Considering the high rate of population growth in Nigeria, this paper examines the impact/effect of population growth on economic growth and development in Nigeria. In other words, the objective of this paper is to examine the trend of population growth; and to evaluate the impact of population growth on economic growth in Nigeria.
Some two thousand years ago population growth and production were positively linked. That is, more people meant greater productivity and security.
Hundreds of years ago, when societies and economies initially began to flourish, success was dependent upon a productive agricultural sector. A growing population meant more workers and laborers who would increase overall output.
With more productive labor, the economy inevitably expanded and society enjoyed the financial benefits. Therefore, centuries ago, population booms were positive indications of the potential for long term economic growth.
At a population growth rate of 3 percent per annum, Nigeria is one of the fastest growing countries in the world. Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa, and accounts for one in five people in Sub-saharan Africa.
Based on the latest United Nations estimates, the current population of Nigeria is 201,227,896 as of July 2019. However, the composition of this population is mainly in the youthful category with 49% below the age of 21 years and a dependency ratio estimated at 89%. Furthermore, a large proportion of this population lives in the rapidly expanding urban areas.
From all indications, labor is the most fundamental element in all economic activities, development, and social well being. Labor is geared ultimately to identifying and satisfying the needs for consumer goods and services for the entire population.
Economic development denotes a progressive increase in output, the gross as well as the per capita gross domestic product, and the improvement of physical, mental and associated living conditions of the population.
It is important to note that population growth in developed countries of the world have led to high rates of increase in total product and per capita product. The growth of total product and per capita product has been due to the enormous addition to population which has led to large increase in working labor force.
Furthermore, population growth leads to the growth of physical capital. The growth of physical capital stock depends largely on human capital formation, which is the process of increasing knowledge, the skills, and the capacities of all people in the country. Consequently, high population growth can be a source of capital formation in underdeveloped countries (Nigeria inclusive).
Population growth also leads to high mass consumption. The current population explosion experienced in Nigeria (and other developing countries) has paved the way for the age of high mass consumption.
However the current growth in population tends to retard per capita income in three ways; it increases the pressure of population on land, it leads to rise in cost of consumption goods because of the scarcity of the factors to increase their supplies, it leads to a decline in the accumulation of capital because with increase in family members, expenses increase. This is in addition to the adverse effect that population growth has on standard of living, employment, capital formation, environment, social infrastructure, and agricultural development.
Actually, the potential negative consequences of population growth for economic development can be divided into seven categories:
Our findings indicate that rapid population growth has lowered per capita income growth in Nigeria and most underdeveloped countries (especially those countries that are poor, dependent on agriculture, and experiencing pressures on land and natural resources).
Although data linking measures of poverty and population growth at the national level are often inconclusive, at the household level the evidence is strong and compelling.
The negative consequences of rapid population growth fall most heavily on the poor because they are the ones who are made landless, suffer first from cuts in government health and education programs, bear the brunt of environmental damage, and are the main victims of job cuts due to the slower growth of the economy.
This implies that, in most cases, large families perpetuate poverty, they also exacerbate inequality.
Large family size coupled with low incomes restricts the opportunities of parents to educate all their children. This in turn feeds back on economic growth because the stock of human capital is reduced by rapid population growth.
High fertility harms the health of mothers and children. It increases the health risks of pregnancy, and closely spaced births have been shown to reduce birth weight and increases child mortality rates.
Feeding the world’s population is increasingly becoming difficult due to rapid population growth. There is the need to introduce new technologies of production more rapidly, as the best lands have already been cultivated.
Rapid population growth contributes to environmental degradation in the form of forest encroachment, deforestation, fuel-wood depletion, soil erosion, declining fish and animal stocks, inadequate and unsafe water, air pollution, and urban congestion.
Actually, the rapid increase in international migration (both legal and illegal) is one of the major consequences of developing countries’ population growth. Though many factors are responsible for migration, unemployment (caused by rapid population growth) over job opportunities in Nigeria and other underdeveloped countries is one of them.
In summary, some of the negative effects of population growth include:
Undoubtedly, people are the most important and valuable resources of any nation and constitute the primary producers as well consumers of national wealth and development dividends.
The interrelationship between population, economic growth and social development indicates that persistent widespread poverty as well as serious social and gender inequalities have significant impact on, and are in turn influenced by factors such as population growth, structures and distribution.
Thus there is a need to fully integrate population concerns into all aspects of development strategies, planning and decision making at all levels with the goal of improving the quality of life of the people.
It is important to note that the consequences and effects of population growth on economic development differ between the developed and developing countries. In the developed countries, population growth has enhanced the growth of such economies because they are wealthy, have abundant capital and scarcity of labor. On the contrary the consequences of rapid population growth on developing countries are not the same.
Most developing countries are poor, capital scarce and labor abundant; and therefore population growth affects their economic development negatively. Precisely every increase in population has led to more problems than benefits.
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