The Population Crisis

Pakistan’s population has spiked dramatically in just a few decades. The nation had fewer than 35 million inhabitants in 1947. In fact, present-day Bangladesh , then referred to as “East Pakistan”, was larger in population than “West Pakistan”! Today, the country has over 200 million people – growing over 6x since inception. This is not a population increase – it’s an explosion.

The fertility rate is another aspect to consider. It is defined as “births per woman” – ie. the estimated number of children that an average woman will have throughout her lifetime. In 1951, the fertility rate was over 6 children per woman. Many families were exceeding the average – having 8+ children was not uncommon. Today, the fertility rate of Pakistan is 3.4, which is still higher compared to other Muslim-majority countries like Indonesia (2.3), Malaysia (2.01), Bangladesh (2.05), Turkey (2.08), Saudi Arabia (2.34) and UAE (1.42). Pakistan’s fertility rate is also substantially higher than nearly all developed countries like U.S. (1.78), Canada (1.53), U.K. (1.75), Japan (1.37), France (1.85).

In hindsight, the “bache do hi ache” (“just 2 kids are good”) campaign has proven insuccessful in the nation. As of yet, the population boom has seemed to exacerbate poverty. Most families having a greater number of children are not financially well-off. Their children, often growing up to lead difficult, labor-intensive lives, end up having more children themselves in an effort to build a support system and a retirement plan. This has created a domino effect on poverty at a macro level.

The past cannot be changed, but the future can. Many believe that this population boom could be used as an advantage for the country. According to UNDP’s 2018 report on youth, 64% of Pakistan’s population is younger than the age of 30. A younger population entering the workforce could increase economic output.

Will the fertility rate be lowered by a more educated, stable youth, and the increase in women entering the workforce? What are your thoughts?