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AUGUST 29, 2009

Topics covered
- Population Growth
- Population Distribution
- Population Density
- Factors leading to a low death rate
- Factors leading to a high death rate
- Consequences of a high rate of population growth
- Actions to control a high rate of population growth (Overpopulation)
- Low rate of population growth
- Factors that lead to a low death rate/What causes a low death rate
- Factors that lead to a low birth rate/What causes a low rate of popula-
tion growth
- Consequences of a low rate of population growth
- Actions to manage a low rate of population growth (Underpopulation)
- Actions to manage an ageing population
- Definitions

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Population  Pyramid:
1. The  less  developed  countries  or  those  with  low  levels  of  economic  wealth  and  poor  living  
condi8ons  of  the  people,  experience  a  high  rate  of  popula8on  growth.

2. In  developed  countries,  there  is  a  high  level  of  economic  health  and  a  high  standard  of  living.  The  
popula8on  growth  in  such  countries  remains  low.  The  growth  rate  is  1%  or  below.

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Population Growth

- Population growth refers to a change in population size. This change can be posi-
tive or negative. There are also instances where there is no change in population
numbers, which is other wise known as zero population growth.

Factors affecting the world growth rate

- Changes in the world population growth rate are due to t wo factors: a rise in birth
rates and a fall in death rates.

Birth rate
- Number of live births per 1000 people per year. E.g. if the birth rate of a country
is 21 live births per 1000 people per year, it means that for every 1000 people in
the country, 21 people were born in that year.

Death rate
- Number of deaths per 1000 people that year. E.g. if the death rate of a country is
9 deaths per 1000 people per year, it means that for every 1000 people in the
country, 9 people died that year.

If there are more births than deaths/if the birth rate is higher than the death
rate, the country experiences an increase in population. Thus, the rate of natural
increase is positive
If there are more deaths than births/if the death rate is higher than the birth
rate, the country experiences a decrease in population. Thus the rate of natural in-
crease is negative.
If both the birth rate death rate is equal, we say that the growth rate is zero.
Therefore the population size remains the same.

Population Distribution
- The way people are spread out over an area of land.
Most of the world’s population lives on only 10% of the Earth’s surface and even so,
it is not evenly spread out. Some places like Switzerland have small populations
while others like China and India have large populations. Thus, the population distri-
bution is uneven.



Factors influencing population distribution

-Physical Environment
Places that has more population

1) This is because the foot of the volcano has very fertile soil. Each time a volcano
erupts, a big amount of volcanic ash is released. This ash contains many minerals
which make the soil very fertile and helps crops to grow well.
2) Many people also travel to view the spectacular scenery of volcanoes, such as its
lava fountains, geysers and even its eruptions. Locals earn money from providing
services, such as conducting guided tours or trekking trips up the volcano. There are
also hot springs and inns to provide a home for the tourists when they are there.
3) The villagers living in the vicinity of the volcano can also make use of the heat to
obtain geothermal energy.

-River Deltas
This is because river deltas usually have large populations as the soil is very fertile due
to sediments deposited by the rivers. Examples include the Nile Delta in Egypt and the
Ganges River Delta bet ween India and Bangladesh.
Places that have less population

This is because mountains cannot support settlements as they have steep slopes. The
temperature on the mountains decreases as the altitude increases and the atmos-
phere also gets thinner. Such conditions are unsuitable for humans to live in.

This is because the climate in deserts is hot and dry and these conditions are also un-
suitable for humans to live in as they will not be able to obtain enough food and wa-
ter. The temperature in deserts are also to hot in the morning and too cold at night for
humans to tolerate.
Therefore, for a place to have a lot of population, the weather and climate must not
be too extreme, as well as the temperature range. There must also be natural re-
sources, attractions and undulating land to facilitate agriculture, human activities
and settlements.

Level of technology
Technology here refers to the knowledge, skills and tools that people use to meet their
needs. With improvements in technology, environments which were previously un-
suitable for living can be converted into suitable living environments. For example
people can live in a desert if water can be channeled from a river to their living envi-

Population density

Population density gives us an idea of the number of people living in a particular area.
It is usually expressed in terms of the number of people per square kilometer of land.

