Since the beginning of industrial revolution, about 250 years ago, the size of the world population has increased even more dramatically and hit 7 billion on 31st October, 2011(World Population Report, 2012). The world population is projected to 7.9 billion for 2025 and 9.2 billion in 2050 (UN Population Division, 2001). In 2005, the world population shows that in Western Europe, 17% of the population is less than 15 years while it is 44% in Africa and so Africa has become one of the fastest growing regions of the world and most future –population growth will be in countries that have relatively large numbers of the young people and where large families are still the norm (World Population Data, 2005).

For instance, whiles   the need for health care pre-occupies the political leadership of the developed world whose population are aged, the provision of classrooms, employment opportunities etc pre-occupies the developing countries such as Ghana.“ Just as effective development depends on realiable knowledge of natural and resources, so does effective development planning depends upon natural knowledge of the change composition, growth and movement of population” ( Rafael Salas, 1975). What we should therefore be noted in an attempt to understand population change and economic development is to focus on; population change (growth & decline), the composition of the population (age, sex and structure), the population movement (showing migration) and finally population distribution in space.  As population size and composition changes whether growth or decline, people have to adjust and from those adjustments radiate innumerable alterations to the way society operates. In Ghana, the rate of population growth was 2.4% per cent per annum between 1960 and 1970, 2.6% per cent per annum between 1970 and 1984 and 2.8% per cent per annum between 1984 and 2000, and slightly declined to 2.5% between 2000 and 2010.

Given this rate of 2.5% per annum translates to a population doubling time of 28 years. Given this rate of growth and doubling time, the population of Ghana is expected to be 33.4 million by 2025 and 49.1million by 2050 (Population Reference Bureau, 2011). Such population growth will have implication for over all socio-economic development in the absence of paradigm shift in development planning.



Consequences of Rapid Population Growth

Arguments about the consequences of the present rates of population growth in the 3rd World have become a heated political and international issue that has divided the World’s nations. The developed countries have argued that, for instance, the current rate of increase in population in the developing World “will lead not only to the destruction of modern civilization, but the end of life on earth”. Counter arguments from the developing countries have claimed that “the so-called population problem is a deliberate lie propagated by the developed countries who fear the growing numerical strength of the 3rd World and that their aggressive attempt to impose family planning on the poor nation’s amounts to genocide”. The numerous views on the consequences of rapid population growth could be classified into two groups:

  1.              i.            The first, led by the neo-Malthusians who believes that population growth is a major problem requiring urgent corrective action.
  2.            ii.            The second, led by the developmentalist believe that the problem of population growth has been exaggerated.

The Malthusian Population Crisis

In 1798, Reverend Thomas Malthus (1766-1834), an English Clergyman, published a paper entitled: “the first paper on population growth”. In this paper Malthus predicted that the rapid population growth have dare consequences. He argued that populations have the capacity to grow at rates far greater than the production of food and thus unless checked it will quickly exhaust resources trapping humanity in poverty, starvation and misery. Even though land and food were plentiful in North America and Europe at that time, he argued that unchecked population growth could eventually press upon the means of subsistence and reduce poverty. Malthus ideas are still relevant today because people still hold the view today that population growth is a major problem. For instance, Pearson et al (1969) have claimed “no other phenomenon cast a darker shadow on the prospects of international development than the staggering growth of population. Brown Lester (1974) also wrote: “what we must recognize now is that continued population growth even at a moderate rate will aggravate virtually all the important economic, ecological, social, and political problems facing mankind”. The effects of rapid population growth on resources and food supply have received greater attention. On the economy, it is often claimed that a country with an economic growth of 5% is not doing well at all if its population growth is 3%. Again, a country with a high proportion of its population under 15 years of age may expect to have a low per capita income (King et al, 1987). High dependency ratios as in the developing World are claimed as another reason for their economic backwardness. These general problems are aggravated further because high population growth reduces the level of savings and prevent the formation of investment capital to free the developing countries from the shackles of underdevelopment.  It has been argued that rapid population growth has a serious detrimental effect on people’s welfare. By retarding economic growth through high population growth, low levels of living are maintained and in many cases poverty increases. High population growth also negates government effort to meet social needs. In rural areas, rapid population increases exacerbates poverty because of greater pressure on land, the division or fragmentation of small holdings (land) and the scarcity of agric employment. Because of these, many migrate to towns. But here, new employment opportunities are also cancelled out by rapid population growth. Similarly, governments cannot build schools or hospitals and provide other social services quickly enough to meet the needs of the rapidly expanding population. All neo-Malthusians therefore agree that steps should be taken to curb the continuous population increase in the 3rd World.

