When Demography Shifts From a “Prized Asset” to a “Crippling Burden”

New York Times piece, India Tries Using Cash Bonuses to Slow Birthrates, Jim Yardley details an Indian federal program. Intended to “allow India more time to curb a rapidly growing population that threatens to turn its demography from a prized asset into a crippling burden,” it attempts to persuade rural Indian newlyweds to delay childbirth.

Though with . . .

. . . almost 1.2 billion people . . . roughly half the population is younger than 25. This ‘demographic dividend’ is one reason some economists predict that India could surpass China in economic growth rates within five years. India will have a young, vast work force while a rapidly aging China will face the burden of supporting an older population.

However, on the heels of the above “though” follows a monumental “but.”

. . . if youth is India’s advantage, the sheer size of its population poses looming pressures on resources and presents an enormous challenge for an already inefficient government to expand schooling and other services.

Still . . .

It was considered a sign of progress that India’s Parliament debated “population stabilization” this month after largely ignoring the issue for years.

India may just be addressing the tip of the overpopulation iceberg, if in a more sensitive way than China’s authoritarian one-child policy. But would that more states considered addressing population concerns as a “sign of progress.” To some states a burgeoning population serves as another weapon, along with its armed forces and perhaps nuclear weapons, as a way to equalize its power with larger states. In the United States, meanwhile, overpopulation has become a “third rail” for politicians. First of all, it’s contrary to the go-forth-and-procreate agenda of evangelicals and second, it invokes fear that Latinos will soon outnumber whites.

As Focal Points readers are no doubt aware, a sampling of overpopulation’s perils include: depletion of natural resources such as oil and water; deforestation and resultant global warming; mass species extinctions; and, along with educational shortfalls, heightened infant and child mortality.

As part of our commitment to the most fundamental issues threatening humanity (not that we won’t write about it at all, but climate change is addressed more ably elsewhere), Focal Points intends to feature posts about the earth’s “carrying capacity” as we have been nuclear weapons.