Population density= Total number of people/Total land area

Population density varies from place to place. For example, Canada has a population
density of 3 people per square meter while Bangladesh has a population density of
1042 people per square meter. We say that Canada has a relatively sparse population,
and that Bangladesh has a relatively dense population.

Singapore has a population density of 6000 people per square meter. This is one of the
highest population densities in the world.
However, the population density doesn’t tell us about the actual number of people in an
area of the country. This is because even within a country, people are not evenly dis-
tributed and some regions are more crowded than others.
Cities generally have high population densities while countrysides and areas such as
deserts and forests usually have low population densities.

High rates and Low rates of Population growth

- High rate of population growth
The fastest population growth in the world today is experienced in less developed
countries. Less developed countries refer to countries with low levels of economic
wealth and poor living conditions. These countries usually experience a high rate of
population growth. Examples of such countries are found in Africa, South America and
some parts of Asia. India is one of the countries in Asia experiencing a population ex-
plosion. India’s population rose from 360 million in 1950 to over one billion in 2004.

We can use a population pyramid to show this pattern of population growth. A popula-
tion pyramid is a graph that gives us information about the number or percentage of
people in different age groups, and the proportion of males to females in a place. The
vertical scale tells us the age group of the population while the horizontal scale repre-
sents the percentage or the total number of people within that age group.


Factors leading to a low death rate

1) Better medical and health care

Medical care refers to the availability of hospitals, clinics, doctors, medical equipment,
medicine and medical knowledge. Health care refers to immunization, nutritional
knowledge, the availability of community hospitals and other measures aimed at im-
proving the quality of life.
Better medical and health care have enabled many babies to survive beyond their first
year. When few babies die within the first year of birth, we say that the infant mortal-
ity rate is low. The infant mortality rate is the number of deaths among infants under
one year of age for every 1000 live births per year.
Also, when the elderly receive better medical care, they are able to live longer. We say
that the life expectancy has increased. Life expectancy refers to the average number of
years a person living in a particular area is expected to live. When people enjoy a longer
life expectancy, the death rate will fall.

2) Better hygiene
People are less prone to falling sick and contracting diseases if their living conditions
are clean and hygienic. In many countries, the death rate as greatly decreased when
there is a supply of clean water, and when the environment is clear of disease-carrying
pests and insects.

Factors leading to a high birth rate

1) Lack of family planning

Family planning refers to how many children a couple plans to have. In many less devel-
oped countries, people are less educated and know little about family planning methods.
They may also end up having children because of deep-rooted traditional beliefs and val-
ues, or religious beliefs. For example, some Hindu ceremonies require sons to perform re-
ligious rituals for parents. Therefore, couples may continue to have children until they
succeed in having a son.

2) Early marriages
Couples who marry at an early age tend to have larger families than those who marry
at a later age. This is because the number of years that women who marry early have
for childbearing is higher. Hence, in countries where people marry young, such as in cer-
tain parts of India, the birth rates tend to be high.

3) Preference for sons

Some societies such as those in rural parts of China or India, place a lot of importance on
having sons. Sons are seen as being capable of carrying on the family name or surname
when they marry while daughters are not. In addition, sons are able to continue working
on the farm when the parents grow old, unlike daughters, who will move away from the
family when they get married. Thus, couples continue to have children until they suc-
ceed in having sons.

4) Need for farm labour

People in many less developed countries depend on farming to earn a living. Farm
work requires much labour and large families are therefore preferred as there will be
more hands to work on the land.

Consequences of a high rate of population growth

1) Higher demand for resources

With more people, the demand for resources such as food and water also increases. In
fact, many less developed countries suffer from shortage of food because not enough
food is being produced to feed the rapidly growing population.

2) Higher demand for housing

A rapid increase in population would also result in competition for housing. This is es-
pecially so in cities of less developed countries, which do not have sufficient housing
for its growing population. In some cities in India, for example, it is common to see
many people living in temporary shelters made of cardboard or wooden planks.

3) Higher demand for education

With more babies born every year, there is a need to ensure that there are sufficient
schools and teachers to educate the young. Less developed countries may lack the
funds to build more schools. As a result, not everyone will be able to attend school and
obtain a good education.