The Developmentalists View

The Developmentalists widely dispute the Malthusian view that rapid population growth is the primary cause of poverty and underdevelopment in the 3rd World. Godwin, a contemporary of Malthus, argued that population growth has nothing to do with poverty, rather the consequence of injustice and exploitation rather than population pressure. In 1913, Leiwin declared “we are the area-folks of neo-Malthusianism”, which he argued has been propagated by the Bourgeoisie class to deceive workers about the real causes of poverty and underdevelopment. The Developmentalists believed that the population problem has been over dramatized and distorted. They claim that high population growth is not the most pressing problem facing the developing countries nor is it the primary cause of poverty. The idea that rapid population growth in the 3rd World is depleting the earth’s resources is also challenged on the ground that the natural resources are being consumed far more rapidly by the developed countries with low rates of population growth. For instance, it is estimated that the U.S alone consume between 20-30% of most minerals produced annually in the World. As a group, the industrial countries consume 86% of the World’s energy and 20 times more minerals per capita than the 3rd World. Todaro (2011) also argued that population growth is not the primary or even a significant cause of low levels of living, gross inequality and a limited freedom of choice which characterized much of the 3rd World. Rather, their causes lie in the international and domestic social and political structures which perpetuate poverty. Developmentalists also disagree with the role of family planning. Even though some are opposed to it, many believed that family planning should be made available to those who want it. Others argue that population policies should be tailored to the need of different countries. Many agree that family planning services alone will not reduce poverty and that rapid population growth will only slow down as levels of living rise and progressive social services which redistributes income and introduce comprehensive social policies.

Conclusion and Policy recommendation

The economic growth may not be able to continue to meet the demands of the increasing population even if technological progress witnessed in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries continue unabated. This provides a justification for the introduction of population management policies especially in developing countries like Ghana whose population growth rate is high (2.5%) with low economic growth rate has been low (not exceeding 7%). In the developmentalists’ position the gainful employment opportunities available to the population, especially women, may hold the key to effective population management. The “Malthusians” also argued that population management policies are required to enhance the living conditions of people. Thus employment opportunities to the population would be gainful and sustainable if the population growth is managed. There is consensus that although rapid population growth may not necessarily prevent economic growth, economic development will occur more rapidly without this obstacle (rapid population growth) since more people will have better access to social amenities and economic opportunities with a slower population growth rate than with a rapid growth (Boadu, 1994).The thoughts expressed by the two schools converge on the significance of employment in population management. That is, either employment could help manage the population or effective population manage

The following recommendations are therefore put forward for Paradigm shift in development planning


  • Despite the constraints facing government, there is no hiding from the fact that the most effective strategy to improve population distribution is to adopt a balanced approach that promotes simultaneously the economic development of rural areas, the improvement of employment and living conditions in the cities of Accra and Kumasi and the growth of small and medium urban centres (Cape Coast, Ho, Koforidua, Bolgatanga, Sunyani, and Wa).
  • The social and economic development of the rural areas, through construction and maintenance of good road networks, building of more services (schools, hospitals and health centres); and  creation and expansion of employment opportunities, will certainly go a long way toward retaining people already staying in rural areas and attracting people from the urban centres, especially the unemployed and underemployed.
  • Indeed, the rather substantial increase in the number and proportion of population in the three northern regions are somewhat linked to the eradication of the blackly attack and the resultant onchocercicsis and the provision of some infrastructural facilities, especially in the health and transport sectors. While the government and development partners should be commended for such laudable achievements, it is recommended that such developmental efforts should be increased and strengthened by making more funds available to ensure that various activities and programmes being pursued are continued and sustained while new ones are initiated.
  • Access to land is a crucial factor that leads to retention of migrants at most rural places of destination. In order to ensure adequate and effective population distribution, settlers must be assured of sustainable access to fertile land for farming purposes by landowners. In this respect, landowners should abide by all agreements reached with settler and non-settler farmers concerning use of land, including duration of lease.  Additionally, new frontier agricultural areas that are not particularly accessible due to physical barriers such as large water bodies, inaccessible farm lands such as the onchocercicsis areas, areas with poor road networks, and flood-prone and water-logged areas should be made more accessible by linking them with good feeder road network to ease transportation to and from these areas.
  • The promotion of rural development should be a goal in itself, irrespective of its possible impact on migration. Rural development strategies should be combined with policies that promote the growth of small towns and intermediate urban centres so that the latter may provide markets for agricultural products and be the centres of agro-processing and other small-scale industries. Efforts to improve the access of rural residents to health and educational services are crucial in improving the quality of rural life, while reduction in fertility related to the improved provision of reproductive health services is likely to reduce migration pressures in the medium term.
  • Further reductions of urban fertility through massive and sustained uptake of contraceptive technology would also contribute significantly to controlling the growth of the cities and economic development.


