Stop the world, I want to get off. It’s getting far too crowded!

Loknath Das

World Population Day: July 11th 2019.  

The world seems to be shrinking…day by day. Can we ever stop it? Every year, July 11th is recognised as World Population Day  – a day focussed on raising awareness of global population issues. The issue of uncontrolled population growth is creating a gamut of other problems  around the world. The time has come to encourage the use of safe and effective contraceptive options, raising awareness and imparting education to control this surging population growth.

Historically speaking, it seemed to take forever (actually hundreds of thousands of years) for the world’s population to grow to one billion – then in just a mere 200 years or so, it grew by leaps and bounds – sevenfold. In 2011, the global population reached the seven billion mark, and now, it stands at about 7.6 billion.

This alarming growth has been caused largely by the increasing numbers of people living till they reached reproductive age – an unlikely situation in earlier centuries. This has been complemented by changes in fertility rates, increasing urbanization and increasing levels of  migration. These trends have had, and will continue to have, far-reaching implications for generations to come.

The impact of population growth on developing countries

At present, in the least developed countries, about 80 per cent of the work force is unemployed, underemployed or are insecurely employed. The extent of their contributions to their national economies impacts their countries’ futures, as well as their own lives. Consider these facts – by 2050:

  • A doubling of the population in the least developed countries, will result in the working-age population increasing by about 15 million persons per year, on average
  • The labour force will increase by 33 thousand persons per day
  • Over this same period, about 33,000 people will enter the labour force, every day

All these working age men and women will be looking for productive and paying jobs that will allow them to escape poverty, stay out of poverty, or just live a better life than their parents did.  This human capital crucially depends on:

  • Investment in education beyond the primary level
  • Investment in health, including sexual and reproductive health

The raison d’être of World Population Day

World Population Day focuses attention on the urgency and importance of population issues. This year’s World Population Day attempts to draw global attention to the unfinished business of the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development. Twenty-five years have passed since that day, when 179 governments recognized that reproductive health and gender equality are mandatory for sustainable development. On this World Population Day, advocates from around the world are calling on leaders, policymakers, grassroots organizers, institutions and others to help make reproductive health and rights a reality – for every global citizen.

So, what is the state of the world, population-wise?

Currently, estimates indicate that approximately 83 million people are being added to the world’s population every year. However, according to the medium-variant projection, should fertility levels continue to decline, the global population is expected to reach:

  • 8.6 billion in 2030
  • 9.8 billion in 2050
  • 11.2 billion in 2100,

To maintain some sort  of control over unchecked population growth it is imperative that we abide by the globally accepted standards that support every person’s right to practice family planning, with methodologies, protocols and technology in place that will enable each one to do so, easily and compassionately.

A human rights obligation for all time and every person

According to, “…at the 1968 International Conference on Human Rights, family planning became a human rights obligation of every country, government and policymaker. The conference’s outcome document, known as the Teheran Proclamation, stated unequivocally: Parents have a basic human right to determine freely and responsibly the number and spacing of their children…Women and girls have the right to avoid the exhaustion, depletion and danger of too many pregnancies, too close together. Men and women have the right to choose when and how often to embrace parenthood – if at all. Every individual has the human right to determine the direction and scope of his or her future in this fundamental way.”

It’s quite obvious that expanding access to family planning would save tens of thousands of lives every year:

  • By preventing unintended pregnancies
  • Reducing the number of abortions
  • Lowering the rates of death and disability which occur as a result of complications of pregnancy and childbirth

Until family planning is universally available, this human right will not be fully realized. UNFPA and the World Health Organization have recognized nine standards that must apply in every community and for every person.

Nine standards that uphold the human right to family planning

  • Non-discrimination: Family planning information and services cannot be restricted on the basis of race, sex, language, religion, political affiliation, national origin, age, economic status, place of residence, disability status, marital status, sexual orientation or gender identity.
  • Available: Countries must ensure that family planning commodities and services are available to everyone. Contraceptive information and services must be available in sufficient quantity, with sufficient variety, to accommodate everyone in need
  • Accessible: Countries must ensure that family planning commodities and services are accessible to everyone
  • Acceptable: Contraceptive services and information must be provided in a dignified manner, respecting both modern medical ethics and the cultures of those being accommodated
  • Good quality: Family planning information must be clearly communicated and scientifically accurate
  • Informed decision-making: Every person must be empowered to make reproductive choices with full autonomy, free of pressure, coercion or misrepresentation
  • Privacy and confidentiality: All individuals must enjoy the right to privacy when seeking family planning information and services
  • Participation: Countries have an obligation to ensure the active and informed participation of individuals in decisions that affect them, including health issues
  • Accountability: Health systems, education systems, leaders and policymakers must be accountable to the people they serve in all efforts to realize the human right to family planning