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Geofile Contrasting Contemporary Case Studies

Geofile Contrasting Contemporary Case Studies

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Published by: reservoirgeogs on Mar 27, 2009
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01/06/2011

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Introduction
In the last 100 years, the total amountof people living on Earth has grown bya staggering 5 billion (5,000,000,000).The consequences of this so-called‘population explosion’ impact onvarious contemporary global issues,including economic development,global warming and the
sustainable
use of resources. However, in theabsence of any all-embracinginternational demographic strategy,individual nations, both in theidentification of the nature of theirparticular ‘population problem’ and intheir response, have shown markedlydifferent perspectives. In this
Geofile
,three contrasting case studies illustratethe nature and regionalism of contemporary population issues.
China
China is a nation inviting superlativesdescribing every socio-economicindicator known to geography. Mediaattention, for example, focusescurrently on the country’s astonishingeconomic growth, with descriptionssuch as ‘the world’s workshop’ – morefamiliar to us in references to Britain’snineteenth century ‘industrialrevolution’. Raw statistics fail,arguably, to illustrate adequately therate of this contemporary economicdevelopment. Only comparisonsagainst familiar establishedperceptions demonstrate the scale. Forexample, China will soon overtakeBritain as the world’s fourth richestcountry. It built more power stationslast year than already exist here! Ituses 40% of the world’s concrete and25% of its steel. The list could go on
 ad infinitum
. Simple statements of aneconomy growing three times fasterthan the USA’s, and projections 25years from now that it will overtakeAmerica as the world’s richest nation,perhaps say it all. The socio-economicand political changes behind thisdevelopment are as complex as theyare interesting, and beyond the scopeof this
Geofile
. However, a keyvariable – for many, the basic, singularreason – is population. China is themost populous country in the world.Its population of over 1.3 billion(2005) represents over one-fifth of theworld’s total! This means low – verylow – labour costs. Population,therefore, is central to understandingChina’s significance in the worldtoday.China’s evolving
demography
is,rightly, both well documented and of enduring significance. It isworthwhile, therefore, to recap thereasons for, means of, and longer-termconsequences of China’s populationand family planning programme. Thisoriginated from the politicalrealisation by the mid-1970s that thecountry’s average family size of threechildren and ‘excessive’ populationgrowth might lead to mass starvationby the end of the 20th century.As a response, the most drastic andcontroversial population policy theworld has ever seen – the infamous‘One-Child’ policy – was introduced in1979. Although altered since itsintroduction, the policy, operatingthrough national, provincial,prefectural, county and townshiplevels, encouraged couples to haveonly one child through variousincentives and restrictions, including:a later age for marriages (25 forwomen, 28 for men)couples having to apply for theright to start a familya 5–10% salary bonus for limitingto one childa 10% salary reduction for havingtwo childrenpriority in housing, education andhealth care for ‘only’ childrenno extra space allocation for secondor third childrenhigher pensions on retirement forlimiting to one child.These measures have undoubtedlybeen successful, particularly in urbanareas – changing a reproductivepattern of high birth rate, lowmortality and high natural increase toone of universally low rates for all. Inaddition, both maternal and infantmortality rates have reducedsignificantly, and average lifeexpectancy has increased. Should thepolicy continue beyond 2030, it isanticipated, for example, that:the falling population growth ratewill decline ultimately into naturaldecreasepopulation will eventually fallfrom a peak of around 1.5 billionthere will be significantly morefood and resources to go roundliteracy rates, for both sexes, willapproach ‘western’ standards.China’s authoritarian One-Childpolicy has, undoubtedly, provoked
APRIL 2006
521Tim Bayliss andLawrence Collins
Geofile Online © Nelson Thornes 2006
Contrasting Contemporary PopulationIssues – Three Case Studies
Geofile
Online
 Figure 1: Beijing, China - priority education for the first child
 
