Causes of Population Explosion and Family Planning

Table of contents

It is estimated that in year 2050 Asian population will cross 5.2 Billion . Among the Asian nations which are already most populous in the World, Pakistan’s population has grown at a much faster rate than most of them. With a growth rate of 2.4 percent, it has increased from 32 million in 1947 to 207 million in 2017. Only 36% have access to safe drinking water and 63.5% have been provided with sanitation facilities. As of 2019, unemployment has increased 5.7 percent. 55 million people are living below poverty line (more than the total population in 1951) . These indicators are enough to highlight the effects of such fast-growing population on the nation. Given the present economic situation, the problem is likely to have more serious implications than anticipated. Despite recognition of the problem at a very early stage, Government of Pakistan has failed to prevent the population from growing at such a fast pace. The reasons are many and they range from social compulsions to ineffectiveness of the government in managing the population planning.

  • General Trend. Pakistan is an Islamic state located in the relatively orthodox region of the world. Both religion and socio-cultural back ground have significant effects on the moral and ethical values of a society. These have affected the field of population planning also. The clergy in the country has never promoted the concept of population planning, they rather refuted it. Being a staunch Muslim society masses got influenced from this message and practically denied the utility of population planning. However, mere being an Islamic State does not suggest that the population should be so averse to the concept of population planning, for there are Muslim countries who have tremendous control over population . In our case, the orthodox nature of the society also prevented the message of population planning get across the masses. Resultantly this important subject would never be discussed seriously. Due to cumulative effect of these factors, measures suggested for population control were never used by majority of the population. Vast majority still feels the same way.
  • Fertility Levels. Although the mean age at marriage for females has increased from 16.9 years in 1951 to 21.3 years in 2007, the fertility levels in Pakistan remain among one of the highest in the developing countries of the World. Economic growth, urbanization and modernization, however, have made only a slight dent in fertility reduction. In Pakistan, an average woman today has about six live births during her reproductive time p, with most births occurring in the age group 25 – 29 years. The high fertility rates are the result of continued high infant and child mortality. Moreover, continued high levels of fertility are primarily the result of the prevalent socio-cultural values which determine the status of women within the socio-cultural environments of the Pakistani society.
  • Mortality Rate. The major rise was caused by rapid decline in mortality, which stood at 25 to 30 per 1000 population in 1947; it came down to 10.6 per 1000 by 1972 and to about 7.5 per 1000 at present. Compared to that the Crude Birth Rate had stood at 62.4 per 1000 in 1951, which declined to 29.8 per 1000 in 2016. During the next 30 years the fertility rate will decline by about 20 per cent points. International migration taken as having a zero effect, the population growth rate has been causing a tremendous increase in population. Maternal mortality rate was 340 per 100,000 live births in 1990 and in 2016 it stood at 178 per 100,000. It has slightly changed if not higher due to lack of medical facilities in rural areas.
  • Political Reasons. Lack of political will is unanimously cited by NGOs as one of the main reasons for the limited success of the family planning programme in the country. The population censuses were not held regularly even before 1971 just to gain political leverage. The Census due in 1981 was belated till 1998, and that too was conducted under army’s supervision, the recent census of 2017, again highlighted the same issue when it was conducted after 19 years also under Army supervision. All the provinces wanted to show maximum population to get maximum economic and political advantages. Therefore, though not consciously, yet the regional political leadership inadvertently promoted the cause of population growth in Pakistan.
  • Religious Orthodoxy. The `Mullahs’ and the `Ullema’ always refuted the concept of population planning, thereby, preventing the population planning programmes from permeating into the society. Examples of Islamic States such as Bangladesh and Iran, who despite a powerful clergy have one of the best family planning programmes in the world are in front of us. On 5th Dec 2018, a symposium was arranged by the Supreme Court of Pakistan where renowned clerics were also invited to air their views on family planning. Religious Scholar Maulana Tariq Jamil and other Scholars was found amenable to the idea of family planning and it is hoped that they would use their influence in curbing the population growth rate instead of promoting it as in the past.
  • Early Marriages. Early marriages are a common feature in our society. Girls being married at the ages of 18 – 20 have very serious implications on the population growth of any country. More the number of married couples, more would be the children and younger the married couple, probability of more children increases. Though this trend is slowly diminishing, yet its effects are still visible.
  • Desire for a Son. This has very less to do with education, for desire of a son is mostly a passion. Those who do not have a son are either pressurized by the families to try for it or remarry. This results into more children and consequently contributes towards large population. Our male to female ratio is 105 to 100 at present. This indicates that almost 50% of the babies born are female. Demand for son is obvious in these environments. The strength of a family is also judged by the number of male members, all this adds to population. Another reason for more children is the insecurity of parents at the old age. Contrary to modern societies where parents are looked after by the state, we have to look after the parents at our own. Mostly parents are entirely dependent on their children in old age. Lesser the children more the problems for the ageing parents. These sensitive issues cause the parents to think in terms of more children especially son
  • Economic Causes. Pakistan is an agriculture-based economy. In agricultural societies need of work force is always felt relatively more. In our environments where modern agricultural industry developed very late, need for more population was all the more important. The farmers having access to less work force produced less and remained poor. Though this exactly was not the case in the urban areas, yet due to lesser mechanization, manual work was relatively more. This therefore became one of the major factors of inducing farmers/ laborers to produce more children. Until late seventies, this remained the trend. It is only due the present mechanization that demand for work force has reduced and people have started to feel pressure of large family. Abundance of means of subsistence has been another cause.