Apt, N.A. 1996.  Coping with Old Age in a changing Africa: Social Change and the Elderly Ghanaian.

Dasgupta P.(1995), The Population Problem: Theory And Evidence, Journal of economic literatre 33,1879-1902

Davis, K. 1977. The of Outmigration on Regions of Origin. In Brown, A.A. and Neuberger, E. (eds.), Internal Migration: A Comparative Perspective. New York: Academic Press, pp.147-166

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), 2002. The State of Food and Agriculture 2002. The FAO, Agriculture Series No. 34, Rome.

Gaisie, S. K. 1984.  Contextual Analysis of Proximate Determinants of Fertility in Ghana. Scientific Report No. 53. London: World Fertility Survey.

Gaisie, S. K. 1996. Demographic Transition: The Predicament of sub-Saharan Africa”, in Health Transition Review, Supplement to Volume 6, pp.345-369.

Ghana Statistical Service (GSS), 2002. 2000 Population and Housing Census: Summary Report of Final Results. The GSS, Accra.Ghana Statistical Service (GSS) and Macro International Inc. (MI). 1999. Ghana Demographic and Health Survey 1998.  Calverton, Maryland: GSS and MI.

Government of Ghana, 1991.Control of Onchocerciasis, Yaws, Leprosy, Guinea Worm. Devolution Plan prepared by the National Onchocerciasis Committee, National Onchocerciasis Secretariat and Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, Accra.

Greene, S.E. 1995. Women, the Family and the Commercialization of Agriculture in 19th and 20th Century Anlo. In Prah, M. (ed.), Women’s Studies with a Focus on Ghana: Selected Readings. Schriesheim, Germany: Books on African Studies.

Leibenstein H.(1974) A review of the economic theory of fertility: Promising Path or Blind Ally?, Journal of Economic Literature 12

Litchfield, J. and Waddington, H. 2003. Migration and Poverty in Ghana: Evidence from the Ghana Living Standards Survey. Sussex Migration Working Paper No. 10. Sussex Centre for Migration Research, United Kingdom.

Mba, C. J. 2002.  Ghana's Reproductive Revolution: Analysis of the Determinants of Fertility Transition in African Population Studiesjournal, vol. 17, No.1, pp.47-67.

Mbamaonyeukwu, C. J. 2001. The Ageing of Africa’s Populations, in Quarterly Journal of the International Institute on Ageing, vol. 11, No. 4, pp. 2-7.

Michael P. Todaro and Stephen C. Smith (2011) Economic Development Person Education Ltd,England

N. Birdsall, Economic approaches to population growth in H.B Chenery, T.N Srinivasan, Handbook of Development Economics Vol.1 (Amsterdam 1988), 478-542

Oppong-Aboagye, E. 2003. Internal Migration in Ashanti Region of Ghana (1984-2000) and Implications for Development Planning. Unpublished M.A Dissertation submitted to the Faculty of Social Studies, University of Ghana, Legon.

Republic of Ghana (2013), Population and Housing Census (2010) Ghana Statistical Service, Accra:

UN Population Fund, the state of World Population 2005(New York)

UN Population Fund, the state of World Population 2012(New York)

Copyright © 2013 ECONOMY OF GHANA NETWORK. All Rights Reserved.