Eli5:Why do countries care about population growth?

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With society and the world like *gestures at everything*, should population reduction be a good thing? Why are we hearing about countries encouraging population growth? Economic impact of some sort, I assume?

In: Economics

4 Answers

Anonymous 0 Comments

Some nations that are experiencing low (or even negative) population growth (Japan, South Korea, etc.) are concerned about how that low population growth will affect the nation’s socio-economic balance in the future. Elderly/retired people are not as productive, yet they still consume goods and services. Sufficient younger population would be required to produce food, provide medical care, repair machinery, etc. Without that younger population, the structure will begin to collapse–if you have 20% less people producing food, then people are going to start to go hungry.

Anonymous 0 Comments

Retirees consume resources but they don’t produce resources.  They need younger workers to produce resources for them.  The more young workers there are, the less each worker has to contribute to the retirees.  With lower population growth, there are fewer workers around to support the retirees, so they all have to work harder.  

Anonymous 0 Comments

The more practical answer is that a country needs more and more younger people to replenish the work force and keep the economy going, as older folks retire.

But historically human populations always experience exponential growth as resources are available, until they no longer are, so there is a massive population decline. (Look at [Malthusianism](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malthusianism))

Anonymous 0 Comments

In a modern, developed nation-state, there are three major factors in economic productivity: population, infrastructure, and natural resources. Likewise, governments that provide services usually must pay more the more people there are, but collect more taxes the more people there are.

Since most countries want their economies to grow, they want bigger inputs from those three things. You can’t make new natural resources appear out of nothing, and infrastructure takes time and investment to build (and countries are already doing lots of that anyway). Countries *can* however influence population growth. As a result, there is usually a balance point between growing too slowly (making the cost of labor, aka wages, rise and government revenue fall) and growing too quickly (risking famine, homelessness, and other major ills that can be very, very hard to fix.)

In the 80s and 90s, fears about both global overpopulation (not actually plausible, people just thought it was) and local overpopulation (a VERY possible and serious problem) led many governments to consider population control mechanisms, to try to cut off a crisis before it began. China is obviously the poster child here with the infamous “One Child” policy, aimed at preventing *explosive* population growth.

Unfortunately, as we’re now seeing in several developed nations (USA, Canada, Europe, Russia, Japan), *under*population is a real threat. Most of those nations (excluding Russia and Japan) only have net population growth because of immigration. China has practically shot itself in the foot on this front, because the combination of the One Child policy and the *rampant* use of sex-based abortion has resulted in far fewer young people than older people and a *major* overabundance of men relative to women (e.g. right now, men outnumber women about 55% to 45%–meaning about a fifth of all men in China *could not even in theory* get married to someone else in China.) And, unlike Western countries, China has extremely low rates of immigration, far too low to compensate for their abysmal birth rate.

For a nation that has built itself into the world’s second-largest economy on the back of cheap, abundant labor…that’s very bad. Doubly so when Chinese cultural norms depend so heavily on families (and, in particular, wives) to take care of the elderly, meaning the government now has to foot the bill for caring for an ever-larger slice of the population all while actual revenues drop because there are fewer people of working age.

So….yeah. Population matters. A *lot.*