 kilograms in 2000) the projections show an alarming increase in LDC dependency on imports. Such imports are projected to rise from 21.4 million tons in 1970 to 102-122 million tons by the end of the century. Cereal imports would increase to 13-15 percent of total developing country consumption as against 8 percent in 1970. As a group, the advanced countries cannot only meet their own needs but will also generate a substantial surplus. For the LDCs, analyses of food production capacity foresee the physical possibility of meeting their needs, provided that (a) weather conditions are normal, (b) yields per unit of area continue to improve at the rates of the last decade, bringing the average by 1985 close to present yields in the advanced countries, and (c) a substantially larger annual transfer of grains can be arranged from the surplus countries (mainly North America), either through commercial sales or through continuous and growing food aid. The estimates of production capacity do not rely on major new technical breakthroughs in food production methods, but they do require the availability and application of greatly increased quantities of fertilizers, pesticides, irrigation water, and other inputs to modernized agriculture, together with continued technological advances at past rates and the institutional and administrative reforms (including vastly expanded research and extension services) essential to the successful application of these inputs. They also assume normal weather conditions. Substantial political will is required in the LDCs to give the necessary priority to food production.

There is great uncertainty whether the conditions for achieving food balance in the LDCs can in fact be realized. Climatic changes are poorly understood, but a persistent atmospheric cooling trend since 1940 has been established. One respectable body of scientific opinion believes that this portends a period of much wider annual frosts, and possibly a long-term lowering of rainfall in the monsoon areas of Asia and Africa. Nitrogen fertilizer will be in world short supply into the late 1970s, at least; because of higher energy prices, it may also be more costly in real terms than in the 1960s. Capital investments for irrigation and infrastructure and the organizational requirements for securing continuous improvements in agricultural yields may well be beyond the financial and administrative capacity of many LDCs. For some of the areas under heaviest population pressure, there is little or no prospect for foreign exchange earnings to cover constantly increasing imports of food.

While it is always unwise to project the recent past into the long-term future, the experience of 1972-73 is very sobering. The coincidence of adverse weather in many regions in 1972 brought per capita production in the LDCs back to the level of the early 1960s. At the same time, world food reserves (mainly American) were almost exhausted, and they were not rebuilt during the high production year of 1973. A repetition under these conditions of 1972 weather patterns would result in large-scale famine of a kind not experienced for several decades — a kind the world thought had been permanently banished.

Even if massive famine can be averted, the most optimistic forecasts of food production potential in the more populous LDCs show little improvement in the presently inadequate levels and quality of nutrition. As long as annual population growth continues at 2 to 3 percent or more, LDCs must make expanded food production the top development priority, even though it may absorb a large fraction of available capital and foreign exchange.

Moderation of population growth rates in the LDCs could make some difference to food requirements by 1985, a substantial difference by 2000, and a vast difference in the early part of the next century. From the viewpoint of U.S. interests, such reductions in LDC food needs would be clearly advantageous. They would not reduce American commercial markets for food since the reduction in LDC food requirements that would result from slowing population growth would affect only requests for concessional or grant food assistance, not commercial sales. They would improve the prospects for maintaining adequate world food reserves against climatic emergencies. They would reduce the likelihood of periodic famines in region after region, accompanied by food riots and chronic social and political instability. They would improve the possibilities for long-term development and integration into a peaceful world order.

Even taking the most optimistic view of the theoretical possibilities of producing enough foods in the developed countries to meet the requirements of the developing countries, the problem of increased costs to the LDCs is already extremely serious and in its future may be insurmountable. At current prices the anticipated import requirements of 102-122 million tons by 2000 would raise the cost of developing countries’ imports of cereals to $16-204 billion by that year compared with $2.5 billion in 1970. Large as they may seem even these estimates of import requirements could be on the low side if the developing countries are unable to achieve the Department of Agriculture’s assumed increase in the rate of growth of production.

The FAO in its recent “Preliminary Assessment of the World Food Situation Present and Future” has reached a similar conclusion:

What is certain is the enormity of the food import bill which might face the developing countries . . . In addition [to cereals] the developing countries . . . would be importing substantial amounts of other foodstuffs. clearly the financing of international food trade on this scale would raise very grave problems.

At least three-quarters of the projected increase in cereal imports of developing countries would fall in the poorer countries of South Asia and North and Central Africa. The situation in Latin America which is projected to shift from a modest surplus to a modest deficit area is quite different. Most of this deficit will be in Mexico and Central America, with relatively high income and easily exploitable transportation links to the U.S.

The problem in Latin America, therefore, appears relatively more manageable.

It seems highly unlikely, however, that the poorer countries of Asia and Africa will be able to finance nearly like the level of import requirements projected by the USDA. Few of them have dynamic export-oriented industrial sectors like Taiwan or South Korea or rich raw material resources that will generate export earnings fast enough to keep pace with food import needs. Accordingly, those countries where large-scale hunger and malnutrition are already present face the bleak prospect of little, if any, improvement in the food intake in the years ahead barring a major foreign financial food aid program, more rapid expansion of domestic food production, reduced population growth or some combination of all three. Worse yet, a series of crop disasters could transform some of them into classic Malthusian cases with famines involving millions of people.

While foreign assistance probably will continue to be forthcoming to meet short-term emergency situations like the threat of mass starvation, it is more questionable whether aid donor countries will be prepared to provide the sort of massive food aid called for by the import projections on a long-term continuing basis.

Reduced population growth rates clearly could bring significant relief over the longer term. Some analysts maintain that for the post-1985 period a rapid decline in fertility will be crucial to adequate diets worldwide. If, as noted before, fertility in the developing countries could be made to decline to the replacement level by the year 2000, the world’s population in that year would be 5.9 billion or 500 million below the level that would be attained if the UN medium projection were followed. Nearly all of the decline would be in the LDCs. With such a reduction the projected import gap of 102-122 million tons per year could be eliminated while still permitting a modest improvement in per capita consumption. While such a rapid reduction in fertility rates in the next 30 years is an optimistic target, it is thought by some experts that it could be obtained by intensified efforts if its necessity were understood by world and national leaders. Even more modest reductions could have significant implications by 2000 and even more over time.

Intensive programs to increase food production in developing countries beyond the levels assumed in the U.S.D.A. projections probably offer the best prospect for some reasonably early relief, although this poses major technical and organizational difficulties and will involve substantial costs. It must be realized, however, that this will be difficult in all countries and probably impossible in some — or many. Even with the introduction of new inputs and techniques it has not been possible to increase agricultural output by as much as 3 percent per annum in many of the poorer developing countries. Population growth in a number of these countries exceeds that rate.

Such a program of increased food production would require the widespread use of improved seed varieties, increased applications of chemical fertilizers and pesticides over vast areas and better farm management along with bringing new land under cultivation. It has been estimated, for example, that with better varieties, pest control, and the application of fertilizer on the Japanese scale, Indian rice yields could theoretically at least, be raised two and one-half times current levels. Here again very substantial foreign assistance for imported materials may be required for at least the early years before the program begins to take hold.

The problem is clear. The solutions, or at least the directions we must travel to reach them are also generally agreed. What will be required is a genuine commitment to a set of policies that will lead the international community, both developed and developing countries, to the achievement of the objectives spelled out above.


Population growth per se is not likely to impose serious constraints on the global physical availability of fuel and non-fuel minerals to the end of the century and beyond.

This favorable outlook on reserves does not rule out shortage situations for specific minerals at particular times and places. Careful planning with continued scientific and technological progress (including the development of substitutes) should keep the problems of physical availability within manageable proportions.

The major factor influencing the demand for non-agricultural raw materials is the level of industrial activity, regional and global. For example, the U.S., with 6% of the world’s population, consumes about a third of its resources. The demand for raw materials, unlike food, is not a direct function of population growth. The current scarcities and high prices for most such materials result mainly from the boom conditions in all industrialized regions in the years 1972-73.