international criticism. This is centredprimarily upon claimed abuses of human rights. The population policycertainly challenges a Chinese cultureand tradition based around the largefamily – with male offspring beingparticularly important. In rural areas,for example, a couple failing toproduce a boy to carry on the familyname are still regarded as ‘withoutface’. Reports persist, as in India, of the use of ultrasound foetus sexdetermination and selectiveterminations. Likewise, suggestions of increasing female
infanticide
, infantabandonment and even child tradingcontinue to invite scrutiny.Furthermore, over-zealous ‘grassroots’family planning ‘service providers’have been accused, following the birthof the first child, of forcing both lateterminations and sterilisations.China’s population balance hascertainly been upset, resulting in amale weighting threatening asuggested ‘marriage squeeze’ of insufficient brides for unkindlytermed ‘little Emperors’. (Thisderogatory phrase stereotypes over-indulged single boys as typicallyobese, greedy, bad-tempered and lazy.)This challenges both the country’smoral and social fabric. Morefamiliarly, from a ‘western’perspective, is the ageing demographicstructure – threatening too few youngpeople of working age to provide forthe elderly. However, the economicconsequences of this are at bestuncertain, given the boomingeconomic development, referred to atthe outset of this overview.It is worth noting that governmentpolicy has been relaxed, at least forthose relatively wealthy families whoare able to pay to have two or morechildren.
India
Each year India adds more people tothe world’s population than any othercountry. Indeed, only since 2000 hasthe annual population growth rate of India fallen significantly below 2%.With a current population of approximately 1.1 billion people,India is forecast to overtake China inpopulation size in as little as 20 years.In its pursuit to curb this dramaticrate of growth, India has followedsimilar population policies to China.Certainly, there has been a dramaticdecline in
total fertility rates
,although the difficulties of implementation within deprivedrural communities, and again, themoral dilemma of high rates of bothtermination and sterilisation, persist.Similarities and analogies with Chinashould, however, not be overstated.In its political background, legacy of British imperialism, cultural mix andreligious beliefs, India represents asubtly different set of challenges forpopulation planners.Unlike comparable LEDCs,population policies are not a recentphenomenon in India. The nationalfamily planning programme,established in 1952, has played animportant role in India’s fertilitydecline. Despite a marked decline inthe total fertility rate of 5.7 childrenper woman in the mid-1960s to 3.3children in 1997, concerns wereraised over wider reproductivewelfare. Following discussion at theInternational Conference onPopulation and Development, held atCairo in 1994, a
paradigm shift
occurred in India’s family welfareprogramme.The Reproductive and Child Healthprogramme was implemented in 1997and later embedded in the NationalPopulation Policy (2000). The policyaffirms the government’scommitment to ‘voluntary andinformed choice and consent of citizens while availing of reproductive health care services’.The policy aims to draw attention toissues such as sexuality, quality of care, men’s roles, informedcontraceptive choice, adolescents’needs, reproductive tract infectionsand HIV/AIDS. However, followingsubsequent rounds of the NationalFamily Health Survey and the 2001census, the ‘informed and expandedchoice’ has yet to become a reality.Female sterilisation remains thedominant method of birth control,and sex-selective terminationscontinue as a hidden fact.Furthermore, cultural, religious,socio-economic and geographicalconstraints result in widely differentfertility, mortality and contraceptiveprevalence rates. In general, there is anorth/south gradient – most westernand southern states in India havelower mortality, lower fertility andhigher contraceptive use.
April 2006no.521Contrasting Contemporary Population Issues
Geofile Online © Nelson Thornes 2006
 Figure 2: Italy, India and China (NB scales differ)
ITALY INDIAChina0 2000 km0 500 kmGe
r
many AlbaniaG
r
eeceNN
 
