Pakistan still stuck in Malthusian growth

Pakistan still stuck in Malthusian growth

The provisional results of Pakistan’s 6th census show that the country now hosts 207 million people. The results exhibit that Pakistan is still stuck in Malthusian growth, even if things on the economy front are getting better. But, economic development doesn’t mean that a substantial rise in living standards has occurred; that is what we mean by Malthusian. 

Pakistan’s population has surged to a staggering 207.8 million, showing an increase of 75.4 million people in 19 years, according to provisional summary results of the 6th Population and Housing Census 2017, published by the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics.

That, indeed, is a swift increase as far as population matters go.

The provisional results showed an average annual growth of 2.4 percent since 1998, when the total population was put at 132.35 million.

Karachi’s population increased from 9.339 million to 14.91 million – a net addition of 5.56 million people – during the past 19 years.

Although Pakistan isn’t having pure Malthusian growth, it is obvious that population is rising very much faster than living standards, which is what puts it more to that end of the spectrum.

The point being that there is economic growth happening in Pakistan. The country is becoming more productive but that greater productivity, and thus higher income, is just meaning that more children survive to go on and have children of their own. That is not “just” really, it’s great. But that is what we mean by Malthusian growth, that a larger economy shows up as more people at something like the same standard of living, instead of the standard of living being very much higher for the same number of people. Population is up 5x, living standards up 2x, yes, that’s at the Malthusian end of the spectrum.

This also doesn’t look like ending anytime real soon. The fertility rate, over that same period, is down from perhaps 7 to 3.5 now, but that’s still a rapidly expanding population. Most especially as the survival rate today will be very much higher than it was then.

The great breakout, the thing which makes all the difference between a poor country and a rich one, is when the economic growth in living standards is faster than the population one, substantially so. This is what happened in the US, UK, Germany and so on, growth turns up as a rise in living standards. The other name we give to this is the demographic transition, something that isn’t quite happening as yet in Pakistan.

By the way, no, contraception isn’t the answer here although obviously, if people want it, why not? It’s that people need to want to have fewer children rather than they have the means of doing so, preferences drive fertility much more than contraception does.

The bottom line here is that there has been substantial economic growth in Pakistan over the decades of its existence. It’s just turned up as more Pakistanis, not a substantial rise in the standard of living, it’s been Malthusian growth.

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