In the last 200 years, the human population has increased very rapidly. It was 1 Billion in 1804 and it is about 7.8 Billion in 2020. Why and how such rapid growth occurred? In this following blog, we will look at the growth of the population in the modern period and what influenced it. Also, we look at a few other aspects of the population.
In ancient period when farming just began and people started living in societies rather than in wandering bands, human population became slightly larger because it provided them more quantity of food and security. Still the rate of growth was very slow for many millennia. In last 200 years, humanity has seen various transformations in societies which eventually triggered almost exponential growth in population.
Demographic Transition theory is based on an interpretation given by Warren Thompson. It tells us about how transformations in societies influenced growth, especially in continents like Europe and America. It is just an idealized model which can’t be applied to all individual nations and states. There will be variations for each case.
According to this theory, the population of a place goes through four stages. These are:-
All of the world’s population was in the first stage in the pre-modern period. At the time, birth and death rates were balanced and both were very high. That is why population growth was very slow for most of human history.
Reasons of higher mortality-
- Lack of knowledge of disease prevention and cure.
- Occasional shortage of foods.
- Wars, violence, pandemics, etc.
Reasons for higher natality-
- Because of higher mortality (especially child mortality), people reproduced more children to ensure comfortable old age and continuation of family or lineage.
- Childs helped in working to get more income to the family and the cost of raising a child hardly exceeds what he earns.
- In many societies, a woman’s status was measured in terms of her fertility.
In this stage, the population comprises much more youth than old age people, because people often die at a very early age.
(You can read more about it in our article Population Growth in the pre-modern period (direct))
In the second half of 18th century, the balance between birth and death rate broke in Europe. Two factors accounted for this-
- Improvement in food supply: With improved agricultural practices like crop rotation, selective breeding, seed drill technology, etc the food supply got improved in Europe. Also, Other countries brought new food to Europe. With all these, the average diet of Europeans improved. Greater wealth was brought to Europe which enabled people to marry slightly earlier. Thus, the birth rate was increased slightly.
- Improvement in Public Health: Significant improvement in public health reduced mortality, particularly in childhood. It was due to improvement in water supply, sewage, food handling, personal hygiene, etc.
With lowered mortality and still higher natality, the population boomed. Also, it changed the age structure of the population.
As the population moves towards stability, it enters the third stage. In this stage, the birth rate starts declining which slows down the population growth. There are various reasons for this declining fertility-
- Realization of decreased mortality (especially child mortality) and Increased Longevity. People started having fewer children because they now can expect them to survive.
- Economic development.
- The increased cost of raising a child. Children were no longer an economic supporter of the family. Society and the government tried to stop child labor and promoted their education and happy and playful childhood.
- Increased Urbanization and change in traditional values.
- Increased Literacy and employment, especially among females. Working women prefer to have a child later in life and have only fewer children.
In this last stage, the birth rate and mortality rate become almost equal again, but this time both rates are lower than earlier. The population becomes almost stable at this stage. Death rates are lower due to the lower rates of disease and the high production of food. Birth rates are lower because of the use of contraception, awareness among people, etc.
The main factors, which can form a stable and developed society, are better education and healthcare facilities for everyone.
Development and Population at Few Places
Population in Europe and America
European countries once had its colonies all over the world. British Empire was the Largest Empire in History. Europeans discovered sea routes to different parts of the world like to India, America, etc. With these sea routes, they used to do trade and they earned too much wealth. America was also under colonial rule once. The American Revolution (War for Independence) occurred in latter half of 18th century.
The Industrial Revolution (or First Industrial Revolution) also began in the latter half of 18th century. Both European countries like UK and American went parallel to each other in industrialization. They started producing good using machine rather than by hand. Initially, the machines worked on natural forces like flowing water of river.
But later, the invention of steam engines boosted the industries. It made work easier and faster. Because of the requirement of coal for steam engines, people started mining coal. With colonies all over the world, Europeans were able to import raw material for manufacturing goods, very easily and at very low prices, from well-resourced countries. Also, they imported wealth from other countries so they were able to provide larger wages to their workers.
With the industrial revolution, people get jobs and better payments which raised their standard of living. With changes in society, traditional values also got changed. Urbanization of places, construction of better houses and sewage systems, the supply of clean water, etc had a huge impact on public health. They also brought a second agricultural revolution and new crops from other places, which improved their average diet as well.