Effects of Population Growth on Pakistan

It is clear that if the current rate of population growth does not abate, the outlook for the future will be no less dismal than developments in the past. The country has managed a GDP growth rate of 5.4 percent in recent years, yet there is no adequate evidence of improvement in living standards and in the quality of life. Per capita incomes have grown too little and too slow and social indicators persistently show stagnation. With growing congestion and pressures on natural resources, the prospects are indeed bleak. The major impacts of high population growth are: –

  • Diluting the Impact of Developmental Efforts. The accelerated increase in the population of Pakistan has diluted the impact of development efforts, as is clearly observed from the rate of increase in its Gross National Product (GNP). If the population continues to grow at this rapid rate, the economy will not be able to bring about a significant improvement in the standard of living for the masses. In the 11th Five Year Plan (2013—2018), it was expected that the growth rate of’ Gross Domestic Product (GDP) would increase to 5.8 per cent, with the primary aim of improving the quality of life of the people in the country. These goals, however, became even more difficult to achieve with faster rate of growth of population, since the requirements of food and other consumables, as well as, housing, health, education etc, is much greater than for a relatively slower growing population.
  • Challenge to fulfill Basic Civic Needs. Pakistan’s economy is facing a great challenge to fulfill the basic civic needs of its 207 million population. The whole structure of Pakistan’s socio-economic development will be adversely affected if population continues to grow at the current rate of 2.4 per cent per annum. At present 80.7 million (39%) Pakistanis are living below the poverty line, 86 million (42%) are illiterate adults, only 74.5 million people (36%) have access to safe drinking water and basic health services, 53.38 percent children under five years of age are malnourished. Despite these facts 690 babies are born every hour.
  • Low Level of Savings. A high dependency ratio resulting from a high and sustained fertility implies that a large proportion of the national income has to be spent on the rearing and caring of children and the upkeep of the old population. Families with a larger number of children will find it difficult to save, so that the volume of savings will be less and the level of net investment for augmenting the productive capacity of the economy will be low.
  • Encouragement of Child Labor. An increasing number of children under 15 years of age would impose a tremendous burden on their parents and on the country’s educational system. The higher dependency burden will therefore, force the young population to work and child labour may increase to supplement the family income. Further, high fertility will diminish the Government’s ability to raise funds through taxation.
  • Housing Shortage. The increasing population is exerting tremendous pressure on the existing housing stock in the country, which is growing very slowly in relation to the population growth. Housing density has increased from 5.5 persons per housing unit in 1960 to 6.7 in 1980 and about 6.45 in 2017. More than half of the housing units in Pakistan comprise only one room with 6 persons living per room. The basic facilities, such as access to piped water inside the house, are only available to 13 per cent of the housing units and 8 per cent have such facilities available outside the housing units. On the basis of the 2017 Housing Census, figure of 6.45 persons per housing unit, about 5 million additional housing units would be required by the year 2025. This will, obviously require heavy public and private spending in the housing sector.
  • Land Utilization and Agricultural Yield. Although the cultivable area in the country has increased from 36 million acres in 1947 to 51 million acres in 1990, yet because of the accelerated population growth the cultivable land per person has declined from 1.1 acre to 0.5 acre during the same period. If the same trend of population growth continues, this figure would further decline to 0.2 acres in the next 40 years. Out of the total area of 79.6 million hectares, 21.2 million hectares are cultivated; the rest of the territory is rangelands. The low yield per acre, together with a deteriorating man/land ratio, increased deforestation, water logging and salinity, overgrazed grasslands, especially in Baluchistan, scarcity of water, lack of scientific know how in modern techniques and agricultural management problems continue to be major obstacles for future growth in this sector.
