O Level Notes : Geography - Settlement And Population - Population Policies

Population policy refers to a legal framework of the government to issues related to the population of a country. The population policy stipulated on issues like the number of offspring a couple is allowed to have, the benefits enjoyed by those who operated within the policy framework and the provision of penalties suffered by those who decide to operate outside the provisions of the national population policy.

Basically, there are two main types of population policies which are: 

Pro natalist policies

Pronatalist population policies are those which encourage couples to bear more children. Such policies are common in underpopulated areas, in which governments feel that resources available are underutilised. In some cases, nations can adopt a pronatalist policy to cater for its labour demands, if it is growing industrially against a back drop of low levels of mechanisation. For example, prior to 1950 the Chinese government adopted a pronatalist economy to fend for its demand for labour in industries since it was flourishing in industry. 

Anti natalist policies

The continued growth in population numbers has led many governments to effect population policies which discourage having many children. Under antinatalist policies  families are rewarded for having less children and penalised of having more children.

It should be noted that every nation develops a population policy to try and strike a balance between population numbers and resources available. Population policies are sort of a government's gate valve to regulate or evade the ills associated with over population. 

Effects of population policies and developing countries 


The case of China

In the 1960s, China was facing severe challenges due to overpopulation. Its population was growing very fast due to a pronatalist policy adopted by the Communist Party. Due to perceived population pressure, China changed from a pronatalist to an antinatalist policy. It's anti natalist policy stipulated that: 

  • Couples marry late and that was 22 years for females and 23years for males
  • Couples had to have fewer, and well-spaced children
  • Later own it was changed to one child only per couple
  • Those who got pregnant with a second child were forced to abort
  • Persistent offenders were sterilised
  • Those with one child were given incentives at work and preference in terms of housing and education
  • Social groups to indoctrinate people on the advantages of having only one child were used
  • Contraceptives were forced on couples 


The effects of China's One Child Policy

The one child policy led to drastic changes and effects to China's population. These include:

  • Adecrease in the rate of population increase
  • Gross sex imbalances- there are more men than women because of female infanticide which was practiced during the one child policy.
  • Human rights abuses- people were forced to abort and to be sterilised if they had more than one child
  • Minority groups faced extinction since the policy was relaxed for them 

 Campaign for China's One Child Policy

Zimbabwe's Population Policy

Zimbabwe has a comprehensive population policy which seeks to reduce population growth. The Zimbabwe National Family Planning Council (ZNFP) and other organizations  advocates for smaller families as well as child spacing. Contraceptives are distributed across the entire country and there is campaign for birth control through radios, tevelevisons and the print media. In the 1990s radio dramas such as Munjodzi Family were used to make people aware of the disadvantages of very big families. To ensure a health population is also the major agenda of Zimbabwe's population policy. This is attained through immunisations programmes, support through health education for breast feeding mothers and compulsory counselling and HIV testing for expecting mothers. 

Effects of Zimbabwe's Population Policy 

Zimbabwe emphasises on birth control, its population policy has led to:

  • Late official marriages due to setting of legal marriage age. This reduces child bearing span for women.
  • Increased access  to  contraceptives-  80%  of  women  have  access  to contraceptives.
  • Emancipation of women through education and campaign for equal rights- women are no longer bearing large numbers of children
  • Paid leaves for working mothers, this enables women to continue working hence making sure they do not just become child bearing machines. It reduces birth rates

Rationale of population policies

Demographers such as Thomas Malthus before the 19th century postulated that if population remain unchecked, it will grow to reach a ceiling where it cannot be supported by available resources such as food. As a result, population has to be controlled to prevent excessive increase which would lead to poor living standards, strife and suffering. Governments are concerned about their ability to provide its people with resources such as infrastructure, amenities (electricity, disposal of wastes and water), employment and food. If populations increase at faster rates compared to the governments' abilities to provide for the people, it may cause severe problems. Very small populations may also cause challenges such as shortage of labour, under utilisation of resources and make a nation weak since it will not have more soldiers to offer national security. Population policies therefore enable governments to control populations so that an optimum population is maintained. 

It is also important to note that some scholars such as Danish Economist, Esther Boserup (1965), suggested that an increase in population would cause people to devise new ways of increasing production. Hence, some nations take the view that an increase in population is good. They therefore put policies to increase their population. Some religious beliefs are however, against human manipulation of population through birth control.