The important potential linkage between rapid population growth and minerals availability is indirect rather than direct. It flows from the negative effects of excessive population growth in economic development and social progress, and therefore on internal stability, in overcrowded under-developed countries. The United States has become increasingly dependent on mineral imports from developing countries in recent decades, and this trend is likely to continue. The location of known reserves of higher-grade ores of most minerals favors increasing dependence of all industrialized regions on imports from less developed countries. The real problems of mineral supplies lie, not in basic physical sufficiency, but in the politico-economic issues of access, terms for exploration and exploitation, and division of the benefits among producers, consumers, and host country governments.

In the extreme cases where population pressures lead to endemic famine, food riots, and breakdown of social order, those conditions are scarcely conducive to systematic exploration for mineral deposits or the long-term investments required for their exploitation. Short of famine, unless some minimum of popular aspirations for material improvement can be satisfied, and unless the terms of access and exploitation persuade governments and peoples that this aspect of the international economic order has “something in it for them,” concessions to foreign companies are likely to be expropriated or subjected to arbitrary intervention. Whether through government action, labor conflicts, sabotage, or civil disturbance, the smooth flow of needed materials will be jeopardized. Although population pressure is obviously not the only factor involved, these types of frustrations are much less likely under conditions of slow or zero population growth.


Projections made by the Department of Interior through the year 2000 for those fuel and non-fuel minerals on which the U.S. depends heavily for imports5 support these conclusions on physical resources (see Annex). Proven reserves of many of these minerals appear to be more than adequate to meet the estimated accumulated world demand at 1972 relative prices at least to the end of the century. While petroleum (including natural gas), copper, zinc, and tin are probable exceptions, the extension of economically exploitable reserves as a result of higher prices, as well as substitution and secondary recovery for metals, should avoid long-term supply restrictions. In many cases, the price increases that have taken place since 1972 should be more than sufficient to bring about the necessary extension of reserves.

These conclusions are consistent with a much more extensive study made in 1972 for the Commission on Population Growth and the American Future.6

As regards fossil fuels, that study foresees adequate world reserves for at least the next quarter to half century even without major technological breakthroughs. U.S. reserves of coal and oil shale are adequate well into the next century, although their full exploitation may be limited by environmental and water supply factors. Estimates of the U.S. Geological Survey suggest recoverable oil and gas reserves (assuming sufficiently high prices) to meet domestic demand for another two or three decades, but there is also respectable expert opinion supporting much lower estimates; present oil production is below the peak of 1970 and meets only 70 percent of current demands.7 Nevertheless, the U.S. is in a relatively strong position on fossil fuels compared with the rest of the industrialized world, provided that it takes the time and makes the heavy investments needed to develop domestic alternatives to foreign sources.

In the case of the 19 non-fuel minerals studied by the Commission it was concluded there were sufficient proven reserves of nine to meet cumulative world needs at current relative prices through the year 2020.8 For the ten others9 world proven reserves were considered inadequate. However, it was judged that moderate price increases, recycling and substitution could bridge the estimated gap between supply and requirements.

The above projections probably understate the estimates of global resources. “Proved Reserves,” that is known supplies that will be available at present or slightly higher relative costs 10 to 25 years from now, rarely exceed 25 years’ cumulative requirements, because industry generally is reluctant to undertake costly exploration to meet demands which may or may not materialize in the more distant future. Experience has shown that additional reserves are discovered as required, at least in the case of non-fuel minerals, and “proved reserves” have generally remained constant in relation to consumption.

The adequacy of reserves does not of course assure that supplies will be forthcoming in a steady stream as required. Intermediate problems may develop as a result of business miscalculations regarding the timing of expansion to meet requirements. With the considerable lead time required for expanding capacity, this can result in periods of serious shortage for certain materials and rising prices as in the recent past. Similarly, from time to time there will be periods of overcapacity and falling prices. Necessary technical adjustments required for the shift to substitutes or increased recycling also may be delayed by the required lead time or by lack of information.

An early warning system designed to flag impending surpluses and shortages, could be very helpful in anticipating these problems. Such a mechanism might take the form of groups of experts working with the UN Division of Resources. Alternatively, intergovernmental commodity study groups might be set up for the purpose of monitoring those commodities identified as potential problem areas.

Adequate global availability of fuel and non-fuel minerals is not of much benefit to countries who cannot afford to pay for them. Oil supplies currently are adequate to cover world needs, but the quadrupling of prices in the past year has created grave financial and payment problems for developed and developing countries alike. If similar action to raise prices were undertaken by supplies of other important minerals, an already bad situation would be intensified. Success in such efforts is questionable, however; there is no case in which the quantities involved are remotely comparable to the cases of energy; and the scope for successful price-gouging or cartel tactics is much smaller.

Although the U.S. is relatively well off in this regard, it nonetheless depends heavily on mineral imports from a number of sources which are not completely safe or stable. It may therefore be necessary, especially in the light of our recent oil experience, to keep this dependence within bounds, in some cases by developing additional domestic resources and more generally by acquiring stock-piles for economic as well as national defense emergencies. There are also possible dangers of unreasonable prices promoted by producer cartels and broader policy questions of U.S. support for commodity agreements involving both producers and consumers. Such matters, however, are in the domain of commodity policy rather than population policy.

At least through the end of this century, changes in population growth trends will make little difference to total levels of requirements for fuel and other minerals. Those requirements are related much more closely to levels of income and industrial output, leaving the demand for minerals substantially unaffected. In the longer run, a lower ultimate world population (say 8 to 9 billion rather than 12 to 16 billion) would require a lower annual input of depletable resources directly affected by population size as well as a much lower volume of food, forest products, textiles, and other renewable resources.

Whatever may be done to guard against interruptions of supply and to develop domestic alternatives, the U.S. economy will require large and increasing amounts of minerals from abroad, especially from less developed countries.10 That fact gives the U.S. enhanced interest in the political, economic, and social stability of the supplying countries. Wherever a lessening of population pressures through reduced birth rates can increase the prospects for such stability, population policy becomes relevant to resource supplies and to the economic interests of the United States.


I. Factors Affecting Raw Material Demand and Supply
Some of the key factors that must be considered in evaluating the future raw materials situation are the stage of a country’s economic development and the responsiveness of the market to changes in the relative prices of the raw materials.

Economic theory indicates that the pattern of consumption of raw materials varies with the level of economic activity. Examination of the intensity-of-use of raw materials (incremental quantity of raw material needed to support an additional unit of GNP) show that after a particular level of GNP is reached, the intensity of use of raw materials starts to decline. Possible explanations for this decline are:

1. In industrialized countries, the services component of GNP expands relative to the non-services components as economic growth occurs.

2. Technological progress, on the whole, tends to lower the intensity-of-use through greater efficiency in the use of raw materials and development of alloys.

3. Economic growth continues to be characterized by substitution of one material by another and substitution of synthetics for natural materials.11

Most developed countries have reached this point of declining intensity-of-use.12 For other countries that have not reached this stage of economic development, their population usually goes through a stage of rapid growth prior to industrialization. This is due to the relative ease in the application of improved health care policies and the resulting decline in their death rates, while birth rates remain high. Then the country’s economy does begin to industrialize and grow more rapidly, the initial rapid rise in industrial production results in an increasing intensity-of-use of raw materials, until industrial production reached the level where the intensity-of-use begins to decline.

As was discussed above, changes in the relative prices of raw materials change the amount of economically recoverable reserves. Thus, the relative price level, smoothness of the adjustment process, and availability of capital for needed investment can also be expected to significantly influence raw materials’ market conditions. In addition, technological improvement in mining and metallurgy permits lower grade ores to be exploited without corresponding increases in costs.

