Opinion

Controlling population,
shaping the future

Population has become one of the most important issues in socio-economic development worldwide. Population growth directly triggers higher demand for provision of various aspects of human existence including food, healthcare, housing, jobs, infrastructure, access to resources and many other issues.

There is no single strategy that can solve population problems either in developed or developing countries. People in developed countries tend to arrange a small family unit by rationally taking into consideration better education, healthcare and future job opportunities for their offspring.

Very low or even declining population growth has been considered the weakness of developed countries so there is a need to promote population growth to boost economic activities.

On the contrary, in many developing countries people’s awareness of family size is considerably lower. Traditional perceptions about children’s value as important capital for a family are still prevalent. As a result, high population growth has been the case in many developing nations.

The fact that higher population growth causes strains on public services is to some extent a result of unsupportive traditional norms and religious values. In addition, local policies under regional autonomy have also been hampering the implementation of population control and family planning programs.

Under regional autonomy, policies related to population development depend heavily on the interests of local leaders, both executive and legislative. Many reports indicate that population development is not considered a priority in many regions.

As has been noted by various parties at global and national levels, food security has attracted huge attention from stakeholders. However the problems of food security are correlated to population growth.

The strong relation between food and population growth has been advocated for over two centuries. The Malthus Theory (1798) says the world is under a constant threat since the capability to produce enough food always lags behind the speed of population growth.

Revisiting the work of Malthus, a renowned economist Jeffry D. Sach (2008) raised a big question, have we vanquished the Malthus trap? There has been no clear answer, but the world is witnessing myriad cases of food shortage, hunger and malnutrition.

Focusing on the Indonesian case, a population development program was initiated through family planning in 1968. At the national level, population growth was reduced from 2.31 percent in the 1970s to 1.49 percent in the 2000s. But problems still linger.

The Central Statistics Agency (2009) said that during the last 40 years, the Indonesian population grew by 100 million. Indonesia’s current population of 241 million accounts for 39.6 percent of Southeast Asia’s population.

The Population Reference Bureau (2012) shows that births per 1,000 people in Indonesia remain high at 19, equal to Malaysia and Brunei.

Thailand and Vietnam fare better with 12 and 17 respectively. The natural population increase level in Indonesia (2012) is 1.3 percent, higher than Thailand’s 0.5 percent, Vietnam’s 1 percent and Myanmar’s 1.1 percent.

The Indonesian population is predicted to reach 273.2 million people by 2025 and 309.4 million by 2050.

Even though family planning has long been introduced, a growing population remains a cause for concern.

Without population control, an explosion will take place and as a consequence, access to the basic needs of human existence will be much more difficult to obtain. Economic growth will be affected if population growth goes unchecked.

Population growth has two dimensions: it is as an opportunity to accelerate economic growth, but also a burden if it is not managed properly.

Indonesia needs to formulate appropriate policies on population development. The family planning program that marked a success in population development two decades ago could be revitalized and reformed with the support of new policies and management.

In the wake of regional autonomy, population development needs to be promoted as a national issue that involves multiple government agencies. Program arrangement, budgeting and implementation can be built as a collaborative action among major stakeholders under the leadership of the National Family Planning Coordinating Agency. Local stakeholders at the levels of province, regency, sub-district and village should be involved in the advocacy program.

Sociopolitical commitment should be developed among major stakeholders at all levels, depending on their capability and resources.

Socio-ecological layers of family planning implementation should be properly identified.

The characteristics of each layer will determine the strategy for designing the advocacy, communication, information and promotion of family planning.

The outermost layer consists of government agencies at various levels and related stakeholders, including state-owned enterprises (SOEs), private corporations, the media and social and professional organizations. The middle layer comprises community and civic groups. While the bottom layer or the core is the individual.

Since individual citizens are the main actor in family planning, major attention should be given to them. Behavioral change communication should be properly designed and introduced to support the best behavioral changes of
individuals.

Segmentation of the core target is also important. Media literacy levels between rural and urban people are different so that segmentation of media design should be applied. Adolescents, young couples and urban people are currently much more familiar with social networking media.

Information and counseling services through interactive forums on websites, free direct call and interactive social networking will likely be more important in the future. In rural areas, full use of local and traditional institutions such as youth, religious and cultural, rotational and savings associations, neighborhood and working groups would all be helpful.

Partnerships and alliances among stakeholders at all levels need promoting. SOEs and private corporations could be promising partners. They could allocate part of their profits to support family planning under corporate social responsibility programs. Universities might also play an important role by sending their students to rural areas to promote population development programs under public service courses.

Field workers in family planning, who directly meet and communicate with various potential targets will need better technical skills, knowledge and understanding of the programs.

Incentive and proper reward systems should be offered to them. They deserve adequate facilities to accelerate their job execution.

Subejo lectures at the department of socioeconomic agriculture at the school of agriculture, Gadjah Mada University, Yogyakarta. Tatag Handaka is a PhD student in the extension and development communication program, Gadjah Mada University.

Paper Edition | Page: 7

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