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Thursday, November 5, 2009

Population Studies and its Importance

Thursday, November 5, 2009 - 2 Comments

The value of the study of demography is clear from the scope of this important field of study. Since the scope is constantly increasing, therefore, it shows the growing recognition of its importance. Demography helps in the understanding of population problems particularly of the less developed regions of the world. It also helps in planning the population of developed and undeveloped countries. International agencies are publishing data in this connection from time to time. The importance of demographical studies is clarified by the observation of the implications of rapid population growth. The chief problem concerning population in a country is to control population growth in correlation with the growth of health amenities, food supplies employment, education and housing. Demographical studies point out the conditions and requirements in these areas so that future development and growth may be planned accordingly. In brief, the following points may be noted about the importance of demography:

1. Health Planning:

Persistent high fertility causes significant health problems, both for the mother and the child. In most of the developing counties married women’s are characterised by continuous nutritional drain from repeated pregnancies. Premature curtailment of breast feeding is an important cause of high infant mortality. High fertility is connected with underdevelopment of children. Since demography studies fertility and connected problems therefore its study is a must for health planning of the country.

2. Planning of Food Supply:

Planning of food supply means availability of adequate food for total population, both in quality as well as in quantity. Inadequate food supply results in growth retardation high mortality rates, poor health, low physical activity and consequently low productivity. Therefore food supply must grow in correlation with population growth. Thus planning of food supply requires and presupposes population studies. In a particular nation it may not be possible to meet demands of food supply within the country. Different nations today very much depend upon other nations for food supply. Besides, undeveloped and underdeveloped countries cannot meet the demands of food supply without the help of international agencies. Therefore, Population Council and Population Division of UNO study population growth and food supply on an international basis so that help may be advanced to undeveloped and underdeveloped countries.

3. Employment Planning:

Employment is an international problem these days. Unemployment and under development is fast growing not only in the economically backward countries but also in more developed nations. A demographic factor of considerable importance is the high dependency ratio in less developed countries such as India where four or five persons depend upon the income of one person. Therefore, employment planning requires study of population in all its aspects. It also requires study of migration, immigration and emigration which is an important area of demography. Thus the importance of demography in employment planning is clear.

4. Educational Planning:

Every nation today is concerned with providing proper education to the children. The number of children however, is constantly increasing. Therefore, educational planning for children requires demographical planning. This is also required in the case of uneducated adults. For example in India more than 1/3 of all the students are illiterate. The demographical assessment of widespread illiteracy and quantum of education required is a necessary prelude to all educational planning. The estimates about the future needs of education are also made on the basis of estimates of growth of population.

5. Housing Planning:

Demand for housing increases with the increase in the size of population. Therefore data for mortality, fertility, migration and family formation provide basis for estimates of housing required. For example, according to the estimates prepared by the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), the number of persons in the age-group 15-24 in the region are likely to increase from 379 million in 1970 t 469 million by 1980, an increase of 24 per cent. These people will marry and would like to establish their own homes. According to another estimate prepared by ESCAP, the percentage of the urban population in the region will increase from 25 in 1970 to 44 by 2000. The increase in the urban population of the region during this period will be from 507 million to 1551 million. Available statistics for the ESCAP region show that less than two housing units per thousand populations were built each year during the 1960’s whereas the requirement was for eleven units per thousand populations. In Latin America there is a deficit of 20 million housing units whereas in the ESCAP region the estimated deficit is of 22 million housing units in the urban areas and 125 million in the rural areas.

A theory of population is an explanation of the phenomenon of population growth. It tries to explain the rise and fall, the growth and decrease of population in different countries. It surveys the trends and analyses the causes of the various stages in the curve of population. Based upon data in one or more particular countries, a population theory seeks to generalise about the laws of population. It tries to unravel the first principles of demographical process. Though systematic theories of population have evolved very recently, theorising about population is sufficiently old. In ancient times statesmen and thinkers tried to control population according to the variability of means or to encourage it if required. The criteria for encouraging or discouraging were the military, political, social and economic issues. This is true about population theory even now. The problem of population is not worked out in vacuum. It is always considered in the context of economic, social and political issues. Of these the economic issue is the most important since the most important problem concerning population is to meet the needs of the growing population. The history of population theories has been classified on the basis of before and after the advent of Malthus, the celebrated demographer. Thus the periods are classified as Pre-Malthusian, Malthusian and Post-Malthusian periods. These periods show thinking about population theories. But even before these some early thinking can be discerned about population problems.

Nature and Scope of Demography

Definition of Demography

The term demography has been derived from two Greek words meaning Demos or the people to draw or write. Thus literally speaking, demography is concerned about writings concerning the people. The following definitions of demography will help in the understanding of its meaning:

“Demography is the scientific study of the size, territorial distribution and composition of population, changes therein, and the components of such changes, which may be defined as natality, mortality, territorial movement (migration) and social mobility (change of status).”

This definition of demography is not sufficiently wide. In fact the field of demography changes according to time, place circumstances. This point has been particularly raised by Warren S. Thompson and David T. Lewis in their book Population Problems (1965).

Nature of Demography

Explaining the scientific nature of demography, Irene Taeuber has pointed out, “With improved data, new techniques and the precise measurement of the demographic transition that is occurring, demography has become science rather than literature”. This was also emphasized by John V. Grauman when he said, “Demography is both an abstract science and applied technology.” Demography today uses scientific methods, the most important of which is analysis. As S.N, Agarwala said, “Demography deals with population dynamics and composition, which covers a wider area……We are shifting from demography to population studies.”

Scope of Demography

The scope of demography has been classified into two sections: Macro-demography and micro-demography. While the former includes studies of systems, cultures and societies on a large scale, the later study the individual and the family as a unit of society. Thus the later study has smaller units and it is conducted intensively. In the words of Donald J. Bogue, “It is the study of the growth, distribution and redistribution of the population within a community, state, economic area or other local area. This includes both numerical and compositional aspects and is performed by using meaningful subdivisions of community or local areas.”

However, most of the population studies are conducted in the field known as Micro-demography. The two fields help each other, For example, death rate is studied both from the macro and the micro standpoint. Similar is the case concerning birth rate, fertility, migration, etc. The field of demography includes the subjects which are discussed in world population conferences since 1954. The two conferences of 1954 and 1965 discussed the subjects: fertility, death rate, migration, genetic composition, future probabilities, population and means of subsistence, techniques of population measurement and training of the demographers. Other subjects included in the scope of demography are: distribution of population, qualitative aspect of demographic data, family planning, growth of population, demographic aspects of housing and the demographic aspect of saving and investment. The scope of demography has further increased after 1965. The computer techniques are the contribution of this decade. In the words of Peter R. Cox: “Computer techniques, using stimulation, have been developed in order that stochastic variability can be provided for in various stages. This is a rapidly growing area of demography, and prospects of future progress are almost as important as the work already done.”

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