  • Unemployment. Rapid population growth has resulted in a high rate of growth of the labour force. It is currently growing at about 2.4 percent per year. The future growth of the population will have an important influence on the ability of the economy to provide enough jobs for young people seeking employment. Unemployment Rate in Pakistan remained unchanged at 5.90 percent in 2017 from 5.90 percent in 2016. Unemployment rate in Pakistan averaged 5.49 percent from 1985 until 2017, reaching an all-time high of 7.80 percent in 2002 and a record low of 3.10 percent in 1987. Out of the total labor force as of the last year 3,790,000 people remained unemployed and this number is sure to get higher in the coming years if new ventures are not looked over by the government. More the number of unemployed persons more the risk of crime gets into play.
  • Income Per Capita. Pakistan and South Korea in 1950 had almost similar economic circumstances. They had a population of 33 and 20 million respectively. Their incomes per capita were $79 and $82. In 2017, the population of Pakistan had increased to about 207 million and per capita income to $1,547 only. South Korean population on the other hand had increased only to reach the 51 million mark while the per capita income had increased to $29,742. The secret may be the rate of population growth. In Pakistan the rate of population growth remained 3% while that in South Korea it remained 1%.
  • Internal Threat and Security . Our population growth rate has resulted in a host of related problems and issues such as unemployment, health and education, law and order and an overall atmosphere of despair. A feeling of uncertainty exists amongst the masses, about the future of the government, democracy and the very existence of the country. The people are not certain of the schooling, the medical facilities, the job opportunities or the level of social security their children are going to inherit in the future. The feeling of despair exists due to some of the following factors:
  1. Breakdown of Institutions.
  2. Corruption and Financial Mismanagement.
  3. Lack of Merit and Administrative Mismanagement.
  4. Law and Order Situation.
  5. Lack of Basic Amenities.


Growing population has become a menace especially for under developed countries while it’s a daunting task to control for developing countries, however this menace where it is being controlled by the developed countries, instead of becoming a burden it is playing a positive role in nation building and maintaining the natural balance of food chain. Following are the few points covering details on population growth’s effect on Pakistan: –

Failures in our Family Planning Programme. By going through the eleven five years plans and government efforts. It is very easy to indicate some of the area which still requires governments attention to make the family planning wholesome: –

  1. Family planning programme takes state as unit which is incorrect in view of Pakistan’s different social environment in each province.
  2. Family planning programme of Pakistan lack’s concern of political parties.
  3. Ulema’s and religious scholars have not been incorporated in family planning programme.
  4. Lack of choice in the contraceptive methods .
  5. No effort by government and community to introduce the religious NGOs.
  6. No effort to enhance the community participation in the programme, like volunteer cadres.
  7. No incentive and disincentive programme which are linked with the economic progress of individual or family.
  8. Lack of media education on the subject .
  9. Non-availability of desired contraceptive to couples easily, specially the problem is of grave nature in the rural and tribal areas.
  10. No substantial effort to enhance the education of women in general and rural areas in particular .

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