The recent surge in refugees trying to reach Europe has brought renewed attention to the conflicts and power struggles occurring in the Middle East and North Africa. Very often a major contributor to the instability — one that commonly is overlooked — is population growth.
The situation in Syria is a perfect example. The country experienced a drought in 2009. This coupled with rapid population growth and insufficient resources to satisfy the needs of all contributed to the unstable situation that led to popular uprisings. Climate change also was a factor. Increased temperatures and harsher weather conditions exacerbated the negative impacts of the drought.
A related problem often created by population growth is “youth bulge”. When large populations of young people are present in weak or autocratic states, unrest often ensues. As states fail to provide employment opportunities, access to resources and services such as education and healthcare, discontent and instability occur — particularly amongst younger people. This typically leads to young people seeking more secure means of providing for themselves and their families elsewhere.
Most countries categorised as “weak and under stress” by the World Bank are nations that have experienced rapid increases in population.
“Overpopulation in states unable to provide for the needs of their citizens is very likely to create large waves of migration to wealthier countries,” said Population Matters Chief Executive Simon Ross.