Does the economy need more people? – R Jagannathan

(R Jagannathan is editorial director, Swarajya magazine. This column first appeared in Business Standard on August 31, 2021)

  • The decision of some state governments to incentivise smaller families and penalise larger ones has widely been critiqued as being politically motivated. Maybe so. The fact is no country (or state) in the world lacks political or economic motivations for managing population sizes — whether this policy is influenced through birth control or immigration. If you do want to inhibit a population expansion, there is only one way to do it right: Women’s empowerment. Educate, skill and employ more women in the workforce, and your population growth rates will start falling. If you want to do the opposite, ie, grow the population, you again incentivise women to have more babies by giving them time and money to do so. There are good reasons to curtail population growth in some parts of the world, especially Africa, West Asia and the Indian sub-continent. Malthus was wrong to claim that population growth will outstrip resources. We have the opposite problem: That resources will be found by doing greater damage to the earth’s future. But there is a bigger issue. Growth no longer requires large labour resources. Higher youth populations are not always needed to drive growth…

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