As we wait for the 2018 Population and Housing Census (PHC) statistics, I am keen to look at the increase in the number of individuals, known as population growth, relative to demographic dividend which refers to growth in an economy that is a resultant effect of a change in the age structure of a country’s population. The reason is obvious. Malawi is not doing well economically to support a large group of people with minimal resources from the small land that she has.
I would wish to check whether by 2050, Malawi’s population will hit 45 million as projected in 2008 with an annual growth rate of 3percent. If so, I would endorse that Malawi needs a quick recovery from population boom to create a conducive environment for a stable economic growth. For, if nothing shall be enforced, to effect the change in age structure by reducing the fertility and mortality rates, I will definitely think that we, as a nation, are dead to see afar.
By now, families especially women in both rural and urban areas have to reconsider their fertility rates. But while women who live in the urban areas are gradually reducing their fertility rates, the same is not spreading in rural areas. This can be attributed to pre-occupation with office work and businesses that deny them to have many children.
I would think, if new technologies can be adopted towards the boosting of the economic growth, while keeping population constant, Malawi can recover from the state of its economic unconsciousness the soonest. However, implementing tangible policies that will propel the boat of development minus corruption and greed while manipulating the fertility rate must be the way to go, but how that should be done must be left to expert scrutiny.
This, I write, with reference to close observation. The family planning efforts are slowly reducing the average birth rate from five births to three births per woman as stipulated in a report by the United Nations Population Division of 2017, but the number of girls who are getting married before they reach adulthood is increasing exponentially.
A lot of girls are seen carrying babies as if they are being forced into it. Is there anybody checking and trying to stop these girls from bearing children?
Let us borrow a leaf from China. China’s demographic future is based on declining fertility. They call it one child policy. For nearly two decades, the average number of children a couple is expected to produce has been less than two. This relatively seemed to have worked because China has the world’s largest population and it is still growing.
Adopting the one child policy was done against the background that overpopulation is the root cause of all the problems which definitely must be the source of fear of the Malawi government and the concerned stakeholders. Until now, China is reluctant to phase out the policy. The good thing about this is that in China, life expectancy has increased from 40 to 70 though it has reduced the labour force, the sum of persons in employment plus persons in unemployment, and increased the elderly population.
Because of this ultimatum, many families chose to have a male child. The other effect has been the creation of many single men who are unable to find wives, thereby breeding a group of unhappy, dissatisfied people who, in a normal society, may harbour criminal intentions against neighbouring countries and Africans wishing to penetrate into their territory.
In conclusion, as we approach elections, issues that we must hear from the prospective leaders are priorities towards policies and investments that must enhance fertility decline to reduce the high child-dependency burden, improve human capital, economic growth and job creation. Above all, leaders must articulate policies that enhance good governance, accountability in service delivery and use of public services. n