Invest in family planning to boost economy: Experts
Today the population of Pakistan is five times as large as it was in 1950 and about 4 million people are added to it every year. “ Without any added investment in family planning, the population may reach as high as 395 million by 2050 that would make Pakistan the fourth populous country in the world”, two places up from its current ranking of sixth, cautioned Dr. Zeba Sathar, Country Director of Population Council, Pakistan office.
Experts urged for smart investments in family planning to benefit from the doubling of population size to take maximum advantage of the emerging “Demographic Dividend” which occurs when the largest proportion of the population is in the working age group and the proportion of dependent age groups (children and elderly) is smaller. Such a situation opens up for faster economic growth. With half the population below 20 years and 60 per cent below 30 years, Pakistan is well-positioned to fully realize the benefits from the demographic dividend.
Highlighting the benefits of family planning, he cited the success case of Bangladesh where economy, public health, and standards of living are improving after adopting voluntary family planning program. “Every dollar invested in family planning programs has shown savings in key development areas” asserted Bongaarts. “When families are able to plan and space their pregnancies, they can invest more in each family member which boosts family income and quality of life and reduces poverty.
The key policy question for Pakistan therefore is how to further reduce growth through voluntary measures. Dr. Sathar urged a need for lowering the current rate of fertility. . “If a strong new investment in family planning is made the future fertility trajectory could easily be a half birth below the medium variant leading to a population of just 266 million by 2050” suggested Dr. Sathar.
There still remains a large unmet need for family planning in Pakistan. Unmet need measures the gap between demand for family planning and use of contraception. “About 10 million women with unmet need live in Pakistan” she added.