Dan Banik speaks with Lauren Johnston on the links between population, economic growth and development, East Asian experiences of getting rich before getting old, China’s one-child policy and whether there are some lessons from China for African countries with younger populations.
An article in The Economist magazine in September 2018 argued that high birth rates is one of the main culprits for pervasive poverty on the African continent. The article, in particular, cited the example of Tanzania, where the then President John Magufuli did not apparently see the point with birth control, having announced in 2016 that women could throw away their contraceptives as state schools will be free. President Magufuli subsequently claimed that a major consequence of widespread contraception is a shrinking labour force, which in turn is bad for development. But others, including the Gates Foundation, have pointed to the Democratic Republic of Congo and Nigeria, which are projected to witness massive increases in their populations in the next few decades. And such rapid population growth can potentially pose major challenges for government policies aimed at promoting the well-being of citizens.
So, what is the link between population and development and are there some lessons that the world can learn from China’s attempts at controlling population growth in recent decades?
Lauren Johnston is a research associate at SOAS China Institute, and currently a World Bank consultant for a population ageing and China research project. She holds a PhD in Economics from Peking University and is widely published on topics relating to China’s economy with respect to demographics and economic ties with Africa.