Population Changes in LEDCs
The populations of most less economically developed countries (LEDCs) are growing very rapidly. Most are at stage 2 and 3 of the Demographic Transition Model. They have declining deaths rates and high birth rates. Therefore, natural increase is high.
Death rates are declining because of improvements in sanitation and healthcare.
Birth rates are high for a number of reasons:
Case Study: India
India's population is estimated to be around one billion. India has one of the highest population growth rates in the world. In the last ten years its population has increased by 181 million. If this growth rate continues it could become the world's most populated country by 2020.
However, India's population growth rate is slowing. This is particularly the case in the southern state of Kerala. In Kerala there have been a number of initiatives to reduce population growth:
1. Women are being educated
Around half of all Indian women cannot read or write (illiterate). However, in Kerala 85% of women are literate. Better educated women are more likely to keep their children healthy. Therefore infant mortality has dropped. This has led to a drop in birth rates. If children are surviving families no longer have to have a couple of extra children to replace those that die.
2. Contraception is more widely available
3. The status of women has improved significantly
Women are no longer seen as a burden - they are regarded as an asset. Traditionally in India when a woman gets married the family have to pay money to the bridegroom's family. This is called a dowry. However, in Kerala it is the bridegroom's family who pay a dowry to the brides family.
Case Study: China
The Chinese government introduced the 'One Child Policy' in 1979. The aim of this policy was to attempt to control population growth. The policy limited couples to one child. Under this policy couples have to gain permission from family planning officials for each birth.
If families followed this policy they received free education, health care, pensions and family benefits. These are taken away if the couple have more than one child.
The benefits of this policy are that the growth rate of China's population has declined. Without the policy it is estimated that there would be an extra 320 million more people in a country whose population is estimated to be 1.3 billion.
The scheme has caused a number of problems in China. This is particularly the case for hundreds of thousands of young females. Many thousands of young girls have been abandoned by their parents as the result of the one child policy. Many parents in China prefer to have a boy to carry on the family name. As a result large numbers of girls have either ended up in orphanages, homeless or in some cases killed. Also, 90% of foetuses aborted in China are female.
Population Changes in MEDCs
In most MEDCs population growth is stable. MEDCs have low birth and death rates. In some Germany the birth rate is actually lower than the death rate. This means there is a decrease in population or a natural increase of -0.1%.
The major problem for many MEDCs is an ageing population. Life expectancy in MEDCs is increasing as people are now living longer due to improvements in health care, diet and lifestyle. Therefore, there will be a a greater number of elderly dependents. In the UK this is likely to lead to increased taxes to pay for health care and pensions.