Population Matters

Mixed results at the G20 summit

Mixed results at the G20 summit

The recent G20 meeting in Brisbane, Australia undertook to address poverty, economic inequality and youth unemployment, mainly by increasing members’ economic growth by 2 per cent during the next four years.

Job seekers

One issue was the so-called “jobless recovery”, in which economies resume growth but without creating jobs, as the underemployed increase their hours and businesses seek to grow in an uncertain economic environment without taking on labour commitments. In a world of globalised trade and an increasing use of technology, there are all sorts of ways of improving productivity and thus doing more without increasing the number of workers.

What wasn’t discussed was that one reason why ever-increasing employment is required is to meet the needs of an additional 80 million people every year as world population grows.

The combination of increasing productivity and increasing population make it hard for economies without robust growth to ensure full employment.

Climate change was also a major issue and developed countries pledged to limit or reduce carbon emissions and to provide funds to help developing countries adapt to the effects of climate change. Scientists are already concerned about the impact of economic growth on those carbon emissions targets. And, even if the G20 countries do limit their emissions, countries like India with their “dash for coal” as they seek universal electrification will have their own impact.


Amongst all of these plans, goals and commitments, there was some mention of greater employment for women, but no discussion of population, a key driver of demand for employment and of carbon emissions. In addition, there were no calls for a lower birth rate or a higher prevalence of the use of modern family planning.

Two recent stories showed the highs and lows of family planning programmes. An implant costing just one United States dollar has been launched. However, 15 women died in India recently following sterilization at a government-run facility. The reasons are not clear.

If the G20 really want to limit future unemployment and climate emissions, a sensible component would be to reinforce the admirable Family Planning 2020 programme to halve by 2020 the number of women who wish to delay or avoid pregnancy but are not using modern contraception to do so.

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