Let us make an in-depth study of the effects of economic development on population growth of a country.
Population growth affects economic development; and, in its turn, economic development affects population growth. So far, we have studied the effects of population growth on economic development.
We now take up the effects of economic development on population growth.
The last two centuries have witnessed a fall in the death rate and the consequent growth of population in today’s economically advanced countries. The birth rate also fell. Economic development brought in its wake higher standards of living, better food, adequate clothing and shelter, as also protection from the natural disasters of drought and famine.
There also occurred improvement in medical facilities and health care. All these led to a fall in infant mortality and healthier people and longer life-expectancy. These were closely related to the economic progress that these countries were making. “In general, therefore, … the modem increase in population in the developing countries of Europe and North America occurred along with and was really part and parcel of a more general process of rising living standards, industrialisation, and technological progress.” (R. T Gill).
When we turn to the population explosion problem of developing countries, we see that these countries have shown very little economic growth. Yet their populations are expanding rapidly. These countries are importing Western technology to start modem industrialisation programmes but are unable to emulate or import the growth process itself.
The spread of Western techniques of health care, sanitation and medicine to such countries has brought about sharply falling death rates and rapid population growth. But the standard of living is yet to achieve any appreciable improvement. The other accompaniments of economic development are also conspicuous by their absence.
The above point has been highlighted by Stephen Enke:
“High fertility rates have the demographic effect of increasing the proportionate number of children. A country with a crude birth rate of over 40/1,000 a year is likely to have 40% of its population under 15 years of age. Youngsters under 15 years of age are significant consumers but insignificant producers. Large families including many children with consequent low incomes per family member are poor contributors to domestic saving. Low savings per capita are associated with young population and high fertility.”
The point is that modem acceleration of population growth is largely attributable to the general and technological expansion of the West. But it is no longer true to assume that economic progress is a necessary condition for population expansion. Thanks to the achievements of modem science, rapidly growing numbers are the rule in most countries where poverty for the existing masses remains the most outstanding fact of economic life.
There is no doubt that population growth and the associated increase in labour force have been positive factors in stimulating economic growth. A large labour force means more productive manpower, while a larger size of population increases the potential size of the domestic market.
However, whether rapidly growing labour force in developing countries exerts a positive or negative influence on economic progress depends on the ability of the economic system to absorb and productively employ these added workers. This, in its turn, is conditioned by the rate and type of capital accumulation and the availability of other complimentary factors such as managerial and administrative skills.