The following table presents the 1972 net imports and the ratio of imports to total demand for nine commodities. The net imports of these nine commodities represented 99 percent of the total trade deficit in minerals.

| | 1972 | Ratio of Imports |
| Commodity | Net Imports | to Total Demand |
| | ($Millions)* | |
| Aluminum | 48.38 | .286 |
| Copper | 206.4 | .160 |
| Iron | 424.5 | .049 |
| Lead | 102.9 | .239 |
| Nickel | 477.1 | .704 |
| Tin | 220.2 | .943 |
| Titanium | 256.5 | .469 |
| Zinc | 294.8 | .517 |
| Petroleum | 5,494.5 | .246 |
| (including natural gas) | | |
The primary sources of these US imports during the period 1969-1972 were:
| Commodity Source & % |
| Aluminum – Canada 76% |
| Copper – Canada 31%, Peru 27%, Chile 22% |
| Iron – Canada 50%, Venezuela 31% |
| Lead – Canada 29%, Peru 21%, Australia 21% |
| Nickel – Canada 82%, Norway 8% |
| Tin – Malaysia 64%, Thailand 27% |
| Titanium – Japan 73%, USSR 19% |
| Zinc (Ore) – Canada 60%, Mexico 24% |
| Zinc (Metal) – Canada 48%, Australia 10% |
| Pertroleum (crude) – Canada 42% |
| Petroleum (crude) – Venezuela 17% |

World Reserves
The following table shows estimates of the world reserve position for these commodities. As mentioned earlier, the quantity of economically recoverable reserves increases with higher prices. The following tables, based on Bureau of Mines information, provide estimates of reserves at various prices. (All prices are in constant 1972 dollars.)

Aluminum (Bauxite)
Price (per pound primary aluminum)
Price A Price B Price C Price D
.23 .29 .33 .36

Reserves (billion short tons, aluminum content)
World 3.58 3.76 4.15 5.21
U.S. .01 .02 .04 .09

Price (per pound refined copper)
.51 .60 .75

Reserves (million short tons)
World 370 418 507
U.S. 83 93 115

Price (per troy ounce)
58.60 90 100 150

Reserves (million troy ounce)
World 1,000 1,221 1,588 1,850
U.S. 82 120 200 240

Price (per short ton of primary iron contained in ore)
17.80 20.80 23.80

Reserves (billion short tons iron content)
World 96.7 129.0 206.0
U.S. 2.0 2.7 18.0

Price (per pound primary lead metal)
.15 .18 .20
Reserves (million short tons, lead content)
World 96.0 129.0 144.0
U.S. 36.0 51.0 56.0

Price (per pound of primary metal)
1.53 1.75 2.00 2.25

Reserves (millions short tons)
World 46.2 60.5 78.0 99.5
U.S. .2 .2 .5 .5

Price (per pound primary tin metal)
1.77 2.00 2.50 3.00

Reserves (thousands of long tons – tin content)
World 4,180 5,500 7,530 9,290
U.S. 5 9 100 200

Price (per pound titanium in pigment)
.45 .55 .60

Reserves (thousands short tons titanium content)
World 158,000 222,000 327,000
U.S. 32,400 45,000 60,000

Price (per pound, prime western zinc delivered)
.18 .25 .30

Reserves (million short tons, zinc content)
World 131 193 260
U.S. 30 40 50


Data necessary to quantify reserve-price relationships are not available. For planning purposes, however, the Bureau of Mines used the rough assumption that a 100% increase in price would increase reserves by 10%. The average 1972 U.S. price was $3.39/bbl. with proven world reserves of 666.9 billion bbls. and U.S. reserves of 36.3 billion barrels. Using the Bureau of Mines assumption, therefore, a doubling in world price (a U.S. price of $6.78/bbl.) would imply world reserves of 733.5 billion bbls. and U.S. reserves of 39.9 billion barrels.

Natural Gas:

         Price (wellhead price per thousand cubic feet)
.186 .34 .44 .55

Reserves (trillion cubic feet)
World 1,156 6,130 10,240 15,599
U.S. 266 580 900 2,349

It should be noted that these statistics represent a shift in 1972 relative prices and assume constant 1972 technology. The development of new technology or a more dramatic shift in relative prices can have a significant impact on the supply of economically recoverable reserves. Aluminum is a case in point. It is the most abundant metallic element in the earth’s crust and the supply of this resource is almost entirely determined by the price. Current demand and technology limit economically recoverable reserves to bauxite sources. Alternate sources of aluminum exist (e.g., alunite) and if improved technology is developed making these alternate sources commercially viable, supply constraints will not likely be encountered.

The above estimated reserve figures, while representing approximate orders of magnitude, are adequate to meet projected accumulated world demand (also very rough orders of magnitude) through the year 2000. In some cases, modest price increases above the 1972 level may be required to attract the necessary capital investment.


Rapid population growth adversely affects every aspect of economic and social progress in developing countries. It absorbs large amounts of resources needed for more productive investment in development. It requires greater expenditures for health, education and other social services, particularly in urban areas. It increases the dependency load per worker so that a high fraction of the output of the productive age group is needed to support dependents. It reduces family savings and domestic investment. It increases existing severe pressures on limited agricultural land in countries where the world’s “poverty problem” is concentrated. It creates a need for use of large amounts of scarce foreign exchange for food imports (or the loss of food surpluses for export). Finally, it intensifies the already severe unemployment and underemployment problems of many developing countries where not enough productive jobs are created to absorb the annual increments to the labor force.

Even in countries with good resource/population ratios, rapid population growth causes problems for several reasons: First, large capital investments generally are required to exploit unused resources. Second, some countries already have high and growing unemployment and lack the means to train new entrants to their labor force. Third, there are long delays between starting effective family planning programs and reducing fertility, and even longer delays between reductions in fertility and population stabilization. Hence there is substantial danger of vastly overshooting population targets if population growth is not moderated in the near future.

During the past decade, the developing countries have raised their GNP at a rate of 5 percent per annum as against 4.8 percent in developed countries. But at the same time the LDCs experienced an average annual population growth rate of 2.5 percent. Thus their per capita income growth rate was only 2.5 percent and in some of the more highly populated areas the increase in per capita incomes was less than 2 percent. This stands in stark contrast to 3.6 percent in the rich countries. Moreover, the low rate means that there is very little change in those countries whose per capita incomes are $200 or less per annum. The problem has been further exacerbated in recent months by the dramatic increases in oil and fertilizer prices. The World Bank has estimated that the incomes of the 800 million inhabitants of the countries hardest hit by the oil crisis will grow at less than 1% per capita per year of the remainder of the 1970s. Taking account of inequalities in income distribution, there will be well over 500 million people, with average incomes of less than $100 per capita, who will experience either no growth or negative growth in that period.

Moderation of population growth offers benefits in terms of resources saved for investment and/or higher per capita consumption. If resource requirements to support fewer children are reduced and the funds now allocated for construction of schools, houses, hospitals and other essential facilities are invested in productive activities, the impact on the growth of GNP and per capita income may be significant. In addition, economic and social progress resulting from population control will further contribute to the decline in fertility rates. The relationship is reciprocal, and can take the form of either a vicious or a virtuous circle.

This raises the question of how much more efficient expenditures for population control might be than in raising production through direct investments in additional irrigation and power projects and factories. While most economists today do not agree with the assumptions that went into early overly optimistic estimates of returns to population expenditures, there is general agreement that up to the point when cost per acceptor rises rapidly, family planning expenditures are generally considered the best investment a country can make in its own future.

II. Impact of Population Growth on Economic Development13

In most, if not all, developing countries high fertility rates impose substantial economic costs and restrain economic growth. The main adverse macroeconomic effects may be analyzed in three general categories: (1) the saving effect, (2) “child quality” versus “child quantity”, and (3) “capital deepening” versus “capital widening.” These three categories are not mutually exclusive, but they highlight different familial and social perspectives. In addition, there are often longer-run adverse effects on agricultural output and the balance of payments.

(1) The saving effect. A high fertility economy has perforce a larger “burden of dependency” than a low fertility economy, because a larger proportion of the population consists of children too young to work. There are more non-working people to feed, house and rear, and there is a smaller surplus above minimum consumption available for savings and investment. It follows that a lower fertility rate can free resources from consumption; if saved and invested, these resources could contribute to economic growth. (There is much controversy on this; empirical studies of the savings effect have produced varying results.)

