Economic Development: Theory and Policy Applications

By Fidelis Ezeala-Harrison | Go to book overview

8
Population and Human Resources in
Development

Population growth is often referred to as natural increase. This implies that population growth is a natural feature of human life and cannot be as easily manipulated as other aspects of economic development such as capital accumulation or technological acquisition. People must demand the natural needs and wants of life and sustenance, not only at a particular time of life, but also over time. Therefore, a given level of population must have an adequate level of living resources, and the extent to which this requirement is or is not met determines the level of development of the society.

The issue of population growth in most LDCs must be clearly understood. In many LDCs, the policy of having large number of children in families is often driven by a mixture of rational choice consistent with maximizing behaviour, and the cultural norm of high preferences for large families. Under rural settings, children tend to be effective net producers: they contribute more to the family budget than they consume, over their childhood periods. This is not the case in the urban settings or in developed countries, and hence the divergent attitudes to population control policies among these two settings. Moreover, in many cultures (of many LDCs without well established social welfare programs) children are seen as a type of insurance against old-age: they are a kind of investment toward future needs for care and support for the parents and family. These are perfectly rational policy incentives against which any population control policies must be fashioned.

In this chapter, we deal with the subjects of population level and growth, human resource availability, and migration. The importance of these subjects in a society's economic development cannot be overemphasized. The population problem, as it is commonly referred to in economic development, can be so diverse that it poses a general economic development problem. On the one hand, an inadequate population level that is small in relation to the country's land area would impose severe diseconomies of scale in production of goods, utilities, transportation, and public services. It would mean a restricted market for goods and services and provision of infrastructure. North America ( nineteenth century) and Australia (early twentieth century) are good examples of developed societies

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