what causes a country’s population to change?

population change is measured in terms of natural increase which is the difference between birth rate and death rate. these two indicators often are used to explain why a country has a different rate of population change to another country, however fertility rate which is the number of babies a woman has in her lifetime, is now considered a more accurate way of measuring population change as birth rate and death rate can depend on the population structure of a country. birth rate(the number of children born per 1000) could be considered high in a country with a young population as more of those 1000 people would be able to have children as supposed to a country with an ageing population. death rates (the number of deaths per 1000) could be considered high in a country with an ageing population as an increased number of elderly people would mean the number of those who die would be higher than in a younger populated country. So population change is measured best by using fertility rate, but what factors cause a country’s population to change?

These factors are usually grouped into social, economic and political factors, although most of these tend to overlap to some extent. political factors include population management policies which can include policies to encourage a higher fertility rate such as the pro natal policy in France which places a number of social and economic incentives to encourage families to have more children, such as child benefits, cheaper travel for large families and three years paid maternity leave. population management policies also include those which encourage a lower fertility rate such as the well-known one child policy in China, where it was practically illegal for a family to consist of more than one child and the national family planning program that was launched in Thailand in 1970. Thailand had a large fertility rate of 6.5 children per women in 1969 which was meaning their population growth rate was high and growing, putting strain on infrastructure and other services, so the government decided to introduce the national family planning program in 1970 to try to reduce the fertility rate and therefore slow the population growth rate of Thailand down, allowing Thailand to advance to stage 4 of the DTM (demographic transition model). This program involved public information programs that were broadcast on the radio and billboards which emphasized the benefits of a two child family and raised the awareness of contraception. also more health centres were opened to provide free contraception and to train health workers and midwives. as healthcare improved, more children survived infancy so families did not have to have large families to compensate for the children that died in infancy. This policy worked and the fertility rate by 1989 was down to 1.7 per woman who in turn slowed the population growth rate from 3% in 1960 to 0.8% in 1989, this has allowed Thailand to advance to stage 4 of the DTM, meaning they have a more stable population growth rate.

social factors include several things such as the religion of a country as this may affect the population change of an area to some extent as some religions disapprove of contraceptive methods, therefore fertility rates in those areas can be higher than areas with more relaxed religious views. however this is not a significant factor of population change as on its own it is unlikely to make a huge difference to a country’s overall population growth rate. other factors such as the education of women seem to have a larger impact on population change than religion. women who have a high standard of education  are less likely to want a large family as they will be seeking careers instead and will be motivated to support themselves, and will often leave having a family at all until later in life. This has been the case in Thailand where female literacy rates have risen from 75% in 1970 to 92% in 1999. this reduced the fertility rates as women have had an improved social standing and therefore have had more say in their relationships in terms of the use of contraception. women are also more employable and the size of families has fallen as women have wanted a successful career more than a family. In Kerala, India the population growth rate has slowed significantly despite a poor economy as women are well-educated and are encouraged to seek satisfying jobs, as many women go to university and are employed in professions such as teaching and medicine. In Kerala they feel the education of women is more important than a good economy, if they wish to reduce the population growth rate.

economic factors such as a country’s economic structure can affect the rate of population change. countries with a more industrialized economy will have fewer children than a country whose economy focuses on agriculture as children are not needed for working the land. instead children become a burden in an urbanized and industrialized nation as their parents will need to pay for their education, healthcare and childcare as most adults will be working during the day. this can discourage families from having a large family if they live in this type of economic environment, leading to a lower fertility rate and a lower population growth rate in industrialized country’s. In country’s with an agricultural economy, the population growth rate is likely to be higher as more children are needed for work on the land so children will be economic resource in this type of economic environment.

It is impossible to decide on just one factor that is responsible for population change as they tend to overlap and affect each other in some way. for example, the education of women is often associated with a more industrialized economy. also several factors can be responsible for a country’s population change such as in Thailand which is becoming more urbanized so the government’s population policy there may not be the only reason for population change.

sources

  • several geography magazines and articles used in my A level geography lessons which include: geofile online (one article) and geography review (three articles)
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