Thomas Malthus in 1798 in his writing, An Essay on the Principle of Population for the first time brought population growth as a danger and a threat to itself, if not controlled properly. His Theory of Population showed that population growth was exponential while the means of human sustenance did not grow with the same pace and therefore human population far outgrows the means of food production in the long run (Malthus, 1798). Although modern means of producing and preserving food have proved Malthus wrong, still his theory triggered a debate about sustainability of human population on planet earth.
Malthus as many others saw human population as consumers only, while modern sociologists, economists and thinkers look at population both as producers as well as consumers. Therefore, it is important to note that the population of the world at large and in different countries should be large enough to be producers and small enough to be consumers in order for this population to be called sustainable.
It is interesting to note that the World population in 1804 was only one billion people, which rose to 1.2 Billion people in 1850, and in 1900, this population rose to .1.6 billion – or increased by 0.6 Billion people in almost a 100 years. In 1950, the world population rose to 2.5 Billion and in 2000 this population was a colossal 6.1 Billion people (or an increase of 4.5 Billion in the next 100 years) and currently is 7.58 Billion – an increase of 1.48 Billion people in the last 19 years). It is projected that by year 2025 the world population would be 8.0 Billion people (Google, 2019).
In 2019, the total population of the world was 7.58 billion people. The top two countries by population are – China(1.4 Billion) and India(1.36 Billion) or 36% of the world population resides in these two countries. Followed by 11 countries with population above 100 Million – USA(329.5 Million); Indonesia(271.3 Million); Pakistan(217.5 million); Brazil(211.4 Million); Nigeria(202.2 Million); Bangladesh(163.4 Million); Russia(146.0 Million); Mexico(128.0 Million); Japan(127.0 Million); Ethiopia(113.0 Million) and Philippines(108.4 Million) or 63% (4.78 Billion) of the world population resides in these 13 countries. (US Census Bureau, 2019).
Which means that only 37% (2.8 Billion) of the population resides in the rest of the world.
If we take the population of the four South Asian Neighbors – China, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh – than 41.4% of the world population resides in these four countries.
Colossal population combined with rapid industrialization and agriculture has resulted in four major subsequent problems – (i) increase in use of natural resources, which are fast diminishing, because planet earth cannot cope with the pace of productivity and consumption patterns in most part of the globe. (ii) Increase in waste, both industrial as well as municipal, especially because humans have moved away from sustainable and reusable methods to single use plastics and other such wasteful practices. (iii) Increase in energy usages, especially burning of fossil fuels for transport, energy production and cooking purpose, and (iv) increase in production of CO2’s and production of other life-threatening energy forms and emissions, far more that the natural cycle can replace or replenish, rendering many subsequent problems of environmental sustainability and threat to life itself (human as well as non-human).
Today, there are theories and debate among sociologists, environmentalists, economists and policy makers of how to keep the world population as well as population in each country at check, so that human population in the 21stcentury aligns itself to the concept of sustainable economic development, preservation of natural resources and sustainable population.
Human population with its current patterns of consumption and production induced by an increase in income levels as well as an increase in technologies that could mass produce at a very high rate have become a threat on the fragile resources of the planet earth that can only sustain a limited number of people. “While the Earth can only support a limited number of people, the issue is not so much about space as it is a matter of resources like food and water”(Rosenberg, 2019).
In 1968, Paul Ehrlich wrote in his book The Population Bomb, “The battle to feed all of humanity is over.” “Hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death.” No matter what people do, “nothing can prevent a substantial increase in the world death rate.” (R. Ehrlich, 1971)
Pakistan – Population Growth and issues of sustainability
On the eve of its independence, in 1947, the population of West Pakistan (now Pakistan) was 30 million people(20% lived in urban areas and the rest 80% in rural areas). (Wikimedia Foundation, 2017). In 1951 census showed that, the population of West Pakistan’s was 33.7 million people, In 1960 the population of Pakistan was 45 Million; in 1972 (formation of Modern Pakistan)– 61.3 Million; in 1980 – 78.0 Million; in 1990 – 107.7 Million; in 2000 – 138.5 Million; in 2010 – 170.6 Million and in 2019 – 217.5 Million. An average increase of 12.25 Million people per annum in the last 72 years.