4) Higher demand for jobs

In a country with rapid population growth, there will be a lot of people competing for
a limited number of jobs. It has been estimated that about 30 million new jobs have
to be created in the world every year if every new person reaching working age is to
have a job!

5) Environmental problems
With a larger population, not only are the resources used by people, more waste, such
as used paper, empty bottles and sewage are produced. In less developed countries,
waste disposal ser vices and other public services are lacking. This has led to water
and land pollution.



Actions to control a high rate of population growth (Overpopulation)

1) Education on family planning

In many countries, couples are taught various methods of controlling the size of their
family. For example, in India and Bangladesh, women from family planning agencies
have been sent to rural areas to educated the people and give advice on family plan-

2) Incentives and penalties

Rewards in the form of monetary incentives may be given to couples who have fewer
children. In contrast, those with more children could be penalized, for example, by
having to pay higher taxes.

China uses both incentives and penalties as means to slow down population growth.
The ‘One child policy’ was implemented in 1979 in response to rapid population
growth. This policy allowed each couple in the country to have only one child. Incen-
tives in the form of housing and education subsidies were given to couples who pledged
to have only one child. Couples who had more than one child had to pay heavy fines to
the government. In recent times however, some exceptions and revisions have been
made to the policy to allow certain couples to have more children. For example, if a
couple are each an only child, they would be allowed to have t wo children. This is to
prevent an imbalance in the population, because with so few babies born, there may
be less young people to care for the elderly in the future.

Low rate of population growth

The slowest rate of population growth today is experienced in developed countries.

Developed countries refer to countries with high levels of economic wealth and living
conditions. These countries usually experience a low rate of population growth. Exam-
ples of such countries are Japan and the United Kingdom.

Causes of a low rate of population growth

It has been obser ved that countries that experience a low rate of population growth
usually experience a low death rate as well as a low birth rate. In these countries,
people tend to live longer and fewer babies are born each year.



Factors that lead to a low death rate/What causes a low death rate

1) Higher standards of living

In countries with high standards of hygiene, there is clean food, water and air. People
are less prone to contracting diseases such as cholera, which is associated with unhy-
gienic living conditions.

2) Better nutrition
In developed countries, people generally enjoy higher levels of income and can afford to
buy sufficient food and water. Food shortages are also rare in these countries.

3) Better medical and health care

With better medical and health care, people are able to enjoy longer and healthier
lives. For example, when vaccinations are easily available to the public, diseases can be
prevented from spreading in the country. In Singapore, all children are given vaccina-
tions to protect them from illnesses such as smallpox and measles. In addition, world-
class hospitals and well-trained doctors in Singapore enable people to enjoy excellent
medical care.

Factors that lead to a low birth rate/What causes a low rate of population growth

1) Later marriages

More people are marrying later and having children later in their lives. This could be
due to the fact that more women now have higher academic qualifications than before
and thus may choose to pursue a career before settling down and having children.
Since most women cannot conceive babies after they reach the age of 50, those who
marry later or delay having children are left with fewer years to have babies.

2) Fewer marriages
As more people choose to remain single, there will be fewer families and birth rates
will fall. With fewer births, the number of young people in a population decreases.

3) Preference for smaller families

Increasingly, people in developed countries prefer to have smaller families. This is
partly due to the increasing number of working women who find it difficult to balance
work and family and hence choose to have fewer children. More people today also feel
that the cost of raising children has increased. Such changing trends and values have
led to some couples not preferring to have children at all!



Consequences of a low rate of population growth

1) Ageing population
Countries with low rate of population growth often have a growing percentage of elderly people com-
pared to young people in their population. These countries are said to have an ageing population. Exam-
ples of such countries include France, Germany and Japan.
With more elderly people and fewer youths joining the workforce, the burden on the working popula-
tion will increase.

2) Higher taxes
Public projects such as the building of hospitals and community centres are funded taxes collected
from the working population. With a shrinking population, fewer people will be in the workforce. This
will mean that each working person will have to pay more taxes to fund public projects, such as build-
ing more public facilities like swimming pools and libraries.

3) Smaller talent pool

With a low rate of population growth, there will be fewer people to lead and ser ve the country. This is
a problem for countries like Singapore, which already has a small population. Hence, it is necessary
for these countries to attract foreign talent.

