Countries do not have to be economically prosperous to move from a situation of high birth and death rates to low fertility and mortality rates. Education, social security, environments conducive to economic development and good value systems are what promote this, as evidenced by the recorded experiences of Asian countries as far apart as Japan and India.
Demographic transition is the theory that holds that countries move from a situation of high birth and death rates to low fertility and low mortality rates as they industrialise. However, in more recent times, the theory has been hit by contradictions and there are debates over whether industrialisation leads to declining population or whether lower populations lead to industrialisation and higher incomes.
As a country transitions, the cost of education rises creating relative poverty and promoting fertility transition, or a lowered birth rate, says Kusumoto. “At the same time the spread of healthcare and public health services promote mortality transition or lowered death rates. But with real prosperity there is potential for fertility to rise again.”
Kusumoto cites the example of Japan where, even with high per-capita incomes, people live in relative poverty and find unaffordable the high cost of educating children. “It is possible to say that fertility declines, even when social security systems are in place and old-age pensions are provided for, because people will make the rational choice of avoiding the cost of having children through marriage and childbirth.”nJapan’s birth rate is 1.44 per woman, which has caused the population to decline by one million in the last five years. What people in Japan fail to realise, adds Kusumoto, is that without children the social security system becomes unsustainable and cannot support them in old age.
Meanwhile India, a developing country that is home to the world’s second-largest population, the total fertility rate has shown a steady decline from 3.6 per woman in 1991 to 2.4 per woman by 2011. During the same period the female literacy rate increased from 39 percent to 65 percent. A closer look at the statistics at the district levels shows curious results such as that in eight Indian states, where there was a drop in the use of modern contraceptive methods, fertility had decreased, according to studies by the International Institute for Population Sciences (IIPS) in Mumbai. Most of India’s 640 districts experience substantial declines over the 1991-2011 period, no clear relationship between initial levels and subsequent changes was discernible. In the Indian experience, says Mohanty, female education and literacy have been associated with the use of modern contraceptives, higher age at marriage and birth spacing.
A World Bank report shows that Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan all had birth rates of 6 children per woman in 1950-55, but this declined by almost half by 2000. It was a decline also experienced by other former Soviet countries that previously had high birth rates. All former Soviet countries also showed increased life expectancy.