Bangladesh population

Population and Security – Journal

IT is a rapidly unfolding nightmare scenario. Yet the threat posed by the population explosion to national security is absent from our political discourse. Apart from a fleeting reference to population management, the seriousness of the problem is not sufficiently recognized in the recently launched Integrated National Security Policy (NSP). There is no clear strategy on how to deal with the exponential population growth that continues to have a destabilizing effect on our society.

Read more: Experts alarmed by country’s population growth rate

A dangerous situation has been created due to the fact that Pakistan has one of the highest population growth rates in the world and an increasing bulge of youth. The latter poses a serious threat to internal security given the low investment in education over the years and low economic growth. These two factors have created economic and social problems that cannot be adequately solved unless population growth is brought under control.

Yet there is a tendency, as the NSP shows, to treat increasing numbers as an “asset”. A productive population can contribute to growth and prosperity, but our policymakers don’t seem to understand how closely the economy and population growth are intertwined. The NSP has rightly prioritized economic development as most critical to human security. But can we achieve economic sustainability with such a high population growth rate?

Pakistan is now the fifth most populous country in the world. With a worrying growth rate of 2.4% per year, four to five million children are added each year to the existing figures. At this rate, we should have about 300 million people by 2030.

The implications of the population explosion seem to elude our political leaders.

This would mean a huge drain on resources and leave the country struggling to support a rapidly expanding population. An economic growth rate of at least 6% to 7% is needed for Pakistan to absorb the millions of young adults who enter the labor market each year. With a rapidly growing population and a low rate of economic growth, the country faces a dire situation.

In fact, we have already crossed sustainable numbers. Uncontrolled population growth is the main reason for our poor social indicators. It has also enabled Pakistan to meet targets for only 10 of the 34 MDG performance indicators. Pakistan is committed to achieving the 17 SDGs related to poverty reduction, quality school education for all children and reduced inequality. But it is far from achieving even these minimal goals. The lack of appropriate health services and quality education as well as deep gender inequality are directly linked to high population growth. Our literacy rate has stagnated at 60%. Pakistan has the dubious distinction of having the second highest number of out-of-school children in the world.

A quick glance at the figures should convince us of the seriousness of the situation: 32% of our young generation cannot read or write; most others drop out of school; the school enrollment rate is one of the lowest in South Asia. And we spend barely 2% of GDP on poor quality education, driving us even further into isolation in an increasingly interconnected world.

Editorial: Demographic emergency

Unsurprisingly, Pakistan lags far behind even most underdeveloped countries when it comes to human well-being. We are practically at the bottom of the human development indicators. One of the main reasons for the progress of other countries is attributed to their success in reducing the rate of population growth. Compared to Pakistan’s 2.4%, Bangladesh managed to reduce its own growth rate to just 1%, and today it is one of the fastest growing economies.

Pressure from population growth has led to a rapid increase in migration to urban areas. According to some studies, by 2030, the majority of the population will be concentrated in urban centers. Such rapid urbanization can aggravate the already crumbling civic infrastructure of our cities and towns. How can the state, with its meager resources, provide housing and other civic amenities such as sewage systems, water supply, schools and hospitals to overcrowded urban centers?

So why has the issue barely featured in our security discourse? The implications of the population explosion seem to elude our political leaders. And although the PTI government has often claimed to be committed to the goal of human development, it ignores one of the greatest threats to national security.

Human development and economic progress are not possible without addressing the problem of high population growth. But unfortunately, the state has abdicated its responsibility to educate the people in population management. It largely lacks services to accompany the few sporadic messages that appear. Programs aimed at reducing poverty or correcting income disparities do not even recognize that there is a correlation between family size and poverty.

Prime Minister Imran Khan is impressed with China’s phenomenal economic progress and success in eradicating poverty. But what he fails to understand is that it is China’s population management policy that has led to that country’s economic miracle and helped alleviate poverty. For our political leaders, people can automatically be turned into an asset to the state – seemingly without investing in education, healthcare or livelihoods.

Unable to harness the true potential of our young people and use their talents effectively, the state has turned the country into a breeding ground for violent extremism, where restless, jobless young men have little to lose. But the state does not seem to realize the danger that such frustrated ambitions can represent.

Pakistan is caught in an explosive situation with an impending demographic catastrophe staring it in the face. Prospects for the younger generation as adults are uncertain. Inequality, in all areas, makes the less advantaged receptive to ideas that promote extremism and violence. Uncontrolled population growth could lead to further social dislocation and conflict. The State must realize that immediate action is necessary and a serious debate must begin on the subject, otherwise the consequences will be disastrous for the internal security of this country.

The writer is an author and journalist.

[email protected]

Twitter: @hidhussain

Posted in Dawn, February 2, 2022