Actions to manage a low rate of population growth (Underpopulation)

1) Encouraging marriage and childbearing

One solution to the problems is to increase birth rates. The government can encourage married couples
to have more children. In Singapore, couples are now encouraged to have three or more children. For
example, women who have more children when they are younger are given more tax rebates, that is,
the amount of taxes that they have to pay is reduced. The government has also encouraged the setting
up of more child care centres to look after children while their parents are at work.
2) Promoting facilities through tax incentives so that married couples would be encouraged to produce
more babies.
3) Providing facilities that promote marriage and parenthood.
4) Carrying out advertising campaigns to educate the public on benefits of getting married and having

Consequences of an ageing population

1) When there is more elderly people, more funds are needed to provide medical care for the elderly
who fall sick quite often. Therefore there will be a strain in the government money as more funds are
needed to provide medical care to the elderly.

2) Government have to provide more pensions. This is because there are many elderly people and there-
fore the government has to provide more pensions.



3) Government have to provide more care-homes. Since there are more elderly people,
some of the young children have no time and will therefore send their parents to care-
homes. Therefore the government has to provide more care-homes.

4) All of the above means more taxes on the workers, as more money is needed by the
government, and it's from the workers that they get that money. Therefore people
will have to pay higher taxes.

5) There will be lesser working population as many elderly people would have retired,
and there might be not enough workers to provide for the elderly population, there-
fore the country’s economy is at a high risk.

Actions to manage an ageing population

1) Meeting the needs of the elderly
As one of the consequences of a low rate of population growth is an ageing population,
countries with a low rate of population growth also need to address the challenges of
an ageing population. These include building special facilities for the elderly, helping
them to keep healthy and encouraging their families to care for them.

2) Building special facilities

More clinics and hospitals that specialise in the care of illnesses specific to the elderly
would have to be built. The need for homes catering to the elderly and other elderly-
friendly facilities will also increase.

3) Helping the elderly keep healthy

It is important for the elderly to keep healthy and active both physically and men-
tally. In Singapore, healthy living for the elderly is promoted through posters and
television programmes. Exercise classes and courses for lifelong learning at commu-
nity centres are also organized for them.

4) Encouraging families to look after the elderly

With their years of experience, the elderly have an important role to play in society.
As such, more families should take it upon themselves to look after the elderly. Various
community programmes as well as government incentives can help encourage this.
For example, family ties are promoted through various privileges and tax subsidies for
families that support their parents and grandparents.



5) Extending working life

In an ageing population, unless the elderly can be persuaded to remain in the work-
force, the number of people in the workforce will slowly decrease. This means that
the working population will face a heavy burden of supporting the elderly. One way to
solve this problem is by raising the retirement age. In Japan, where one in every five
people are aged 65 years and above, the current retirement age is 65 and set to in-
crease. In Singapore, adjustments have also been made to the retirement age. In 1993,
the retirement age was fixed at 60 years. Six years later, the retirement age was
raised to 62. However, as Singapore faces an ageing population and rising health care
costs, the government is considering the possibility of increasing the retirement age
once again.

6) Encouraging family planning

The elderly need to have a home and enough money to live comfortably. To ensure this,
people need to have enough financial resources when they retire. With early plan-
ning, they will have sufficient resources to meet one’s life goals. This is also known as
financial planning.
The government can also play a part in encouraging financial planning through social
security schemes, pension schemes and retirement funds. For example, in Singapore,
the government ensures that all working Singaporeans have to set aside a portion of
their monthly salary in their Central Provident Fund (CPF). This sum of money will ac-
cumulate in their CPF and eventually be returned to them when they are older. When
they turn 55, they can withdraw a portion of the money from their CPF savings.
Upon turning 62, they can opt to have the rest of the money returned to them on a
monthly basis. This ensures that the elderly are able to maintain a good quality of life
when they retire.



Ageing population - A population that comprises a growing percentage of elderly peo-

Birth rate - The number of live births per 1000 people per year.

Death rate - The number of deaths per 1000 people per year.

Financial planning - Early planning to ensure people have enough resources to meet
their life’s goals.