(2) Child quality versus quantity. Parents make investment decisions, in a sense, about their children. Healthier and better-educated children tend to be economically more productive, both as children and later as adults. In addition to the more-or-less conscious trade-offs parents can make about more education and better health per child, there are certain biologic adverse effects suffered by high birth order children such as higher mortality and limited brain growth due to higher incidence of malnutrition. It must be emphasized, however, that discussion of trade-offs between child quality and child quantity will probably remain academic with regard to countries where child mortality remains high. When parents cannot expect most children to survive to old age, they probably will continue to “over-compensate”, using high fertility as a form of hedge to insure that they will have some living offspring able to support the parents in the distant future.

(3) Capital deepening versus widening. From the family’s viewpoint high fertility is likely to reduce welfare per child; for the economy one may view high fertility as too rapid a growth in labor force relative to capital stock. Society’s capital stock includes facilities such as schools and other educational inputs in addition to capital investments that raise workers’ outputs in agriculture and manufacturing. For any given rate of capital accumulation, a lower population growth rate can help increase the amount of capital and education per worker, helping thereby to increase output and income per capita. The problem of migration to cities and the derived demand for urban infrastructure can also be analyzed as problems of capital widening, which draw resources away from growth-generating investments.

In a number of the more populous countries a fourth aspect of rapid growth in numbers has emerged in recent years which has profound long-run consequences. Agricultural output was able to keep pace or exceed population growth over the many decades of population rise prior to the middle of this century, primarily through steady expansion of acreage under cultivation. More recently, only marginal unused land has been available in India, Thailand, Java, Bangladesh, and other areas. As a result (a) land holdings have declined in size, and (b) land shortage has led to deforestation and overgrazing, with consequent soil erosion and severe water pollution and increased urban migration. Areas that once earned foreign exchange through the export of food surpluses are now in deficit or face early transition to dependence on food imports. Although the scope for raising agricultural productivity is very great in many of these areas, the available technologies for doing so require much higher capital costs per acre and much larger foreign exchange outlays for “modern” inputs (chemical fertilizer, pesticides, petroleum fuels, etc.) than was the case with the traditional technologies. Thus the population growth problem can be seen as an important long-run, or structural, contributor to current LDC balance of payments problems and to deterioration of their basic ecological infrastructure.

Finally, high fertility appears to exacerbate the maldistribution of income which is a fundamental economic and social problem in much of the developing world. Higher income families tend to have fewer children, spend more on the health and education of these children, have more wealth to pass on to these children in contrast to the several disadvantages that face the children of the poor. The latter tend to be more numerous, receiving less of an investment per child in their “human capital”, leaving the children with economic, educational and social constraints similar to those which restrict the opportunities of the parents. In short, high fertility contributes to the intergenerational continuity of maldistributions of income and related social and political problems.

III. The Effect of Development on Population Growth

The determinants of population growth are not well understood, especially for low income societies. Historical data show that declining fertility in Europe and North America has been associated with declining mortality and increasing urbanization, and generally with “modernization.” Fertility declined substantially in the West without the benefit of sophisticated contraceptives. This movement from high fertility and high mortality to low fertility and low mortality is known as the “demographic transition”. In many low income countries mortality has declined markedly since World War II (in large part from reduction in epidemic illness and famine), but fertility has remained high. Apart from a few pockets of low fertility in East Asia and the Caribbean, a significant demographic transition has not occurred in the third world. (The Chinese, however, make remarkable claims about their success in reducing birth rates, and qualified observers are persuaded that they have had unusual success even though specific demographic information is lacking.)

There is considerable, incontestable evidence in many developing countries that a larger (though not fully known) number of couples would like to have fewer children than possible generally there — and that there is a large unsatisfied demand by these couples for family planning services. It is also now widely believed that something more that family planning services will be needed to motivate other couples to want smaller families and all couples to want replacement levels essential to the progress and growth of their countries.

There is also evidence, although it is not conclusive, that certain aspects of economic development and modernization are more directly related to lowered birth rates than others, and that selective developmental policies may bring about a demographic transition at substantially lower per capita income levels than in Europe, North America, and Japan.14 Such selective policies would focus on improved health care and nutrition directed toward reduced infant and child mortality; universal schooling and adult literacy, especially for women; increasing the legal age of marriage; greater opportunities for female employment in the money economy; improved old-age social security arrangements; and agricultural modernization focussed on small farmers. It is important that this focus be made in development programs because, given today’s high population densities, high birth rates, and low income levels in much of Asia, Africa, and Latin America, if the demographic transition has to await overall development and modernization, the vicious circle of poverty, people, and unemployment may never be broken.

The causes of high birth rates in low income societies are generally explained in terms of three factors:

a. Inadequacy of information and means. Actual family size in many societies is higher than desired family size owing to ignorance of acceptable birth control methods or unavailability of birth control devices and services. The importance of this factor is evidenced by many sociological investigations on “desired family size” versus actual size, and by the substantial rates of acceptance for contraceptives when systematic family planning services are introduced. This factor has been a basic assumption in the family planning programs of official bilateral and multilateral programs in many countries over the past decade. Whatever the actual weight of this factor, which clearly varies from country to country and which shifts with changes in economic and social conditions, there remains without question a significant demand for family planning services.

b. Inadequacy of motivation for reduced numbers of children. Especially in the rural areas of underdeveloped countries, which account for the major share of today’s population growth, parents often want large numbers of children (especially boys) (i) to ensure that some will survive against the odds of high child mortality, (ii) to provide support for the parents in their old age, and (iii) to provide low cost farm labor. While these elements are present among rural populace, continued urbanization may reduce the need for sons in the longer term. The absence of educational and employment opportunities for young women intensifies these same motivations by encouraging early marriage and early and frequent maternity. This factor suggests the crucial importance of selective development policies as a means of accelerating the reduction of fertility.

c. The “time lag”. Family preferences and social institutions that favor high fertility change slowly. Even though mortality and economic conditions have improved significantly since World War II in LDCs, family expectations, social norms, and parental practice are slow to respond to these altered conditions. This factor leads to the need for large scale programs of information, education, and persuasion directed at lower fertility.

The three elements are undoubtedly intermixed in varying proportions in all underdeveloped countries with high birth rates. In most LDCs, many couples would reduce their completed family size if appropriate birth control methods were more easily available. The extent of this reduction, however, may still leave their completed family size at higher than mere replacement levels — i.e., at levels implying continued but less rapid population growth. Many other couples would not reduce their desired family size merely if better contraceptives were available, either because they see large families as economically beneficial, or because of cultural factors, or because they misread their own economic interests.

Therefore, family planning supply (contraceptive technology and delivery systems) and demand (the motivation for reduced fertility) would not be viewed as mutually exclusive alternatives; they are complementary and may be mutually reinforcing. The selected point of focus mentioned earlier — old age security programs, maternal and child health programs, increased female education, increasing the legal age of marriage, financial incentives to “acceptors”, personnel, — are important, yet better information is required as to which measures are most cost-effective and feasible in a given situation and how their cost-effectiveness compares to supply programs.

One additional interesting area is receiving increasing attention: the distribution of the benefits of development. Experience in several countries suggests that the extent to which the poor, with the highest fertility rates, reduce their fertility will depend on the extent to which they participate in development. In this view the average level of economic development and the average amount of modernization are less important determinants of population growth than is the specific structure of development. This line of investigation suggests that social development activities need to be more precisely targeted than in the past to reach the lowest income people, to counteract their desire for high fertility as a means of alleviating certain adverse conditions.

IV. Employment and Social Problems

Employment, aside from its role in production of goods and services, is an important source of income and of status or recognition to workers and their families. The inability of large segments of the economically active population in developing countries to find jobs offering a minimum acceptable standard of living is reflected in a widening of income disparities and a deepening sense of economic, political and social frustration.

The most economically significant employment problems in LDCs contributed to by excessive population growth are low worker productivity in production of traditional goods and services produced, the changing aspirations of the work force, the existing distribution of income, wealth and power, and the natural resource endowment of a country.

The political and social problems of urban overcrowding are directly related to population growth. In addition to the still-high fertility in urban areas of many LDC’s, population pressures on the land, which increases migration to the cities, adds to the pressures on urban job markets and political stability, and strains, the capacity to provide schools, health facilities, and water supplies.

