India’s sidewalks and train stations, among other public places, are crowded with bustling people by day and sleeping people at night. Millions of people in India just don’t have a home, so they sleep wherever they can.
In 1947, the year we gained independence from British, our population was nearly 650 million (65 crore) and today, in 2008, it is nearly 1140.03 million (114 crore) – more than 75 percent increase in 61 years. This means every year India is adding roughly 8 million (0.8 crore) boys and girls – like adding Kolkata city (formerly Calcutta). Clearly, this rate is unacceptable, unbearable, and unsustainable.
Why are there So Many of Us?
If one thinks about it using common sense rather than blaming our fathers and forefathers for their failure to limit family size, there are some justifiable reasons that made families big.
Most of our people living in rural areas – nearly 75 percent of India’s population – rely upon agriculture for their livelihood. Whole families run farms and children are expected to work on farms – instead of going to school. Farmers believe that the more the children the better it is for farming which is very labor intensive in India and that, having more children of their own, they do not have to hire help. This practice made families big and accelerated population growth.
Parents living in cities also believe that they need more children, especially sons, who can be helpful in augmenting the families’ income. Furthermore in the absence of a government operated retirement income program, such as America’s social security program for retirees, aged farmers as well as city dwelling parents depend on their sons – not on their married daughters – to look after them in their twilight years. So parents keep on having children until they end up with, at least, one son in the family. This practice also made families big and accelerated population growth.
Today in India people are living longer and the death rate is declining – thanks to advances in medical science and health care services. The overall life expectancy – men and women combined – is 69 years. In earlier years children’s mortality rate was high and parents did not know how many of their children would survive. They procreated enough children before the wife’s biological clock ran out and hoped that the majority of their children would not meet untimely death. This practice too, made families big and accelerated population growth.
Ours is a nation where childlessness is a curse, where child adoption is least encouraged, where a family must have a son to carry on the family name, where a married couple cannot think of remaining childless, and where pressure on newly married couples from families, friends, and relatives to have children immediately after marriage is enormous. A woman must bear a child and if she remains childless, for any reason including medical, the society looks down on her. Again, this practice made families big and accelerated population growth.
How to Control Population?
It took us a long time to build a population bomb and it might take us a long time to diffuse it. To do so we need the help of both economics and education. Since many among us are hungry and homeless and unemployed, the food and shelter and work has got to come first before masses can be educated about benefits of small family and family planning tools. So, let us see how economics can help.
There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that for quite some time people have been experiencing the hardship caused by population explosion. There isn’t enough food or homes or hospitals or schools or colleges or jobs or trains or buses for everyone. Sadly, there are no quick ways to decrease birth rate or increase quantity of basic things humans need.
No Coercion or Disaster
The way to reduce population is by neither the coercion nor disaster. For example, in mid 1970s, as if the rate was going to go down rapidly, a few zealots inside and outside the government sterilized thousands of poor men and women by sending them to sterilization camps. People revolted against the program and, soon after it started, it came to an end. Similarly, the loss of lives due to natural disasters or wars or crimes, or famine – God forbid such things from ever happen again – is not going to have any significant impact in reducing the population.
It is obvious that the more members in a family the more the money needed to feed, clothe, and shelter everybody leaving little or no money for anything else. And when the family’s income fails to grow faster than the new arrivals, everyone in the family suffers hardship and has less money per person. The same is true when it comes to the entire nation of families: for the same wealth the higher the population the greater the poverty. In short, population and poverty go hand in hand; they are directly proportional to each other, when one goes down the other, too, will go down. Now, to combat both the population and poverty, get the help of manufacturing plants and increased production. The four Ps in economics are interwoven: population, poverty, plants, and production.
Plants, Productions, Products and Employment
More manufacturing plants mean more productions. And more productions mean two things: more products and more employment opportunities. What will happen as a result of more products? It simply means lower prices and no scarcity. What will happen as a result of more employment opportunities? It means more and more men and women will seek work and earn income.
A nation full of working men and women will experience decline in unemployment, poverty, and misery. Moreover, some working women may choose to forgo children or delay in having them because it will cost families money to have ladies quit the work or take time off to have children. Also, some working parents, after thinking about the cost of raising children, may opt for a small family. Actions like foregoing or delaying or birth of having fewer children will certainly affect the birth rate.
Simply put, a job is the best birth control tool. It is the safest, steadiest, and surest medium to reduce population and poverty. The statistics of developed nations indicate that as nations rise economically they begin to have small families with high disposable income levels.
In addition to putting people to work, tax benefits given to businesses and individuals will have impact in reducing population. A tax reward may induce businesses to hire additional workers. Similarly, a tax incentive to families who adopt children may reduce number of children living in orphanages or begging on streets. Likewise, a special tax break to scientists and physicians may encourage them to work harder in finding ways to help married couples in selecting a sex of a baby before conceiving it or in having baby after parents have been sterilized or in preventing female feticide.
It was mainly through tax, housing, and education policies that Singapore in the 20th century decreased its birth rate from 47 per 1000 to 21 per 1000 in 10 years. Though now in the 21st century it is trying to do the opposite.
Free to Choose
Finally, there cannot be population control without economic incentives; there cannot be economic incentives without economic policies; there cannot be economic policies without an economic system; there cannot be an economic system without freedom to choose.