7 Major Population Problems of Developing Countries

The growing pressure of population on resource base, especially on arable land, has created many socio-economic, cultural, political, ecological and environmental problems. The population problems vary in space and time and differ from region to region.

These problems may be more systematically examined if we take them in the context of developed and developing countries separately.

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Most of the world population lives in the developing world. China and India support over 23 per cent and about 17.6 per cent of the total world population, respectively. Altogether the developing countries have over three-fourth of the total world population.

The level of technological development in these countries is relatively low and affects both agricul­tural efficiency and industrial development, despite availability of local resources.

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India, Pakistan, China, Brazil, Bangladesh, Myanmar (Burma), Nepal, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand, Maldive, Philippines, and most of the African countries are such developing countries.

There are many countries which are underdeveloped because they have small and inadequate population (workforce) to utilize their abundant resources.


Such countries include Columbia, Peru, Zaire, Russian Siberia, Saudi Arabia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kirgyztan and Tajkistan. These countries have tremendous resources which cannot be developed because of lack of population.

Their problems are often accentuated by adverse climatic conditions. Rapid growth of population, unemployment, inadequacy of housing and health, underutilization of resources and slow growth of industries are their main problems.

Some of the major population problems of the developing countries have been briefly examined in the following paras:

1. Rapid Growth of Population:

In most of the developing countries, the birth rate is high as the death rate has been checked because of the development and extension of medical facilities. Moreover, family planning in these countries is not practiced sincerely on a large scale.


This situation has resulted in large proportion of younger population which is dependent on small workforce. For example, in India and Pakistan, about 32 and 37 per cent of their population respectively is below 15 years of age. This large young population puts great pressure on the available medical, educational and other social amenities.

2. Unemployment:

Population in developing countries remains largely dependent on agriculture. The secondary and tertiary sectors (industries and services) are relatively less developed.

There are very limited opportunities for the semi-skilled, unskilled and even for highly educated people. In rural areas large numbers of unskilled workers face the problem of unemployment.

The educated and skilled technocrats also have very limited opportunities of employment. Consequently, the educated and uneducated, skilled and unskilled, immigrate to other countries in search of employment.

Those who find it difficult, migrate to big cities within the country where it is often even more difficult to find employment. Moreover, the towns become overcrowded, making living conditions poorer, and resulting in many socio-economic and environ­mental problems.

3. Poor Standard of Living and Malnutrition:

There is always lack of proper nourishment, especially that of balanced diet, in developing countries. The standard of living is low and housing conditions are generally poor.

The standard of hygiene and quality of nutrition are also low, which lead to health problems such as deficiency diseases. The ignorance of people, inadequacies of medical facilities and lack of financial resources come in the way of improving the housing and health conditions.

4. Mismanagement of Agricultural Resources:

By and large, most of the developing nations have agrarian economy. The agriculture is mostly done by traditional methods, obsolete equipments and inadequate financial resources.

Owing to the lack of finances farmers are unable to apply chemical fertilizers and other inputs in required quantities. Conse­quently, the production per unit area is low.

The fragmentation and small size of holdings and land tenancy systems are also some of the serious barriers in the modernization of agriculture.

In such countries, land is thus either underutilized or misutilized. Many of the farmers, being tradition-bound, do not accept innovative ideas. Consequently, their agricul­tural techniques remain traditional and production much below than their potential.

5. Slow Growth of Industrial Sector:

Industrial sector in developing countries is generally not very strong. There is lack of local capital which makes the actual exploitation of resources or setting of factories difficult.

The workforce, though large in number, is generally unskilled and has no background of industrial development. Similarly, the majorities of the people are poor and cannot afford to buy the products.

The poor indus­trial base, lack of capital and poverty of people create a vicious circle and consequently the growth of industries is hampered. The pressure on agricultural resources continuously increases.

6. Orthodoxy:

As stated above people in developing countries are tradition-bound, and less exposed to the outside world moreover, they are religious in their attitudes who do not accept new ideas and modern style of life easily. Also, they generally do not observe family planning.

Besides, as in India, caste restrictions on occupation also help slowdown the transformation of society and process of development. To get rid of such a situation, large-scale literacy and mass education are necessary.

7. Problems of Under-Population:

Some of the underdeveloped countries/regions are under populated. The populations in such countries are different from those in the densely populated countries. In the sparsely populated countries, the growth of population, despite high birth rates, is slow.

Immigration is an important source of population but it is usually for the towns. At the same time, the towns with better social amenities attract people from the already sparsely settled countryside. Imbalance between town and country is a major problem of under populated countries:

(a) Being the areas of isolation, it is difficult to increase human settlement in sparsely populated areas because people are generally unwilling to forego the amenities of the town.

The government of the erstwhile Soviet Union provided lucrative incentives in the form of heavy amounts for the construction of houses in Siberia but people remained reluctant.

In areas of sparse population, it is expensive and uneconomic to provide elaborate communication, health, education and other social amenities.

(b) In the sparsely populated areas, a judicious utilization of resources is not possible. Agricultural resources are more difficult to develop because they require harder work over a long period of years in order to get a good return. The sparsely populated countries also have slow growth of industries.

There is generally a shortage of skilled labour as in the case of African, Latin American and many of the South-West, Central and South-East Asian countries. Where skilled labour is to be brought from other countries, the cost of the production of industrial goods goes up. Moreover, the small population does not provide a good market even where the standard of living is high.

(c) Many under populated countries have hostile climatic or terrain and topographical conditions. These conditions make settlement difficult or dangerous for immigrants.

Such conditions also obstruct devel­opment. To open up under populated areas is both difficult and expensive. A sound immigration policy, however, can help in the rational utilization of resources of under populated regions.


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