National & International Population Policies

Instructor: David Juliao

David has a bachelor's degree in architecture, has done research in architecture, arts and design and has worked in the field for several years.

In this lesson, examine the population policies, meant to reduce or raise the birth rate of a country. Learn about pro-natalist and anti-natalist policies and examine some examples of strategies adopted by some countries to control their population.

Rising Population

In less than a century, the world population tripled from some 2.5 billion in 1950 to over 7.5 billion people in 2018. This number will probably keep on growing.

The world population is growing fast
Population growth

However, the population growth has not been regular throughout the world. While the number of people is growing fast in some countries, there is a slow growth or even a decrease in others. Both cases put pressure on governments and encourage them to develop and implement population policies.

Population Policies

Population policies are different laws or regulations that governments enact in order to accomplish demographic changes, like reducing or raising birth rates, reducing mortality, increasing immigration or implementing other related objectives. Sometimes, they even try to change the composition of that population. It is possible to group most population policies in two categories, pro-natalist and anti-natalist, but there is a third category as well, known as eugenics.

Pro-natalist policies are meant to increase the overall population growth rate. These policies might involve tax incentives for bigger families, taxes for couples without children or the allowance of more immigrants. Most countries that adopt this type of policy are suffering from low birth rates or a decrease in the total population. After World War II, the Soviet Union adopted a strong pro-natalist position trying to repopulate the territory after losing millions of lives during the war.

Anti-natalist policies have the goal of reducing the overall population growth rate by discouraging families from having many children. They might include taxes on bigger families, access to contraception methods, legalizing abortion, promoting sterilization and restricting immigration. Countries that adopt anti-natalist policies are often facing development challenges, as the increasing population threatens to affect the country socially, economically and environmentally.

There have also been cases when a government tries to reduce the birth rate of a specific group of the population. They supposedly look to improve the quality of the population by discouraging or preventing the reproduction of groups with genetic defects or people deliberately considered as inferior. At the same time, the reproduction of people considered to have desirable genetics is strongly encouraged. This third type of policy is nown as eugenics and often goes against human rights, like the right to live and reproductive rights. This was the case of the Nazi population policies.

National Population Policies

Many governments have implemented national population policies in their own countries. Let's examine some examples.

Population growth rate by country. Blue is the lowest, red and purple the highest
Fertility by country


The Only Child Policy was implemented in 1979. This anti-natalist policy allowed families to raise only one child. The government provided family-planning services and contraception but imposed fines on those that didn't follow the policy. The One Child Policy was very effective in reducing the birth rate but caused some other issues. For instance, many families preferred to have a boy so many female babies were abandoned or aborted. Today, the Chinese population has a disproportionate number of men to women. Another problem is the aging population. One out of four people will probably be over 60 years old soon, and that poses a huge economic challenge for this country.

The One Child Policy was gradually softened, allowing families to have a second child if the first was a girl. Now, the government allows all families to have two children.


Nigeria has one of the highest birth rates in the world, so the government has implemented a series of anti-natalist policies. The goal is to reduce birth rates by tackling social issues. If programs can help reduce infant mortality and AIDS, the government feels that families will not feel the need to have as many children. Education is also crucial for survival, so the government has programs for improving child education. They also want to establish programs promoting the use of contraception, offering family-planning assistance, immunizing children and helping women to find suitable jobs.

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