High rate of population - Rapid increase in population.

Low rate of population - Slow increase in population.

Population density - Number of people living in a unit area of land.

Population distribution - The spread of people over a unit area of land.

Population growth - The change in population size. It can be positive or negative. In

instances where there is no change in population, the population growth is said to be

Rate of natural increase - Can be calculated by subtracting the death rate from the
birth rate.

Infant mortality rate - The number of deaths among infants under one year of age
for every 1000 live births per year.

Life expectancy - The average number of years a person living in a particular area is
expected to live.




Causes of Deforestation

1) Used for Urban and Construction Purposes: The cutting down of trees for lumber
that is used for building materials, furniture, and paper products. Forests are also
cleared in order to accommodate expanding urban areas.

2) To Grow Crops: Forests are also cut down in order to clear land for growing crops.

3) To Create Grazing Land: Forests are cut down in order create land for grazing cat-

4) Used for Fuel: Trees are cut down in developing countries to be used as firewood or
turned into charcoal, which are used for cooking and heating purposes
Some of the other causes of deforestation are: clearing forests for oil and mining ex-
ploitation; to make highways and roads; slash and burn farming techniques; wildfires;
and acid rain.

Effects of deforestation

1) Erosion of Soil: When forest areas are cleared, it results in exposing the soil to the
sun, making it very dry and eventually, infertile, due to volatile nutrients such as ni-
trogen being lost. In addition, when there is rainfall, it washes away the rest of the
nutrients, which flow with the rainwater into water ways. Because of this, merely
replanting trees may not help in solving the problems caused by deforestation, for by
the time the trees mature, the soil will be totally devoid of essential nutrients. Ulti-
mately, cultivation in this land will also become impossible, resulting in the land be-
coming useless. Large tracts of land will be rendered permanently impoverished due to
soil erosion.

2) Disruption of the Water Cycle: Trees contribute in a large way in maintaining the
water cycle. They draw up water via their roots, which is then released into the at-
mosphere. A large part of the water that circulates in the ecosystem of rainforests,
for instance, remains inside the plants. When these trees are cut down it results in
the climate getting drier in that area.

3) Loss of Biodiversity: The unique biodiversity of various geographical areas is being

lost on a scale that is quite unprecedented. Even though tropical rainforests make up
just 6 percent of the surface area of the Earth, about 80-90 percent of the entire
species of the world exist here. Due to massive deforestation, about 50 to 100 species
of animals are being lost each day. The outcome of which is the extinction of animals
and plants on a massive scale.

4) Flooding and Drought: One of the vital functions of forests is to absorb and store
great amounts of water quickly when there are heavy rains. When forests are cut
down, this regulation of the flow of water is disrupted, which leads to alternating
periods of flood and then drought in the affected area.

5) Climate Change: It is well known that global warming is being caused largely due
to emissions of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. However,
what is not known quite as well is that deforestation has a direction association
with carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere. Trees act as a major storage de-
pot for carbon, since they absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, which is then
used to produce carbohydrates, fats, and proteins that make up trees. When defores-
tation occurs, many of the trees are burnt or they are allowed to rot, which results
in releasing the carbon that is stored in them as carbon dioxide. This, in turn, leads to
greater concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Direct causes of deforestation

The most important direct causes of deforestation include logging, the conversion of
forested lands for agriculture and cattle-raising, urbanization, mining and oil ex-
ploitation, acid rain and fire. However, there has been a tendency of highlighting
small-scale migratory farmers or "poverty" as the major cause of forest loss. Such
farmers tend to settle along roads through the forest, to clear a patch of land and to
use it for growing subsistence or cash crops. In tropical forests, such practices tend
to lead to rapid soil degradation as most soils are too poor to sustain agriculture.
Consequently, the farmer is forced to clear another patch of forest after a few
years. The degraded agricultural land is often used for a few years more for cattle
raising. This is a death sentence for the soil, as cattle remove the last scarce traces
of fertility. The result is an entirely degraded piece of land which will be unable to re-
cover its original biomass for many years. It is a major mistake to think that such
unsustainable agricultural practices only take place in tropical countries. Many
parts of North America and western Europe have become deforested due to unsus-
tainable agriculture, leading to severe soil degradation and in many cases abandon-
ment of the area by the farmers.