It should be recognized that lower fertility will relieve only a portion of these strains and that its most beneficial effects will be felt only over a period of decades. Most of the potential migrants from countryside to city over the coming 15 to 20 years have already been born. Lower birth rates do provide some immediate relief to health and sanitation and welfare services, and medium-term relief to pressures on educational systems. The largest effects on employment, migration, and living standards, however, will be felt only after 25 or 30 years. The time lags inherent in all aspects of population dynamics only reinforce the urgency of adopting effective policies in the years immediately ahead if the formidable problems of the present decade are not to become utterly unmanageable in the 1990s and beyond the year 2000.


It seems well understood that the impact of population factors on the subjects already considered — development, food requirements, resources, environment — adversely affects the welfare and progress of countries in which we have a friendly interest and thus indirectly adversely affects broad U.S. interests as well.

The effects of population factors on the political stability of these countries and their implications for internal and international order or disorder, destructive social unrest, violence and disruptive foreign activities are less well understood and need more analysis. Nevertheless, some strategists and experts believe that these effects may ultimately be the most important of those arising from population factors, most harmful to the countries where they occur and seriously affecting U.S. interests. Other experts within the U.S. Government disagree with this conclusion.

A recent study15 of forty-five local conflicts involving Third World countries examined the ways in which population factors affect the initiation and course of a conflict in different situations. The study reached two major conclusions:

1. “. . . population factors are indeed critical in, and often determinants of, violent conflict in developing areas. Segmental (religious, social, racial) differences, migration, rapid population growth, differential levels of knowledge and skills, rural/urban differences, population pressure and the spacial location of population in relation to resources — in this rough order of importance — all appear to be important contributions to conflict and violence…

2. Clearly, conflicts which are regarded in primarily political terms often have demographic roots: Recognition of these relationships appears crucial to any understanding or prevention of such hostilities.”

It does not appear that the population factors act alone or, often, directly to cause the disruptive effects. They act through intervening elements — variables. They also add to other causative factors turning what might have been only a difficult situation into one with disruptive results.

This action is seldom simple. Professor Philip Hauser of the University of Chicago has suggested the concept of “population complosion” to describe the situation in many developing countries when (a) more and more people are born into or move into and are compressed in the same living space under (b) conditions and irritations of different races, colors, religions, languages, or cultural backgrounds, often with differential rates of population growth among these groups, and (c) with the frustrations of failure to achieve their aspirations for better standards of living for themselves or their children. To these may be added pressures for and actual international migration. These population factors appear to have a multiplying effect on other factors involved in situations of incipient violence. Population density, the “overpopulation” most often thought of in this connection, is much less important.

These population factors contribute to socio-economic variables including breakdowns in social structures, underemployment and unemployment, poverty, deprived people in city slums, lowered opportunities for education for the masses, few job opportunities for those who do obtain education, interracial, religious, and regional rivalries, and sharply increased financial, planning, and administrative burdens on governmental systems at all levels.

These adverse conditions appear to contribute frequently to harmful developments of a political nature: Juvenile delinquency, thievery and other crimes, organized brigandry, kidnapping and terrorism, food riots, other outbreaks of violence; guerilla warfare, communal violence, separatist movements, revolutionary movements and counter-revolutionary coups. All of these bear upon the weakening or collapse of local, state, or national government functions.

Beyond national boundaries, population factors appear to have had operative roles in some past politically disturbing legal or illegal mass migrations, border incidents, and wars. If current increased population pressures continue they may have greater potential for future disruption in foreign relations.

Perhaps most important, in the last decade population factors have impacted more severely than before on availabilities of agricultural land and resources, industrialization, pollution and the environment. All this is occurring at a time when international communications have created rising expectations which are being frustrated by slow development and inequalities of distribution.

Since population factors work with other factors and act through intervening linkages, research as to their effects of a political nature is difficult and “proof” even more so. This does not mean, however, that the causality does not exist. It means only that U.S. policy decisions must take into account the less precise and programmatic character of our knowledge of these linkages.

Although general hypotheses are hard to draw, some seem reasonably sustainable:

1. Population growth and inadequate resources. Where population size is greater than available resources, or is expanding more rapidly than the available resources, there is a tendency toward internal disorders and violence and, sometimes, disruptive international policies or violence. The higher the rate of growth, the more salient a factor population increase appears to be. A sense of increasing crowding, real or perceived, seems to generate such tendencies, especially if it seems to thwart obtaining desired personal or national goals.

2. Populations with a high proportion of growth. The young people, who are in much higher proportions in many LDCs, are likely to be more volatile, unstable, prone to extremes, alienation and violence than an older population. These young people can more readily be persuaded to attack the legal institutions of the government or real property of the “establishment,” “imperialists,” multinational corporations, or other — often foreign — influences blamed for their troubles.

3. Population factors with social cleavages. When adverse population factors of growth, movement, density, excess, or pressure coincide with racial, religious, color, linguistic, cultural, or other social cleavages, there will develop the most potentially explosive situations for internal disorder, perhaps with external effects. When such factors exist together with the reality or sense of relative deprivation among different groups within the same country or in relation to other countries or peoples, the probability of violence increases significantly.

4. Population movements and international migrations. Population movements within countries appear to have a large role in disorders. Migrations into neighboring countries (especially those richer or more sparsely settled), whether legal or illegal, can provoke negative political reactions or force.

There may be increased propensities for violence arising simply from technological developments making it easier — e.g., international proliferation and more ready accessibility to sub-national groups of nuclear and other lethal weaponry. These possibilities make the disruptive population factors discussed above even more dangerous.

Some Effects of Current Population Pressures

In the 1960s and 1970s, there have been a series of episodes in which population factors have apparently had a role — directly or indirectly — affecting countries in which we have an interest.

El Salvador-Honduras War. An example was the 1969 war between El Salvador and Honduras. Dubbed the “Soccer War”, it was sparked by a riot during a soccer match, its underlying cause was tension resulting from the large scale migration of Salvadorans from their rapidly growing, densely populated country to relatively uninhabited areas of Honduras. The Hondurans resented the presence of migrants and in 1969 began to enforce an already extant land tenancy law to expel them. El Salvador was angered by the treatment given its citizens. Flaring tempers on both sides over this issue created a situation which ultimately led to a military clash.

Nigeria. The Nigerian civil war seriously retarded the progress of Africa’s most populous nations and caused political repercussions and pressures in the United States. It was fundamentally a matter of tribal relationships. Irritations among the tribes caused in part by rapidly increasing numbers of people, in a situation of inadequate opportunity for most of them, magnified the tribal issues and may have helped precipitate the war. The migration of the Ibos from Eastern Nigeria, looking for employment, led to competition with local peoples of other tribes and contributed to tribal rioting. This unstable situation was intensified by the fact that in the 1963 population census returns were falsified to inflate the Western region’s population and hence its representation in the Federal Government. The Ibos of the Eastern region, with the oil resources of the country, felt their resources would be unjustly drawn on and attempted to establish their independence.

Pakistan-India-Bangladesh 1970-71. This religious and nationalistic conflict contains several points where a population factor at a crucial time may have had a causal effect in turning events away from peaceful solutions to violence. The Central Government in West Pakistan resorted to military suppression of the East Wing after the election in which the Awami League had an overwhelming victory in East Pakistan. This election had followed two sets of circumstances. The first was a growing discontent in East Pakistan at the slow rate of economic and social progress being made and the Bengali feeling that West Pakistan was dealing unequally and unfairly with East Pakistan in the distribution of national revenues. The first population factor was the 75 million Bengalis whom the 45 million West Pakistanis sought to continue to dominate. Some observers believe that as a recent population factor the rapid rate of population growth in East Pakistan seriously diminished the per capita improvement from the revenues made available and contributed significantly to the discontent. A special aspect of the population explosion in East Pakistan (second population factor) was the fact that the dense occupation of all good agricultural land forced hundreds of thousands of people to move into the obviously unsafe lowlands along the southern coast. They became victims of the hurricane in 1970. An estimated 300,000 died. The Government was unable to deal with a disaster affecting so many people. The leaders and people of East Pakistan reacted vigorously to this failure of the Government to bring help.

