Managing population change

Population growth in LEDCs

Most LEDCs are experiencing rapid population growth. Most LEDCs are in stage 2 or 3 of the demographic transition model. This means that they have falling death rates, due to improving health care, while birth rates remain high. The recent history of population management policies in China illustrates population-change management problems.

Causes of population growth in LEDCs

  • Limited access to family planning services and education about contraception. Contraception and other methods of family planning may not be culturally or religiously acceptable.
  • Children are a valuable source of labour and income for a family. They can work on the land from a young age and as they get older they can earn money in other jobs.
  • Children can help to care for younger children and elderly family members.
  • High rates of infant mortality (infant deaths) mean that women need to have many children in order to ensure that some survive through to adulthood.
  • It may be traditional or culturally important to have a large family.

LEDCs have a high population-growth rate which means that they have many young dependants. Governments in LEDCs and international bodies and charities are working to reduce birth rates and slow down rates of population growth.

Youthful population

The high birth rate in LEDCs results in a high proportion of the population under 15. This youthful population gives a country specific problems.

The problems include:

  • Young children need health care – for example, immunisations. This is expensive for a country to provide.
  • Young people need to be educated – providing schools and teachers are expensive. Resources for lessons are difficult to access, and costly to buy.
  • In the future, more children will reach child bearing age, putting more pressure on the health service.

Population change in MEDCs

Most MEDCs are experiencing slow rates of population growth and some are experiencing population decline.

Most MEDCs are in stage 4 of the demographic transition model – the population is high, but not growing. Some countries have a declining population and could be said to be entering stage 5. This means that the birth rate in their country has fallen below the death rate. Most MEDCs have a very low rate of natural increase.

The average life expectancy in MEDCs is rising. This is due to:

  • improvements in health care and medicine
  • increased leisure and recreation time
  • improved knowledge about the importance of a balanced diet and regular exercise
  • improved living standards and quality of life

Birth rates in MEDCs are falling as people choose to have smaller families later in life. Contraception is easily available and well understood.

An ageing population

  • As people live longer, the structure of a population changes.
  • Many MEDCs are now experiencing a significant increase in the number of elderly people as a proportion of the population.
  • As birth rates fall and people have smaller families, the number of young dependants is falling and the number of elderly dependants is rising.
  • In the near future this will mean that there are fewer economically active people to support the elderly population.
  • To try to balance out an ageing population, some countries adopt a pro-natalist policy – that is, they encourage people to have more children by offering them benefits, such as access to childcare and maternity leave.

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