April 2006no.521Contrasting Contemporary Population Issues
Geofile Online © Nelson Thornes 2006
The states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu,occupying the southernmost tip of India, are illustrative of the challengesfacing population policies in India.Since 1971, these states havewitnessed, consistently, the lowestrates of population growth whilstestablishing themselvessimultaneously amongst the moreaffluent states in India. For example,Kerala, with the highest literacy rate(91%, compared with the nationalaverage of 65%) and growing serviceeconomy is often quoted as indicativeof the middle class society that hasallowed India to establish itself as anewly industrialising country. Here,as in Tamil Nadu, the NationalPopulation Policy has seen significantsuccess, with, for example, femaleempowerment and a majority of married women choosing to usecontraception. However, even in thesefavourable social and economicconditions, challenges still need to bemet.The goal of ‘expanded choice’ is notyet a reality. Indeed, as stated earlier,female sterilisation remains thedominant form of birth control inIndia – over double the world average.This is particularly true in bothKerala and Tamil Nadu. The conceptof spacing births has not really beenpromoted even within these moredeveloped states and total fertilityrates have fallen to close to
replacement level
. In Kerala, manycouples have their children in quicksuccession, do not use any spacingmethods and then ‘opt’ forsterilisation. Similar restriction of lifechoices appear replicated withinTamil Nadu. Here, the terminationrate has increased consistently from1971, with recent findings suggesting,that of the total estimatedterminations, 40–75% could beattributed to sex-selection.The last decade has seen a dramaticshift in population policy in India.India continues to grow in botheconomic stature and absolutepopulation size. The challengeremains of continuing to offerindividuals fertility choices.Innovative communication strategiesare needed to reach out to all sectionsof the population, but particularlyadolescents, the deprived, and ruralpopulations, in order to deliver familyplanning advice, beyond the‘sterilisation option’. The mass mediamust be used in both raisingawareness and communicating thisadvice to all communities – butparticularly to the rural, less accessiblepoor. Furthermore, within diversesocial, cultural and religiousbackgrounds, changing approachestowards empowerment are alsoneeded. For example, contemporaryresearch suggests both men andwomen preferred going to persons of the same age, sex and social class asthemselves in order to accesscontraceptives and advice on familyplanning. Raising the age of marriage,as in China, and removing anylingering pressure of sterilisationtargets, are also noteworthy forconsideration by state authorities.
Italy
Italy shares a debatable stereotypewith China as a land that has alwaysloved children. Italy, particularly inthe South, however, faces acuteopposing fertility issues to both Chinaand India. It has a slightly smallerpopulation (58 million in 2005) thanBritain, but due to falling birth ratesover recent decades – Italy now hasthe second lowest rate in Europe –faces steady population declinethroughout the 21st century.Predictions of ‘extinction as a nation’within 150 years may well be alarmist,but deserve scrutiny nonetheless.Certainly, as with most Europeancountries, Italy’s ageing populationpresents its government withconsiderable socio-economicproblems. Since the 1960s, itsdeclining rate of natural increase hasled, now, to natural decrease becomingestablished as the 21st century pattern.Projections for this century suggestingover 40% of Italians being over 60 andless than 15% under 20 emphasise,graphically, the country’s ageingdemographic structure. It isinteresting to note also that the similarfactors of industrialisation, prosperityand improved education (particularlyfor women) that are erodingpopulations throughout the West arenot dissimilar to the socio-economicthemes raised in demographic studiesof contemporary China. Furthermore,of particular note, is how dramaticallythe
emancipation
of women contrastswith Italy’s arguably male-dominatedCatholic culture. Italian society has, inthe past, been identified withrestricting opportunities for workingmothers through limited part-timework placements and child benefits,restricted school hours, and aperception of too many men retainingtheir machismo and accepting noresponsibility for childcare ordomestic work. Repeated surveysemphasise the freedom, independenceand material benefits enjoyed bysingle women – cars, travel, clothesand so on. This contrasts to aperception of unremitting domesticchores centred on ‘mothering’ ahusband and rearing his children!The consequences of this situation arepotentially dire. State pensions arepaid out of current tax receipts, yetthere are fewer young workers comingonto the market. Forecasts that allworkers’ wages may be required tofinance government debt and statebenefit obligations suggest a bleak
 Figure 3: Kerala, India – 91% literacy rate

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