Family planning is one of the most life-saving, empowering, and cost-effective interventions for women and girls. When women have access to family planning services and reproductive health commodities, they are more likely to go further in their education, survive childbirth, and raise healthier children. Giving women the tools to plan their families can transform economies. And family planning is critical to attaining the Sustainable Development Goals.
On this World Population Day, we highlight five ways that family planning contributes to health, education, and economic development.
- Poverty reduction: According to researchers, in most African countries, continued rapid population growth poses a bigger threat to poverty reduction than AIDS does. In some cases, population growth is outpacing economic progress, straining social services. Family planning programs that are targeted to meet the needs of poor populations can reduce the fertility gap between rich and poor people and help reduce poverty.
- Better nutrition: Family planning interventions include using modern contraceptive methods and counseling to space births or limit the number of children a woman has. Delayed pregnancy improves birth outcomes, decreases the risk of pregnancy-related anemia, and allows women to build up and maintain stores of iron and other micronutrients to prevent micronutrient deficiencies.
- Higher education rates among women and girls: Enabling women to make informed decisions about whether and when to have children increases educational and economic opportunities for women and their families.
- Regional stability: The influence of fertility rates and population growth on the security and stability of fragile states cannot be underestimated. Countries with the most rapid population growth are typically the poorest and most volatile. The stress that rapid population growth places on a country’s economic, environmental, and social resources can trigger social unrest or political upheaval. Family planning programs can reduce that stress.
- Economic growth: Family planning can catalyze macro-economic growth. When a country’s young dependent population is smaller than the productive, working-age population, countries can achieve impressive advances in overall standards of living and development. Referred to as the demographic dividend, this scenario helped produce the “East Asian Miracle,” between the late 1960s and early 1990s, when some countries in East Asia experienced rapid economic growth. This increase of wealth in just one generation was partly attributed to investments in voluntary family planning programs.
Voluntary family planning is one of the most cost-effective investments a country can make in its future. Every dollar spent on family planning can save governments up to $6 that can be spent on improving health, housing, water, sanitation, and other public services. Within this context, family planning must be part of larger strategies to increase global security and stability.