It seems quite likely that these situations in which population factors played an important role led to the overwhelming victory of the Awami League that led the Government to resort to force in East Pakistan with the massacres and rapes that followed. Other experts believe the effects of the latter two factors were of marginal influence in the Awami League’s victory.

It further seems possible that much of the violence was stimulated or magnified by population pressures. Two groups of Moslems had been competing for jobs and land in East Bengal since the 1947 partition. “Biharis” are a small minority of non-Bengali Moslems who chose to resettle in East Pakistan at that time. Their integration into Bengali society was undoubtedly inhibited by the deteriorating living conditions of the majority Bengalis. With the Pakistan army crackdown in March, 1971, the Biharis cooperated with the authorities, and reportedly were able thereby to improve their economic conditions at the expense of the persecuted Bengalis. When the tables were turned after independence, it was the Biharis who were persecuted and whose property and jobs were seized. It seems likely that both these outbursts of violence were induced or enlarged by the population “complosion” factor.

The violence in East Pakistan against the Bengalis and particularly the Hindu minority who bore the brunt of Army repression led to the next population factor, the mass migration during one year of nine or ten million refugees into West Bengal in India. This placed a tremendous burden on the already weak Indian economy. As one Indian leader in the India Family Planning Program said, “The influx of nine million people wiped out the savings of some nine million births which had been averted over a period of eight years of the family planning program.”

There were other factors in India’s invasion of East Bengal, but it is possible that the necessity of returning these nine or ten million refugees to east Bengal — getting them out of India — may have played a part in the Indian decision to invade. Certainly, in a broader sense, the threat posed by this serious, spreading instability on India’s eastern frontier — an instability in which population factors were a major underlying cause — a key reason for the Indian decision.

The political arrangements in the Subcontinent have changed, but all of the underlying population factors which influenced the dramatic acts of violence that took place in 1970-71 still exist, in worsening dimensions, to influence future events.

Additional illustrations. Population factors also appear to have had indirect causal relations, in varying degrees, on the killings in Indonesia in 1965-6, the communal slaughter in Rwanda in 1961-2 and 1963-4 and in Burundi in 1972, the coup in Uganda in 1972, and the insurrection in Sri Lanka in 1971.

Some Potential Effects of Future Population Pressures

Between the end of World War II and 1975 the world’s population will have increased about one and a half billion — nearly one billion of that from 1960 to the present. The rate of growth is increasing and between two and a half and three and a half billion will be added by the year 2000, depending partly on the effectiveness of population growth control programs. This increase of the next 25 years will, of course, pyramid on the great number added with such rapidity in the last 25. The population factors which contributed to the political pressures and instabilities of the last decades will be multiplied.

PRC – The demographic factors of the PRC are referred to on page 79 above. The Government of the PRC has made a major effort to feed its growing population.

Cultivated farm land, at 107 million hectares, has not increased significantly over the past 25 years, although farm output has substantially kept pace with population growth through improved yields secured by land improvement, irrigation extension, intensified cropping, and rapid expansion in the supply of fertilizers.

In 1973 the PRC adopted new, forceful population control measures. In the urban areas Peking claimed its birth control measures had secured a two-child family and a one percent annual population growth, and it proposes to extend this development throughout the rural areas by 1980.

The political implications of China’s future population growth are obviously important but are not dealt with here.

Israel and the Arab States. If a peace settlement can be reached, the central issue will be how to make it last. Egypt with about 37 million today is growing at 2.8% per year. It will approximate 48 million by 1985, 75 million by 1995, and more than 85 million by 2000. It is doubtful that Egypt’s economic progress can greatly exceed its population growth. With Israel starting at today’s population of 3.3 million, the disparity between its population and those of the Arab States will rapidly increase. Inside Israel, unless Jewish immigration continues, the gap between the size of the Arab and Jewish populations will diminish. Together with the traditional animosities — which will remain the prime determinants of Arab-Israeli conflict — these population factors make the potential for peace and for U.S. interests in the area ominous.

India-Bangladesh. The Subcontinent will be for years the major focus of world concern over population growth. India’s population is now approximately 580 million, adding a million by each full moon. Embassy New Delhi (New Delhi 2115, June 17, 1974) reports:

“There seems no way of turning off the faucet this side of 1 billion Indians, which means India must continue to court economic and social disaster. It is not clear how the shaky and slow-growing Indian economy can bear the enormous expenditures on health, housing, employment, and education, which must be made if the society is even to maintain its current low levels.”

Death rates have recently increased in parts of India and episodes like the recent smallpox epidemic have led Embassy New Delhi to add:

“A future failure of the India food crop could cause widespread death and suffering which could not be overcome by the GOI or foreign assistance. The rise in the death rate in several rural areas suggests that Malthusian pressures are already being felt.”

And further:

“Increasing political disturbances should be expected in the future, fed by the pressures of rising population in urban areas, food shortages, and growing scarcities in household commodities. The GOI has not been very successful in alleviating unemployment in the cities. The recent disturbances in Gujarat and Bihar seem to be only the beginning of chronic and serious political disorders occurring throughout India.”

There will probably be a weakening, possibly a breakdown, of the control of the central government over some of the states and local areas. The democratic system will be taxed and may be in danger of giving way to a form of dictatorship, benevolent or otherwise. The existence of India as a democratic buttress in Asia will be threatened.

Bangladesh, with appalling population density, rapid population growth, and extensive poverty will suffer even more. Its population has increased 40% since the census 13 years ago and is growing at least 3% per year. The present 75 million, or so, unless slowed by famine, disease, or massive birth control, will double in 23 years and exceed 170 million by 2000.

Requirements for food and other basic necessities of life are growing at a faster rate than existing resources and administrative systems are providing them. In the rural areas, the size of the average farm is being reduced and there is increasing landlessness. More and more people are migrating to urban areas. The government admits a 30% rate of unemployment and underemployment. Already, Embassy Dacca reports (Dacca 3424, June 19, 1974) there are important economic-population causes for the landlessness that is rapidly increasing and contributing to violent crimes of murder and armed robbery that terrorize the ordinary citizen.

“Some of the vast army of unemployed and landless, and those strapped by the escalating cost of basic commodities, have doubtless turned to crime.”

Three paragraphs of Embassy Dacca’s report sharply outline the effect on U.S. political interests we may anticipate from population factors in Bangladesh and other countries that, if present trends are not changed, will be in conditions similar to Bangladesh in only a few years.

“Of concern to the U.S. are several probable outcomes as the basic political, economic and social situation worsens over the coming decades. Already afflicted with a crisis mentality by which they look to wealthy foreign countries to shore up their faltering economy, the BDG will continue to escalate its demands on the U.S. both bilaterally and internationally to enlarge its assistance, both of commodities and financing. Bangladesh is now a fairly solid supporter of third world positions, advocating better distribution of the world’s wealth and extensive trade concessions to poor nations. As its problems grow and its ability to gain assistance fails to keep pace, Bangladesh’s positions on international issues likely will become radicalized, inevitably in opposition to U.S. interests on major issues as it seeks to align itself with others to force adequate aid.

“U.S. interests in Bangladesh center on the development of an economically and politically stable country which will not threaten the stability of its neighbors in the Subcontinent nor invite the intrusion of outside powers. Surrounded on three sides by India and sharing a short border with Burma, Bangladesh, if it descends into chaos, will threaten the stability of these nations as well. Already Bengalis are illegally migrating into the frontier provinces of Assam and Tripura, politically sensitive areas of India, and into adjacent Burma. Should expanded out-migration and socio-political collapse in Bangladesh threaten its own stability, India may be forced to consider intervention, although it is difficult to see in what way the Indians could cope with the situation.

“Bangladesh is a case study of the effects of few resources and burgeoning population not only on national and regional stability but also on the future world order. In a sense, if we and other richer elements of the world community do not meet the test of formulating a policy to help Bangladesh awaken from its economic and demographic nightmare, we will not be prepared in future decades to deal with the consequences of similar problems in other countries which have far more political and economic consequences to U.S. interests.”