According to the census of 2017, the population dispensation in the federative units of Pakistan is – Punjab 53%; Sindh 23%; KPK (Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa) 17%,; Baluchistan 6%; and Islamabad 1% (Ministry of Finance, Government of Pakistan, 2019). The density of persons living per square KM in Pakistan is 246.6. In Punjab (the largest by population province) is 535.5; in Sindh is 340.5; in KPK is 348.0; in Baluchistan (the largest by territory province) only 36.0 and in capital Islamabad 2,000. The above data shows that the population of Pakistan is not evenly distributed and therefore the natural resources as per land area are not rationally utilized.
Source of pictures, from 1 to 8:
- http://dailypunjab.blogspot.com/2012/09/people-in-punjab-village-pakistan.html. 2. Daily Pakistan. Punjabics.com. https://punjabics.com/inner/thesocalled.php. 3. Prenset.comhttps://www.pinterest.com/pin/433190057893167642/4. Pakistan Todayhttps://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2011/11/20/asaan-jo-sindh-asaan-jo-culture/ 5. Tahsin A Shah– Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, ttps://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=48959251 6. Daily Pakistan.com.PK.https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&source=images&cd=&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=2ahUKEwiNgvyQi_jkAhVOJFAKHUY7C0UQjB16BAgBEAM&url=https%3A%2F%2Fen.dailypakistan.com.pk%2Fopinion%2Fcherishing-the-tribal-regions-one-less-headache-for-the-world%2F&psig=AOvVaw2SsdMaLifm1EDjb1HvLt2a&ust=15699170219555527. Quora: https://www.quora.com/Why-are-the-Balochs-darker-than-the-average-Pakistani-Are-they-ethnically-racially-different-from-Pakistanis. 8. Pakistan Today. https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2018/03/02/zardari-greets-baloch-people-on-cultural-day/
There are nations where per capita income is one of the highest in the world, while population growth rates are one of the lowest in the world. Apart from Luxemburg with 3.0% population growth rate, the other top five countries with highest per capita income to GDP are Macao SAR – 1.7% population growth rate. Switzerland – 1.1% population growth rate; Norway – 0.9% population growth rate; Iceland – 1.7% population growth rate and Ireland – 1.2% population growth rate. Pakistan’s per capita income is US$ 1,456 and ranks 154 in the world economic ranking with a population growth rate of 2.0% annually (International Monetary Fund World Economic Outlook, 2018)
Another way of looking at the population issue is the aging population in some countries hampering economic growth and in others very young population that needs new economic opportunities and employment levels. “According to the World Health Organization, nearly two billion people across the world are expected to be over 60 years old by 2050”. Japan has the oldest population in the world with 27% of the population over 65 years; followed by Italy with 23% of its population is over 65 years. Almost all other countries of Central and Western Europe (18.0% to 22.0% of the population) have an aging population of 65 years and above. (WorldAtlas, 2019)
Pakistan is a country with one of the youngest population in the world, where 51.25% (111.5 Million) of the population is 18 years and above (the productive population), only 3.5% (7.6 Million) are 65 years and above, while the rest 45.25% (98.4 Million) are children below the age of 18 years (Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, Government of Pakistan, 2019).
A third issue is the gender issue – males are still politically and economically dominant in most of the world and are reluctant to give way or to compete with their female part of the population. Very few especially industrially developed nations recognize the rights of transgender, while this still is the hidden gender in most of the population senses around the world. According to the census of 2017, in Pakistan, 50.5% of the population is Male and 49.5% is Female including 10,000-registered transgender in the country. Almost 60% of the population live in Rural Areas and 40% live in Urban Areas. Out of 111.5 Million adult population, (18 years to 65 years of which 56.8 Million are males and 54.7 Million are Females), the total employed civilian labor force is approximately 42.0% (47.0 Million), of which 32.6% are Males and only 9.0% are Females.(Ministry of Finance, Government of Pakistan, 2019). The data shows that in Pakistan a large number of female population is not engaged in paid employment, and therefore are home based workers, engaged in agricultural activity in family owned farms or are housewives with their work and initiatives unrecognized by the official statistics or because they are not empowered or paid for their work.