In other countries, clearcut logging practices have been the main reason for forest
loss. In the early nineties, Canada and Malaysia were famous examples of countries
where logging companies ruthlessly cleared mile upon mile of precious primary for-
ests. Here too, the historical perspective should not be overlooked. Countries like
Ireland and Scotland used to be almost entirely forested, but were nearly completely
cleared under British rule to provide timber for English shipbuilders. Today, logging
still forms the most important direct threat to forests in regions like the Guianan
shield (stable area of low relief in the Earth's crust), Central Africa, East Siberia and
British Columbia.



The underlying causes of deforestation and forest degradation

During the last few decades, the forest crisis has prompted many international, re-
gional and national preser vation initiatives, yet many have had little success. There
is general agreement that this is due to the fact that these strategies were too fo-
cused on the immediate causes of deforestation, and neglected the underlying causes
which are multiple and interrelated. In some cases they are related to major interna-
tional economic phenomena, such as macro-economic strategies which provide a
strong incentive for short-term profit-making instead of long-term sustain ability.
Also important are deep-rooted social structures, which result in inequalities in land
tenure, discrimination against indigenous peoples, subsistence farmers and poor peo-
ple in general. In other cases they include political factors such as the lack of partici-
patory democracy, the influence of the military and the exploitation of rural areas by
urban elites. Overconsumption by consumers in high-income countries constitutes
another of the major underlying causes of deforestation, while in some regions un-
controlled industrialization is at the heart of forest degradation with widespread
pollution resulting in acid rain.
The causes of deforestation are many and varied, and it is impossible to cover them
all. However some examples can show how these causes are closely interrelated one
to each other.

The forces behind unsustainable agriculture

According to the FAO, 90 per cent of deforestation is caused by unsustainable agricul-
tural practices, while logging and plantation forestry play a greater role in forest
degradation. However debatable these figures may be, unsustainable agriculture is
undoubtedly one of the major direct causes of deforestation and forest degradation in
many countries of the world. A simplistic approach to the problem would imply blam-
ing the "ignorance" of the farmers involved in this process. The process is however
more complex. Few people actually decide that they want to leave their native land,
go to the forest, cut it and convert it into agricultural land. They are driven to such
actions by national and international forces with interests different to theirs. In
some countries, forests act as safety-valves to avoid social uprisings, in the following
way. The concentration of power and land in few hands results in large groups of dis-
possessed people, which may lead to confrontation. To avoid conflict, some of these
people are offered free land within the forests. Access to forests is made possible
through government-promoted road projects, either built to open up and "develop" the
forests or resulting from the commercial activities of logging, mining, and energy
generation. In the above example, it is clear that deforestation can take place only
because a number of government policies - social and economic - indirectly promote it.
Whilst the poor may operate the chainsaws or set the forest on fire, it is mostly gov-
ernments and corporations who are behind such actions.



The far-reaching consequences of globalization

In other cases, forests are opened up for modern large-scale agriculture or cattle-
raising aimed at the export market. For example, forests have been converted for
cattle in Central America, for soy bean production in Brazil and for pulpwood in In-
donesia. In the first case, the process originated in the explosive development of a
fast food - hamburger - market in the US which required vast amounts of low-
quality cheap meat which could be produced in nearby tropical countries. The result
was widespread deforestation in Central America. Subsidized and highly intensive
meat production in Europe requires an ever-increasing supply of grains to feed live-
stock. Soy bean is one of the major inputs for such production and enormous patches
of forest have been opened up in Brazil - and in many other Southern countries - to
ensure the economic sustainability of that sector through the supply of cheap grain.
A similar situation occurs with paper: the continued growth of paper consumption,
particularly in high income countries, depends on the availability of cheap wood or
pulp to feed the paper mills. Forests are thus being cleared in Indonesia - and many
other parts of the world - to give way to eucalyptus plantations aimed at supplying
that market with increasing amounts of cheap raw material.
In the above cases, it is clear that the production of hamburgers in the US, of meat in
Europe and of paper in high-income countries are a contributory cause of deforesta-
tion in Central America, Brazil and Indonesia.