Africa — Sahel Countries. The current tragedy of the Sahel countries, to which U.S. aid in past years has been minimal, has suddenly cost us an immense effort in food supplies at a time when we are already hard pressed to supply other countries, and domestic food prices are causing strong political repercussions in the U.S. The costs to us and other donor countries for aid to help restore the devastated land will run into hundreds of millions. Yet little attention is given to the fact that even before the adverse effect of the continued drought, it was population growth and added migration of herdsmen to the edge of the desert that led to cutting the trees and cropping the grass, inviting the desert to sweep forward. Control of population growth and migration must be a part of any program for improvement of lasting value.

Panama. The troublesome problem of jurisdiction over the Canal Zone is primarily due to Panamanian feelings of national pride and a desire to achieve sovereignty over its entire territory. One Panamanian agreement in pursuing its treaty goals is that U.S. control over the Canal Zone prevents the natural expansion of Panama City, an expansion needed as a result of demographic pressures. In 1908, at the time of the construction of the Canal, the population of the Zone was about 40,000. Today it is close to the same figure, 45,000. On the other hand, Panama City, which had some 20,000 people in 1908, has received growing migration from rural areas and now has over 500,000. A new treaty which would give Panama jurisdiction over land now in the Zone would help alleviate the problems caused by this growth of Panama City.

Mexico and the U.S. Closest to home, the combined population growth of Mexico and the U.S. Southwest presages major difficulties for the future. Mexico’s population is growing at some 3.5% per year and will double in 20 years with concomitant increases in demands for food, housing, education, and employment. By 1995, the present 57 million will have increased to some 115 million and, unless their recently established family planning program has great success, by 2000 will exceed 130 million. More important, the numbers of young people entering the job market each year will expand even more quickly. These growing numbers will increase the pressure of illegal emigration to the U.S., and make the issue an even more serious source of friction in our political relations with Mexico.

On our side, the Bureau of the Census estimates that as more and more Americans move to the Southwestern States the present 40,000,000 population may approximate 61,000,000 by 1995. The domestic use of Colorado River water may again have increased the salinity level in Mexico and reopened that political issue.

Amembassy Mexico City (Mexico 4953, June 14, 1974) summarized the influences of population factors on U.S. interests as follows:

“An indefinite continuation of Mexico’s high population growth rate would increasingly act as a brake on economic (and social) improvement. The consequences would be noted in various ways. Mexico could well take more radical positions in the international scene. Illegal migration to the U.S. would increase. In a country where unemployment and under-employment is already high, the entry of increasing numbers into the work force would only intensify the pressure to seek employment in the U.S. by whatever means. Yet another consequence would be increased demand for food imports from the U.S., especially if the rate of growth of agricultural production continues to lag behind the population growth rate. Finally, one cannot dismiss the spectre of future domestic instability as a long term consequence, should the economy, now strong, falter.”

UNCTAD, the Special UNGA, and the UN. The developing countries, after several years of unorganized maneuvering and erratic attacks have now formed tight groupings in the Special Committee for Latin American Coordination, the Organization of African States, and the Seventy-Seven. As illustrated in the Declaration of Santiago and the recent Special General Assembly, these groupings at times appear to reflect a common desire to launch economic attacks against the United States and, to a lesser degree, the European developed countries. A factor which is common to all of them, which retards their development, burdens their foreign exchange, subjects them to world prices for food, fertilizer, and necessities of life and pushes them into disadvantageous trade relations is their excessively rapid population growth. Until they are able to overcome this problem, it is likely that their manifestations of antagonism toward the United States in international bodies will increase.

Global Factors

In industrial nations, population growth increases demand for industrial output. This over time tends to deplete national raw materials resources and calls increasingly on sources of marginal profitability and foreign supplies. To obtain raw materials, industrial nations seek to locate and develop external sources of supply. The potential for collisions of interest among the developing countries is obvious and has already begun. It is visible and vexing in claims for territorial waters and national sovereignty over mineral resources. It may become intense in rivalries over exploring and exploiting the resources of the ocean floor.

In developing countries, the burden of population factors, added to others, will weaken unstable governments, often only marginally effective in good times, and open the way for extremist regimes. Countries suffering under such burdens will be more susceptible to radicalization. Their vulnerability also might invite foreign intervention by stronger nations bent on acquiring political and economic advantage. The tensions within the Have-not nations are likely to intensify, and the conflicts between them and the Haves may escalate.

Past experience gives little assistance to predicting the course of these developments because the speed of today’s population growth, migrations, and urbanization far exceeds anything the world has seen before. Moreover, the consequences of such population factors can no longer be evaded by moving to new hunting or grazing lands, by conquering new territory, by discovering or colonizing new continents, or by emigration in large numbers.

The world has ample warning that we all must make more rapid efforts at social and economic development to avoid or mitigate these gloomy prospects. We should be warned also that we all must move as rapidly as possible toward stabilizing national and world population growth.


From the standpoint of policy and program, the focal point of the World Population Conference (WPC) at Bucharest, Romania, in August 1974, was the World Population Plan of Action (WPPA). The U.S. had contributed many substantive points to the draft Plan. We had particularly emphasized the incorporation of population factors in national planning of developing countries’ population programs for assuring the availability of means of family planning to persons of reproductive age, voluntary but specific goals for the reduction of population growth and time frames for action.

As the WPPA reached the WPC it was organized as a demographic document. It also related population factors to family welfare, social and economic development, and fertility reduction. Population policies and programs were recognized as an essential element, but only one element of economic and social development programs. The sovereignty of nations in determining their own population policies and programs was repeatedly recognized. The general impression after five regional consultative meetings on the Plan was that it had general support.

There was general consternation, therefore, when at the beginning of the conference the Plan was subjected to a slashing, five-pronged attack led by Algeria, with the backing of several African countries; Argentina, supported by Uruguay, Brazil, Peru and, more limitedly, some other Latin American countries; the Eastern European group (less Romania); the PRC and the Holy See. Although the attacks were not identical, they embraced three central elements relevant to U.S. policy and action in this field:

1. Repeated references to the importance (or as some said, the pre-condition) of economic and social development for the reduction of high fertility. Led by Algeria and Argentina, many emphasized the “new international economic order” as central to economic and social development.

2. Efforts to reduce the references to population programs, minimize their importance and delete all references to quantitative or time goals.

3. Additional references to national sovereignty in setting population policies and programs.

The Plan of Action

Despite the initial attack and continuing efforts to change the conceptual basis of the world Population Plan of Action, the Conference adopted by acclamation (only the Holy See stating a general reservation) a complete World Population Plan of Action. It is less urgent in tone than the draft submitted by the U.N. Secretariat but in several ways more complete and with greater potential than that draft. The final action followed a vigorous debate with hotly contested positions and forty-seven votes. Nevertheless, there was general satisfaction among the participants at the success of their efforts.

a. Principles and Aims

The Plan of Action lays down several important principles, some for the first time in a U.N. document.

1. Among the first-time statements is the assertion that the sovereign right of each nation to set its own population policies is “to be exercised … taking into account universal solidarity in order to improve the quality of life of the peoples of the world.” (Para 13) This new provision opens the way toward increasing responsibility by nations toward other nations in establishing their national population policies.

2. The conceptual relationship between population and development is stated in Para 13(c):

Population and development are interrelated: population variables influence development variables and are also influenced by them; the formulation of a World Population Plan of Action reflects the international community’s awareness of the importance of population trends for socio-economic development, and the socio-economic nature of the recommendations contained in this Plan of Action reflects its awareness of the crucial role that development plays in affecting population trends.

3. A basic right of couples and individuals is recognized by Para 13(f), for the first time in a single declarative sentence:

All couples and individuals have the basic human right to decide freely and responsibly the number and spacing of their children and to have the information, education and means to do so;

4. Also for the first time, a U.N. document links the responsibility of child-bearers to the community [Para 13(f) continued]:

The responsibility of couples and individuals in the exercise of this right takes into account the needs of their living and future children, and their responsibilities towards the community.

It is now possible to build on this newly-stated principle as the right of couples first recognized in the Tehran Human Rights Declaration of 1968 has been built on.

