Curb extreme population shifts, seek suitable level for each nation

The world’s population has exceeded 8 billion. While the population will continue to grow, mainly in developing countries, developed nations are under pressure to take measures to deal with their declining populations. Maintaining an appropriate population size is a shared challenge for all countries.

According to the United Nations, the world’s population has increased by 1 billion people over the past 11 years. It is expected to surpass 9 billion by around 2037 and 10 billion by around 2058.

More than half of the future growth in global population will be concentrated in eight countries, including India, Egypt, Ethiopia and the Philippines, with India surpassing China next year as the world’s most populous country.

The expansion of production and consumption that accompanies population growth will inevitably require more resources and lead to an increase in greenhouse gas emissions. The question will be how to achieve a sustainable global environment.

In particular, sub-Saharan Africa is facing serious troubles.

The previous trend of high fertility and high mortality, where the number of births and deaths were both high, has shifted to high fertility and low mortality, with fewer deaths in recent years and the population increasing. This is due to a decrease in infant deaths and an increase in life expectancy as a result of improvements in health and medical care.

Population growth could become a driving force for economic growth with increased productivity and purchasing power. However, in reality, many countries are currently unable to escape poverty because education and resource allocation have not kept pace with excessive increases in population. Rampant corruption and other factors that have made governments unable to govern have also been cited as problems.

Ethiopia, an African country whose population has doubled in the past 30 years, built a huge dam on the upper Nile to expand its electricity supply. After Ethiopia started to impound water in the dam two years ago, Sudan and Egypt, which are situated downstream, opposed it, and conflicts over water resources emerged.

The support and involvement of the international community is essential to ensure that population growth does not lead to worsening poverty and conflict. The spread of family planning and the expansion of educational and employment opportunities for women will help prevent explosive population growth and lead to the realization of an affluent society. Awareness of this must be expanded.

At the same time, major industrialized countries are facing declining numbers in births, low birth rates and graying populations. It is difficult to find quick remedies for this unprecedented situation.

Sweden has combined such systems as long-term child-rearing leave, income guarantees during such leave and child allowances in order to increase the birth rate. Germany has also halted its population decline through similar policies as well as an increase in immigration. Efforts that match the actual situation in each country will be necessary.

Japan’s population has been rapidly declining for the past about 10 years, and the world is watching its countermeasures closely. The government should carefully analyze the attitudes and economic situation of the younger generation who are about to get married or have children, and implement policies that will give them hope.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Nov. 27, 2022)