High Population Growth Rate and Poverty

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The Linkage between High Population Growth Rate and Poverty

Currently, overpopulation and poverty are the main problems in the countries of the Southeast Asia region. Moreover, most of them have a low level of economic development, living standards, and underdevelopment of the social infrastructure. Finally, a specific feature of these countries is a significant influence of religion and traditions on the socio-economic development. Almost a half of the poor population lives in Southeast Asia, whose share is 30 percent of the world population (Stagars, 2016). Low integration into international economy because of underdevelopment of domestic economic structures leads to unemployment and poverty in the region. Moreover, chronic shortage of internal resources for the growing population results in poverty. Most of the basic services are deplorable in quality, which implies that the designated safety levels are also underdeveloped (Buhaug & Urdal, 2013). A low level of income is also a cause of the limitation of positive progress in all facets of the economy. Thus, the high population growth rate in the third world countries in Southeast Asia has a direct linkage to poverty exhibited in the region.

The high population growth rate is related to poverty in the third world countries of Southeast Asia because of increased competition for limited opportunities and resources. Thus, the number of people multiplies but the resources and services that they are expected to be shared are nearly constant. Therefore, services sought are overwhelmed when the number of potential users escalates, resulting in deprivation of the basic service modules. However, a contrast in the level of development and well-being is evident in various countries of the region. For instance, Singapore is the richest country in the region, while Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, and Myanmar belong to the group of the poorest ones. According to statistics, in 2016, GDP per capita in the Singapore was 45 times higher than in Myanmar (Tirthankar & Swamy, 2016). Although dynamic growth contributed to a significant strengthening of the region’s position in the world, the problem of high population growth remains unsolved.

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An increase in the number of people in the region is connected with the growing level of poverty due to the limited employment opportunities. Underdevelopment of the social structure influences the creation of new working positions. Moreover, the majority of the population lacks education, which results in unqualified work force. A recent study by Rodrik (2014) suggests that all countries of the region experience a rise of unemployment, decrease in real wages, and the growth of the consumer price index, which results in an increased number of people living below the poverty line. Once the opportunities for employment are diminished, the inevitable outcome is underwhelming sources of income, which implies that the majority of people would be unable to meet their basic needs. The purchasing power is curtailed as occasioned by the lack of a secure source of income.

Historically, economists have developed different theories to explain the linkage between high population growth and poverty. According to Malthus, a rapid population growth rate lowers the growth of savings, increases the number of labor force, and lowers the quality of labor resources (Baker, 2013). As a result, due to an increase in population, the government is forced to reduce the level of spending on education and health, technical innovations, and the amount of resources per person, which ultimately result in a lower GDP growth per capita. Therefore, the increased number in population poses a threat for humanity due to the lack of food, raw materials, and habitat. In accordance with this central problem, people in Southeast Asia face an onerous task of achieving economic prosperity.

However, the countries of this region differ in economic development from each other. As mentioned above, Singapore has the leading position in terms of economic development in the region. Thanks to a sound economic and investment policy, the country is developing at a rapid pace and has already achieved a strong position in the world in terms of innovation (Rodrik, 2014). In addition, Singapore is rated as one of the best places with favorable conditions for doing business. Rapid economic development of the country results from the government’s focus on human capital and education. Therefore, Singapore has the most highly developed economy among the countries of Southeast Asia.

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Brunei is another country in the region that has a prosperous economy. It combines patriarchal traditions, foreign and domestic production (Sheedy, 2013). The government of this small state is doing a tremendous job of modernizing the workforce, reducing unemployment, subsidizing housing and food, and providing the population with free medical care. By contrast, Vietnam is a very poor country with a large population and a declined economy. Additionally, Indonesia also suffers huge problems in economy, a low level of security, and completely undeveloped entrepreneurial and commercial activities as a result of high population density (Sheedy, 2013). In addition, people have nowhere to work, and the creation of new jobs is not anticipated in the near future.

Such countries as Laos and Myanmar have a huge deficit of goods and financial instability. Thailand and the Philippines have similar economies, the main components of which are the services sector, tourism, agriculture and light industry. Both countries have a weak financial sector. The economy of Malaysia largely depends on the export of oil. Therefore, increased oil prices put the economy of the state at a higher level compared to other states of the region. Finally, social indicators of Cambodia are at a much lower level than in most Southeast Asian countries. According to the findings of Brady and Burton (2016), only 70 percent of Cambodians are literate, about 36 percent live below the poverty line, and poverty remains concentrated in rural areas, where 90 percent of the poor people of the country live. Therefore, social indicators of individual countries differ considerably from each other.