5. A flat declaration of the right of women is included in Para 13(h):

Women have the right to complete integration in the development process particularly by means of an equal participation in educational, social, economic, cultural and political life. In addition, the necessary measures should be taken to facilitate this integration with family responsibilities which should be fully shared by both partners.

6. The need for international action is accepted in Para 13(k):

The growing interdependence of countries makes the adoption of measures at the international level increasingly important for the solution of problems of development and population problems.

7. The “primary aim” of the Plan of Action is asserted to be “to expand and deepen the capacities of countries to deal effectively with their national and subnational population problems and to promote an appropriate international response to their needs by increasing international activity in research, the exchange of information, and the provision of assistance on request.”

b. Recommendations

The Plan of Action includes recommendations for: population goals and policies; population growth; mortality and morbidity; reproduction; family formation and the status of women; population distribution and internal migration; international migration; population structure; socio-economic policies; data collection and analysis; research; development and evolution of population policies; the role of national governments and of international cooperation; and monitoring, review and appraisal.

A score of these recommendations are the most important:

1. Governments should integrate population measures and programs into comprehensive social and economic plans and programs and their integration should be reflected in the goals, instrumentalities and organizations for planning within the countries. A unit dealing with population aspects should be created and placed at a high level of the national administrative structure. (Para 94)

2. Countries which consider their population growth hampers attainment of their goals should consider adopting population policies — through a low level of birth and death rates. (Para 17, 18)

3. Highest priority should be given to reduction in mortality and morbidity and increase of life expectancy and programs for this purpose should reach rural areas and underprivileged groups. (Para 20-25)

4. Countries are urged to encourage appropriate education concerning responsible parenthood and make available to persons who so desire advice and means of achieving it. [Para 29(b)]

5. Family planning and related services should aim at prevention of unwanted pregnancies and also at elimination of involuntary sterility or subfecundity to enable couples to achieve their desired number of children. [Para 29 (c)]

6. Adequately trained auxiliary personnel, social workers and non-government channels should be used to help provide family planning services. [Para 29(e)]

7. Governments with family planning programs should consider coordinating them with health and other services designed to raise the quality of life.

8. Countries wishing to affect fertility levels should give priority to development programs and health and education strategies which have a decisive effect upon demographic trends, including fertility. [Para 31] International cooperation should give priority to assisting such national efforts. Such programs may include reduction in infant and child mortality, increased education, particularly for females, improvement in the status of women, land reform and support in old age. [Para 32]

9. Countries which consider their birth rates detrimental to their national purposes are invited to set quantitative goals and implement policies to achieve them by 1985. [Para 37]

10. Developed countries are urged to develop appropriate policies in population, consumption and investment, bearing in mind the need for fundamental improvement in international equity.

11. Because the family is the basic unit of society, governments should assist families as far as possible through legislation and services. [Para 39]

12. Governments should ensure full participation of women in the educational, economic, social and political life of their countries on an equal basis with men. [Para 40] (A new provision, added at Bucharest.)

13. A series of recommendations are made to stabilize migration within countries, particularly policies to reduce the undesirable consequences of excessively rapid urbanization and to develop opportunities in rural areas and small towns, recognizing the right of individuals to move freely within their national boundaries. [Para 44-50]

14. Agreements should be concluded to regulate the international migration of workers and to assure non-discriminatory treatment and social services for these workers and their families; also other measures to decrease the brain drain from developing countries. [Para 51-62]

15. To assure needed information concerning population trends, population censuses should be taken at regular intervals and information concerning births and deaths be made available at least annually. [Para 72-77]

16. Research should be intensified to develop knowledge concerning the social, economic and political interrelationships with population trends; effective means of reducing infant and childhood mortality; methods for integrating population goals into national plans, means of improving the motivation of people, analysis of population policies in relation to socio-economic development, laws and institution; methods of fertility regulation to meet the varied requirement of individuals and communities, including methods requiring no medical supervision; the interrelations of health, nutrition and reproductive biology; and utilization of social services, including family planning services. [Para 78-80]

17. Training of management on population dynamics and administration, on an interdisciplinary basis, should be provided for medical, paramedical, traditional health personnel, program administrators, senior government officials, labor, community and social leaders. Education and information programs should be undertaken to bring population information to all areas of countries. [Paras 81-92]

18. An important role of governments is to determine and assess the population problems and needs of their countries in the light of their political, social, cultural, religious and economic conditions; such an undertaking should be carried out systematically and periodically so as to provide informed, rational and dynamic decision-making in matters of population and development. [Para 97]

20. The Plan of Action should be closely coordinated with the International Development Strategy for the Second United Nations Development Decade, reviewed in depth at five year intervals, and modified as appropriate. [Paras 106-108]

The Plan of Action hedges in presenting specific statements of quantitative goals or a time frame for the reduction of fertility. These concepts are included, however, in the combination of Paras 16 and 36, together with goals [Para 37] and the review [Para 106]. Para 16 states that, according to the U.N low variant projections, it is estimated that as a result of social and economic development and population policies as reported by countries in the Second United Nations Inquiry on Population and Development, population growth rates in the developing countries as a whole may decline from the present level of 2.4% per annum to about 2% by 1985; and below 0.7% per annum in the developed countries. In this case the worldwide rate of population growth would decline from 2% to about 1.7%. Para 36 says that these projections and those for mortality decline are consistent with declines in the birth rate of the developing countries as a whole from the present level of 38 per thousand to 30 per thousand by 1985. Para 36 goes on to say that “To achieve by 1985 these levels of fertility would require substantial national efforts, by those countries concerned, in the field of socio-economic development and population policies, supported, upon request, by adequate international assistance.” Para 37 then follows with the statement that countries which consider their birth rates detrimental to their national purposes are invited to consider setting quantitative goals and implementing policies that may lead to the attainment of such goals by 1985. Para 106 recommends a comprehensive review and appraisal of population trends and policies discussed in the Plan of Action should be undertaken every five years and modified, wherever needed, by ECOSOC.

Usefulness of the Plan of Action

The World Population Plan of Action, despite its wordiness and often hesitant tone, contains all the necessary provisions for effective population growth control programs at national and international levels. It lacks only plain statements of quantitative goals with time frames for their accomplishment. These will have to be added by individual national action and development as rapidly as possible in further U.N. documents. The basis for suitable goals exists in paragraphs 16, 36, 37, and 106, referred to above. The U.N. low variant projection used in these paragraphs is close to the goals proposed by the United States and other ECAFE nations:

  • For developed countries –
    replacement levels of fertility by 1985;
    stationary populations as soon as practicable.
  • For developing countries –
    replacement levels in two or three decades.
  • For the world –
    a 1.7% population growth rate by 1985 with 2% average for the developing countries and 0.7% average for developed countries;
    replacement level of fertility for all countries by 2000.
The dangerous situation evidenced by the current food situation and projections for the future make it essential to press for the realization of these goals. The beliefs, ideologies and misconceptions displayed by many nations at Bucharest indicate more forcefully than ever the need for extensive education of the leaders of many governments, especially in Africa and some in Latin America. Approaches leaders of individual countries must be designed in the light of their current beliefs and to meet their special concerns. These might include:

1. Projections of population growth individualized for countries and with analyses of relations of population factors to social and economic development of each country.

2. Familiarization programs at U.N. Headquarters in New York for ministers of governments, senior policy level officials and comparably influential leaders from private life.

3. Greatly increased training programs for senior officials in the elements of demographic economics.

4. Assistance in integrating population factors in national plans, particularly as they relate to health services, education, agricultural resources and development, employment, equitable distribution of income and social stability.

5. Assistance in relating population policies and family planning programs to major sectors of development: health, nutrition, agriculture, education, social services, organized labor, women’s activities, community development.

6. Initiatives to implement the Percy amendment regarding improvement in the status of women.

7. Emphasis in assistance and development programs on development of rural areas.

All these activities and others particularly productive are consistent with the Plan of Action and may be based upon it.

Beyond these activities, essentially directed at national interests, a broader educational concept is needed to convey an acute understanding of the interrelation of national interests and world population growth.

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