Americans had rich resources of their own, and they utilized them properly. That is why they were the competitors of Europe. In the late 19th century, the second industrial revolution (or technological revolution) came. Advancements in science and technologies improved the conditions of both industries and cities to a much larger extent than before. Production of electrical power and the invention of telephones were the most events. It provided a better energy source and long-distance communication became easier.
Population in India and China
India and China are two most populated countries in world, not only now, but from ancient period. Presently, they comprise only about 36% of world’s population. Throughout most of ancient and medieval period, they comprised about 60% of world’s population.
There were many reasons for this, like their fertile lands, good availability of water sources, rich culture, developed economy, natural defense barriers, etc. Because they already had a huge population from such long time, their population grew much larger when they entered in second stage of Demographic Transition.
Both India and China entered the second stage of demographic transition, more or less at the same time. In the 20th century, both countries went through various struggles to establish a proper government. India was part of the British colony at the beginning of the 20th century whereas China was ruled by traditional dynasty rulers. British were trying to take China under its control.
With help from many leaders and common people, they got independent and established proper government. Then they slowly entered their industrial phase and went through the same demographic transitions. However, the conditions of both countries were different from that of Europe and America. They faced many problems and obstacles in their initial phase.
Like The Great Leap Forward famine of China, The Emergency in India, various revolts, rebellion, and riots, etc. India had slow economical growth initially due to government schemes. The liberalization of the Economy in 1991 boosted the growth. But even with all these problems, the populations of both countries increased very rapidly and became huge. One reason of this was their already very large population.
In 1979-80, China imposed its One-child Policy and in the 1970s, India started campaigning for spreading awareness about family planning, etc. They forced Millions of males in India to sterilize, with a negligible impact on population growth. But now they both are moving toward stability.
Population in Africa
Today, when the fertility rate of most of the countries is approaching the replacement fertility rate, the fertility rate of many Sub-Saharan African countries is still much higher (between 4 and 5). There are various reasons for this and it is difficult to declare that which one is more important than others.
Africa made considerable progress with childhood mortality but progress in education is very slow. Contraceptives are still not easily available among many people. Many sub-Saharan nations suffered under colonization until only a few decades ago and had a rough transition period toward independence. The young nations were often ethnically heterogeneous and lacked unity.
Some areas have been repeatedly racked by civil wars, military conflicts, and unstable government which made it really difficult to expand infrastructure and healthcare. Africa had a worse starting point than Asia. Also, cultural expects to make it difficult to talk about family planning.
African countries, unfortunately, are the poorest regions of the Globe but they are also very diverse, culturally rich, and resourceful regions. Even though it is going through its rough period, it can have a beautiful future. It only requires proper governance and investment, so that it can develop. Otherwise, it can be doomed if proper care is not taken.
Other Characteristics of Population and Population related Problems
Statistically, an ideal stabilized society does not have only the optimum number of humans in it based on the availability of resources, economical condition, etc. There are various other factors like sex ratio, age distribution, growth rate, mortality, natality, etc. They all are equally important because disturbance in any can create many problems.
For example, in China, when the government-imposed one-child policy, the sex ratio got hugely disturbed. Because the Chinese society is more gender-biased, favoring male progeny more over female. To avoid female children, female feticide got increased. People started purchasing bridegrooms for their sons, etc.
Also, due to the sudden decline in natality, the population of youth became smaller, compared to the old age population. It thus put economical stress on the government and youth, because there is a fewer number of working people compared to the whole population. Due to such problems, they removed the one-child policy in 2015.
The major problems that Humanity will face due to a large population are the environmental problems and economic problems. Nature has too much stress on it to fulfill human needs and we are in an era of high consumerism, which further increases the stress. Also, the development of technology, computer science, robotics, etc will cause unemployment. Few places have started witnessing it. The current economic system won’t be able to handle such a situation in the future.
Population explosion occurred all over the globe in modern period because of sudden decline in death rate and increase in average life expectancy of a being. There are various reasons for this like improvement in life style, public health, urbanization, industrialization, development in science, etc. Every country underwent its own demographic transition at different time.
It is very important to notice the demographic factors of a place, not only in age distribution, growth rate, sex ratio, but in every aspect like literacy, healthcare, occupation, religion, etc. It is also equally important to see demographic history. Because it all gives an idea of what a nation or state is going through and what can be done for development with the least friction.
If you want to read more about (over)population check this out: Overpopulation – The Biggest Problem of the 21st Century