Irrespective of the fact, that few women are part of the mainstream paid employment in Pakistan. It is a country where women have excelled and held very high political and financial positions in the government, and the private sector. In addition, Pakistani women have excelled in the fields of sports, arts, literature, human rights, in the field of science and have gained international recognitions and distinctions. Mottrama Fatama Jinnah, Benazir Bhutto (Prime Minister), Famida Mirza (Speaker of National Assembly), Dr. Shamshad Akhtar (Governor of the State Bank of Pakistan), Hina Jalani (UNO Human Right Ambassador & HR Activist), Malala Yousafzai (Nobel Laureate), Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy (Academy Award Recipient),. Kishwar Naheed (Poet), Madhia Gohar (Dramatist,) Aisha Sadiqa (Writer), Samina Khayal Baig (High Altitude Mountain Climber), Nergis Mavalvala (Scientist & part of Nobel Prize winning team), and Rehia Qais (Climate Leader) to name a few.
When we talk about population and its sustainability, it is pertinent to note that highly productive and sustainable is the educated and skilled population (human resource). According to Maria Sophia Aguirre, “By attaching a specific interpretation to sustainability, population control policies have become the overriding approach to development, thus becoming the primary tool used to “promote” economic development in developing countries and to protect the environment. These policies, however, have failed to achieve either goal”. “While the focus on population is not necessarily incorrect, the policies implemented are mistaken since they hamper the growth of a key element of economic development: human capital and thus render it unsustainable” (Aguirre, 2002).
One of the problem of Pakistan’s population is that a large part of it is illiterate and unproductive, therefore has adverse effect on both the sustainability of natural resources as well as on the GDP growth of the country. Most of the population that lacks education has unscientific attitudes and behaviors towards biodiversity, natural assets and national commons. Some that are more educated might indulge towards criminal negligence towards natural resources, the land that they live off and the water that they use and consume, but a majority of the population indulges in unscientific work and living habits because they are not trained to have sustainable behaviors.
Official statistics shows that adult literacy rates (15 years and above) in Pakistan 2018-2019 are 57.0% leaving 43.0% of the population illiterate, of which 34.5% females and 20.2% males are illiterate in the country. In Human Development Index (HDI) Pakistan stands at 150 among the 200 nations of the world. (Ministry of Finance, Government of Pakistan, 2019).
As far as labor productivity is concerned, a State Bank of Pakistan study concluded that at 20%, growth, Pakistan’s labor Productivity stands at lowest in the region. “The country lost human capital potential between 1998 and 2018 mainly due to limited access to the education system, substandard quality of education, lack of vocational training and skill-building programs” (Rehman, 2019)
In 1960, the fertility rate (average births per women) in the world was almost 5.0%, which has drastically reduced to 2.4% by 2017. In 1960, the fertility rate of Pakistan was 6.6% and in 2017, it has come down to 3.6%. Still 1.2% above the world average. (World Bank (IBRD), 2019)
It should be noted that the birth rate in Pakistan is not evenly poised among the rich and the poor. Children per family are more in the poorer families or the illiterate parents than in the relative richer families or in the more educated households of Pakistan.
One of the major reason for this is that for the poor, children are their assets, because more the children more are the earning hands in the family. Also in this male dominated country quest for boys far outnumber quest for girls. In addition, more the deaths among children under 5 years of age, more children there would be in a family. Researches have shown that if the first three children born to a family live, than the quest for a fourth child becomes remote in that family. One of the important factors that contribute in more children in less educated households is that women are bearers of children, but women and even their husbands, but the grandparents decide how many children that family would have. Also, lack of leisure hours out of the home and lack of awareness about modern contraceptive techniques contribute in increasing the chances of more childbirths among married couples.
It would be interesting to note that population growth in different countries is not merely a positive function of biology (marriage) but also a negative function of education and employment levels of both the sexes – males and females combined by their out of the house leisure hours and empowerment of women in the society and at home. In other words researches and data shows that more the educated the family or population, the less the children in that family or country. More the income levels of the family or population, less the population growth in that family and country. More the empowerment of women and out of house leisure hours, less the population growth in that nation and vice versa.
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