This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 13th (it will be out in January 2020), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Sunday, March 9, 2014

Empower Women--Give Them Contraceptives!

Yesterday was International Women's Day, nestled in the midst of Women's History Month. Melinda Gates had a very nice editorial on CNN (thanks to Debbie Fugate for the link) focusing on women in Africa, where the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has had the greatest impact. Perhaps only by coincidence, this week's Economist has a leader piece on African demography and the message is clear--African women need better access to contraception. There is no better way to empower women than to give them control over their reproductive lives. 

The Economist story seems inspired by a recent paper: "African Demography”, by Jean-Pierre Guengant and John May in the journal Global Journal of Emerging Market Economies. The plot line will be a familiar one to readers of my book: fertility is declining in north and south Africa, but not so much in between, as the map below illustrates.

Most of Africa is catching up too little, too late. The result is that the continent’s overall population will rise sharply, its big cities will grow alarmingly, and though its labour force will also expand (which is potentially good for growth), its coming “youth bulge” will be hard to manage. They conclude that governments must do much more to encourage and improve family planning.
Family planning is not expensive. According to the Guttmacher Institute, an American think-tank, it would cost about $1.5 billion a year to provide modern contraceptives to all African women aged 15-49 who do not get them. The countries where they are used most frequently are also the ones catching up fastest with the rest of the world. Unless the other African countries follow suit, the continent will see its demographic convergence lag behind; it also risks getting stuck, by having too many people with too few chances of escaping poverty.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has been stepping up their work in this area, but some quick international help from USAID and other countries could potentially turn the tide.

1 comment:

  1. Prof Weeks - I like the philosophy behind what's being said here. There is no doubt that many women, especially in poorer countries (e.g. Africa), do not have adequate choices that help them to plan/manage families. So anything that can be done to help ... is a BIG positive!!

    STILL - I have to point out the obvious. We are almost too late in the game now. According to my most recent figures: earth population is 7.2 billion in 2014 (current), 9 billion in 2043 and 10 billion in 2060. I am sure you realize that these population increases are almost "baked into the cake". It is highly unlikely that some radical change to birth rates will occur over a future time period of the next 30 years. THEREFORE, the computer programs that are predicting the trajectory of the world population are still very much ON-TRACK. Current global data is confirming what these projections are saying. And these projections all say that human mortality must make a quantum leap upwards ... in order for a new equilibium to the achieved. I need hardly tell you what it really means when I say ... "a quantum jump in mortality rates". There is no way to beat the mathematics of what is going to happen.

    all the best,
    Dr P., Redondo Beach