Population regulation: the key to economic flourishing?

Let me tell you about my trip to New York last March. I had the great pleasure to be sent by the European office of the World Youth Alliance to attend the 8th International Solidarity Forum (ISF), hosted by the WYA in New York City. The event lasted 4 days and took place in various locations in NY City but mainly at the WYA Headquarters and at the UN.

We were about thirty young certified WYA members, coming from different regions of the world (Asia, Africa, Europe, Latin America, and North America), and thus representing diverse ethnic, religious, cultural, and economic backgrounds, but nevertheless all sharing the same concern: how does population growth impact economics? The actual tendency in politics and in the medias actually suggests that population management is a fundamental necessity to cope with population growth and to enable economic development. Is that true? And if not, are there strong arguments based on social sciences that may offer another perspective?

I personally had many conversations about these legitimate questions with friends and always had a hard time to expound what a person centered approach to economics means; I was therefore very interested to attend lectures given by policymakers and scholars from different colleges who especially came to give us an insight on the complex relationship between economics and population.

Policymakers all over the world (at the UN and Governments) promote the idea that global populations levels are too high and must therefore be stabilized. Nicholas Eberstadt, in his essay Too Many People, shows how global living standards have improved all over the world over the past century despite a near-quadrupling of human population.

We often hear that “overpopulation” is a reality nowadays. But it is actually widely misunderstood, often linked to hungry children, diseases and low living conditions. In reality, there is no evident negative link between population and development. During the past century, life expectancy increased, people lived healthier and were wealthier, food production had steadily outstripped population growth, and generally all natural resources are now more available than in the past. These are facts based on serious scientific researches and scholars were there to affirm and confirm it.

An important part of the forum was the negociation of the new WYA Declaration on Population and Economics. Divided by regions, each committee had to submit resolutions for amendments. These were then discussed and debated, sometimes very strongly, between all the participants. It was impressive to see how sentences, sometimes even words, were subject to endless discussions. Everybody was strongly committed to this important work, pursuing our understanding on the matter even further.

Even though fertility rates dropped during the last century, proponents of “population stabilization” still ask governments to regulate populations through family planning programs. But thanks to the ISF, I was able to deepen my understanding on the fundamental role played by families in a society. The family represents in fact the very first unit of a society, a place where children can develop themselves the best. Protecting the family and thus future generations is essential to societies and their economic flourishing.

By Imre de Habsbourg-Lorraine, Intern at the WYA Europe