Fertility Rates among the Poor and the Rich

The major problem connected with poverty in Southeast Asia is inequality. Admittedly, during recent decades, the countries of the region have reduced the poverty rate and achieved considerable economic growth. According to the statics, in 1990, about 90 percent of the population was poor; however, today this number has decreased to only 3.5 percent (Matthews, 2016). Nevertheless, the majority of the population lives in poverty. Although the World Bank provides financial support to local economies, it is not evenly shared across the countries. As a result, a third of the world’s poor population inhabits the Southeastern Asia region (Matthews, 2016). Remarkably, the poor have a two times higher fertility rate than the rich. Hence, the existence of large families and rapid population growth represent an obstacle to economic development and poverty reduction in the region, which, in turn, leads to a slow economic growth in the majority of countries of Southeast Asia.

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Nowadays, the growth rate of the young population is outpacing the growth rate of the economy and the capacity of the existing institutions which are supposed to provide various services to them. Thus, many young people cannot afford to receive education because of their low socioeconomic status. By contrast, children from rich families are more independent. Thus, in the majority of countries, child dependency falls to 50 percent in families with a high economic status, while those with a lower status experience only 13 percent of the decline (Brady & Burton, 2016). Children from poor families cannot realize their potential and are forced to solve many complex traditional problems ranging from poverty to unemployment. However, rich families provide their children with all the necessities and contribute to their education even in the developing countries. Therefore, demographic changes and inequality increase the gap between the rich and the poor.

Due to high fertility rates among the poor in the Southeast Asia region, the poverty dynamics among the population is constantly growing. For example, in Indonesia, the biggest country in the region, the rate of population growth is estimated at about 2 percent per year among the poor and 0.7 percent among the rich (Maki, 2015). Since the beginning of the 21st century, the country’s population has grown by about 3 million people, and now the average density of the population is about 111 people per square kilometer (Brady & Burton, 2016). The average population density in the Philippines is even higher, about 259 people per square kilometer, and 37 percent of the total population is poor (Maki, 2015). Moreover, a rapid population growth violates the age ratio in the region. Therefore, a big number of the population, such as children, adolescents, and elderly people, are unable to work.

Besides, high fertility rates are characterized by urbanization. Nowadays, the processes of urbanization have special prominence in Southeast Asia. As a result, many large slum populations appear in the region. However, the authorities cannot combat this problem and mainly ignore it. Moreover, urbanization has become particularly unmanageable because of the rapid formation of slums with unsanitary living conditions. Local governments lack financial resources to combat problems in poor urban neighborhoods. Consequently, people experience poverty, unemployment, and a high rate of criminal activity (Reuben, 2015). Towns are full of the homeless, beggars and thieves. In addition, cities become centers for competition between the poorest for basic elements of life such as shelter, work, places in schools, bed in hospitals, and so on. Nevertheless, in the cities of more developed countries, such as Singapore, the government established programs for housing, thus resolving the problem of squatter settlements and urban slums.

The Impact of the Population Size on Families

An increase in the population size results in the added responsibility on the families. As a rule, special needs of the children are not satisfied because the resource distribution in the Southeast Asia region is not sufficient to cater for the needs of all households (Rodrik, 2014). Special programs planned to improve the quality of life usually fail to alleviate the problem because they are not able to cover the entire population. Admittedly, the majority of families in the countries in the Southeast Asia region with high demographic growth live in very poor conditions and lack the most basic things such as housing, food, etc. Moreover, the poor often experience a shortage of drinking water and medical services, which occur due to the geographic position of the region and underdevelopment of healthcare, especially in rural areas.

In spite of the problems mentioned above, poor countries in Southeast Asia have a high population growth rate. For example, in Cambodia, due to poverty, poor sanitation and inadequate medical care, one out of ten children dies before reaching the age of five, and the average infant mortality rate is extremely high – 95/1,000 (Brady & Burton, 2016). In addition, the population has poor health and diseases spread at particularly high rates in rural areas, where access to health care and clean drinking water is limited. In this respect, most developing countries in Southeast Asia need to significantly increase their health expenditure. On the other hand, Singapore is the leading medical center in Asia, and the quality of its services is recognized internationally. Thus, patients from other countries come to the country every year to get a whole range of health services from the basic health and wellness examination to high-tech surgical procedures in a variety of profiles.

Furthermore, the population growth in Southeast Asia only increases poverty. The prevalence of malnutrition characterizes poor families, which are supposed to find means to sustain their living on their own as the governments of third world countries do not have appropriate programs to feed their people. In this respect, the majority of the population is self-employed or live on their dependents (Stagars, 2016). Moreover, people are hostile to any initiatives of the government because any policies that were adopted by the government contributed to the impoverishment of the people. Nowadays, children in poor areas suffer from worms, cholera, water-borne illnesses, and dysentery due to the lack of water supply. However, the government has no finance to solve this problem, and children continue to die from these diseases in many areas.

