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WHO'S AFRAID OF DECLINING POPULATION?

Anthony Browne

The following is an excerpt of an article published in Population Press.

Studies by the OECD show there is no correlation between population size and GDP per capita. If big populations create wealth, then the world's most populous countries, China and India, would be the richest, not among the poorest. Many low-population countries, such as Norway and Switzerland, are very wealthy. Ireland, with only four million people, has overtaken Britain's 60 million in GDP per capita. By far the smallest member of the European Union, Luxembourg, is also by far the wealthiest.

Once, countries needed large populations for military strength in a hostile world: large numbers of people meant large armies. Women in Victorian Britain were urged to lie back and think of England so that they could help sustain an overstretched empire. Women in the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany were urged to have babies to promote the power of their country. But with kill-by-satellite, large armies don't matter; with international peace treaties, being small no longer means being vulnerable.

Political leaders still like large populations because it enhances their prestige, and their negotiating power. Nowhere is this better seen than on a local level-for example, Quebec is promoting population growth as a form of demographic warfare against Anglophone Canada. Leaders of Midwestern US states with falling populations want to reverse the trend so they can become more important on the national stage.

The same is true on the international level. Canada has an explicit program of rapid population growth so that it can hold its own against its domineering neighbor. Australian leaders want more citizens so they can hold their own against the vast populations of India, China, Indonesia and Malaysia.

Read the full article here.