Analysis: Tackling Pakistan’s population time bomb
ISLAMABAD, 5 December 2012 (IRIN) – A high birth rate is not making life any easier for Pakistan’s 180 million people, already affected by political instability, economic stagnation and natural disasters.
Internal pressures in the country with the world’s sixth largest population are likely to get worse before they get better: At 2.03 percent Pakistan has the highest population growth rate in South Asia, and its total fertility rate, or the number of children born per woman, is also the highest in the region, at 3.5 percent.
By 2030, the government projects that Pakistan’s population will exceed 242 million.
The failure to adequately manage demographic growth puts further pressure on the current population, who already lack widespread basic services and social development.
Pakistan’s health and education infrastructures are poorly funded, and experts have questioned the quality of what is being provided with existing budgets. With a weak economy and low growth, food insecurity and unemployment present further challenges.
“The problem is that if you have a population that is illiterate and does not have proper training, a large segment cannot participate meaningfully in the economy,” said economist Shahid Kardar, a former governor of the State Bank of Pakistan.
“[Based on Pakistan’s population trends], you need a GDP growth rate of 8 percent to employ them.” Pakistan’s GDP growth rate has not exceeded 3.7 percent in the last five years.
If population growth is not managed, experts say, it will exacerbate these negative trends as resources are stretched and improvements in service delivery fail to keep up with demand.
Low use of contraception
A further problem is the low awareness and availability of birth control.
The contraceptive prevalence rate is only 27 percent, and only 19 percent employ modern methods, according to the UN Population Fund (UNFPA).
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