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Nowadays, many families in Southeast Asia live in absolute poverty and are unable to satisfy even their basic needs for drinking water, food, clothing and closing. Many of them survive due to temporary or one-time work, small-scale trade, hiring in the fields, etc. The problem of poverty is especially acute in rural areas since the aggregate monetary income per capita there is almost two times lower than in cities (Maki, 2015). In addition, poverty has significantly affected large families as well as citizens who have been excluded from the sphere of labor relations, such as elderly people, the disabled, and unemployed. Consequently, poverty leads to degradation of individuals and results in considerable problems.

Limited Number of Qualified Human Capital

The increasing population that has a limited number of qualified human capital results in the soaring of the poverty levels in the countries of Southeast Asia. The level of economic development is directly linked to the number of qualified individuals that may perform certain tasks in the societal and industrial settings (Tirthankar & Swamy, 2016). Commonly, young age population predominates in Southeast Asia. For example, in Laos, there are 70 percent of people under the age of 35 (Sevilla, 2007). A young able-bodied workforce usually gives the possibility to receive a so-called demographic dividend. Nevertheless, its implementation is possible only provided that there is appropriate overall and professional training of these sections of the population and an increase in productive employment. However, at present, almost all countries of Southeast Asia are under pressure of mass unemployment.

The far-reaching population size leads to reduced access to the fundamental educational services, which, in turn, affects the qualification of workers. Due to poverty, many people have no opportunity to attend educational institutions. As a result, the countries lack highly qualified professionals in all industries and the positive change in this trend is hardly achievable in the nearest future. The authorities’ neglect of the basic principles of economic science is too costly for underdeveloped and developing countries. Consequently, a large population size in the region leads to reduced access to fundamental educational services, which affects the qualification of workers and standards of their life.

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As mentioned above, people in this region are deprived of the opportunity to participate in production and are sharply limited in consumption. The current economic development depends greatly on the intellectual capacity of human capital. However, poor countries lack professionals and, therefore, cannot be active participants in the business activities. The scientific and technological revolution puts new demands for the labor process and such qualities of workers as the discipline of thinking, the accuracy of reaction, the moral-willed features, and the ability to adapt quickly to the requirements of production which are constantly changing. Since the labor force of the countries of Southeast Asia do not meet these demands, their industries mostly rely on foreign investments and human capital.

According to the theory of human capital, income depends on the knowledge, skills and natural abilities of people. International experience confirms that investments in human capital and, in particular, in education, contribute to significant returns for the economy and its growth (Brady & Burton, 2016). Nowadays, the state’s spending on the development of education is no longer viewed as social costs; these investments generate income. Moreover, in the global competition, those countries that systematically promote their educational potential win. This disadvantage undermines their competitiveness in the global economy. Unfortunately, countries with high rates of population growth lack human potential due to their backwardness, and this tendency will persist in the future.

William Easterly has shown great interest in studying the problems of developing countries. In his book The Elusive Quest for Growth, Easterly argues that projects of the World Bank and other organizations suffer a crushing defeat in the fight against poverty (Gramont, 2013). Their neglect of the basic principles of economic science is too costly for underdeveloped and developing countries. He believes that simple solutions are not possible because they will not fight the problem of poverty. Thus, Easterly suggests that the main ways to combat poverty in developing countries are to invest in education, eliminate corruption, and increase funding of infrastructure and industry (Baker, 2013). Therefore, unless a multifaceted approach to the problem of poverty in the developing countries of Southeast Asia is adopted, increased population size will lead to reduced access to the fundamental educational services, which, in turn, will affect the qualification of workers and standards of life of the population of the region.



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In conclusion, a high population growth rate in the third world countries in Southeast Asia relates to poverty due to limited resources. Many of them do not provide their citizens with access to education, which results in limited human capital. In addition, there cannot be sustainable development in the region because a significant part of the population lives below the poverty line. Remarkably, there is a gap between the poor and the rich in these countries, which constantly increases since the former have a two times higher fertility rate than the latter. As a rule, people in the Southeast Asia region are deprived of the opportunity to participate in production and are sharply limited in consumption. However, in spite of overall poverty, there are people who are extremely rich. It is evident from the analysis provided above that overpopulation leads to limited opportunities of people in the region. Therefore, the high population growth rate in the third world countries in Southeast Asia has a direct linkage with poverty exhibited in this region.

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