Population planning and family planning are supplementing and complimenting each other. As China leads the way in the Planned Parenthood movement, with the result India will overtake China’s population by the next decade as per a UN report.

The tremendous interest generated by the world’s population reaching 5 billion on 11 July 1987, led to the establishment of World Population Day as an annual event. It has been celebrated for almost three decades and seeks to draw attention to issues related to a growing global population.

The world’s population is rising rapidly and approximately 90 million are being added each year. India contributes to about one-fifth of the growth. Global life expectancy more than doubled from 34 years in 1916 to 72 years in 2017. This is significant as we have already clocked 7.6 billion people on the planet.

World Population Day increases awareness among people about issues like rising population, pregnant women’s health, gender equality, population explosion, poverty and many more concerns. For the first time in the year 1990, a decrease in global population was recorded. This was due to the result of a campaign that made people aware of the issues and the conduct of family planning programmes.

Population growth rate has declined to 1.1 per cent and is projected to decline further globally. The world’s population is expected to reach 11 billion by 2050. Population explosion is one of the biggest issues that the human race has to deal with. For a long time, population has continually been on the rise and 60 per cent of the world’s population lives in 10 countries.

China is the most populated country with 1.38 billion. The government took an initiative to control the growth rate with the policy of one child and parents were given special benefits if they followed the one-child norm. India is the second most populated with 1.29 billion. The next most populated countries are United States with 320 million, Indonesia with 260 million and Brazil with 210 million. Sterilisation is banned in Brazil and abortion is also illegal except for a rape victim or in medical emergencies.

Focusing attention on the rising population is important. This will help us in the future with sustainable development to fight poverty and hunger in a better way. Now, with increasing education and public awareness, the results are positive in comparison to the past.

Every year, a theme is announced by UNDP for observing World Population Day. “Family Planning is a Human Right” will be the focus of 2018. This has been chosen as 2018 marks the 50th anniversary of a conference that focused on family planning. Millions of women globally are still not given access to safe and effective family planning methods; these are the areas of concern.

As per a recent UN report, 225 million women around the world who want to avoid pregnancy are not using safe and effective family planning methods for lack of access to information or services, and support for their partners or communities. Most of these women with an unmet demand for contraceptives live in 69 of the poorest countries on earth. Access to safe voluntary family planning is a human right. It also aids gender equality and is a key factor in reducing poverty for investments in family planning yield economic gains.

India had launched the world’s first ever family planning programme in 1952 at the government level. Before this, the Family Planning Association of India, a voluntary organisation that pioneered movement in the country initiated the family planning programme in 1949.

The decline in birth rate and in the growth rate of population and other achievements are seen as evidence of the effectiveness of the family planning measures. The positive impact of improvement in health is reflected in the fact that the death rate has declined, and life expectancy has improved remarkably. There is greater awareness of family welfare schemes that promote the two-child family norm.

During the last three decades, female sterilisation has accounted for 65 per cent of contraceptive use, significantly higher than anywhere else in the world. On the other hand, male sterilisation stands at a mere 2.3 per cent. To make the programme successful, male participation is equally important to improve employment opportunities, aim for higher GDP per capita and improved quality of life.

Discrimination against the girl child, poverty, poor primary health care, illiteracy and gender inequality at work are common in India and its surrounding countries. According to a study, large Asia-Pacific economies such as India and China are paying a heavy price by excluding women from the work force. And if they take concrete steps to address gender inequalities at work and in society, the tangible gains can be as much as an 18 per cent higher GDP for India by 2025, according to a Mckinsey Global Institute report.

To translate World Population Day into actual action, the most effective measures would be to increase awareness, delay marriages, make contraceptives available to masses, empower women, ensure gender parity and improvement in female education.

The writer is a Consultant with the Kolkata branch of the Family Planning Association of India.