Image for A positive note on population

Population is a positive factor in development

Human beings depend on other human beings to meet their basic needs and ensure the equitable distribution of resources.

Demographers and economists talk about population control which is obvious when they see many people creating pressure on resources especially in developing countries. Population is seen to be a problem when parents cannot fulfil the needs of their children due to limited income. Also going back to those times in history when people of countries like England and other European countries lived on incomes which Prof. Thomas Robert Malthus, a well-known professor of political economy, described as meagre. Malthus was very worried about over-population of England. In fact, England’s population was negligible compared to what we see today, but due to lack of development, population was felt to be a hurdle in development.

When western countries were on their path of development babies were being born: for example, the Wright Brothers who invented the airplane, Graham Bell who invented the telephone, Thomas Edison who invented the light bulb, Philo Farnsworth who invented TV, Alexadre Francios Debain who invented the harmonium, Benjamin Holt who invented the tractor, Alexander Fleming who invented penicillin, and many other babies all over the world who found a birth place in their parents’ home and later grew up to invent which are now the necessities of life: necessities such as water purification; medication to cure malaria, typhoid, influenza.., etc Products we take for granted like shoes, bicycles, shirts, pens, pencils, automobiles, furniture, etc were invented by men who were toddlers once upon a time. Nobody knew whether these babies would be a burden or a blessing. They proved to be a blessing - saved and improved the lives of many. Did you know that a child known as Adam Smith would be known as the Father of Economics?

One day I was lecturing in Economics - the introductory lecture. While giving examples to my students, I realized that nothing is being created by me - TV, shoes, shirts, wrist watches, buses, cars, tables, chairs, pen, pencil, etc Also, nothing is being cultivated by me - fruit and vegetables, and nothing is constructed by me – buildings, bridges or roads. My students always have been highly respectful to me and giggle when I give them these sorts of examples. They said, “You are teaching us.”  I then thought they are right. I’m providing teaching services to earn my livelihood to buy things which I never produced or shall never produce, because I’m a teacher.

When we see children playing or see them go to school, we appreciate our fortune– the existence of human beings. Everyone is attached to someone, being a father, mother, brother, sister, uncle, aunty, grandpa, grandma, great grandpa, or great grandmother. All parents wish children for their married children no matter how poor they are. Even in developing countries, a family of 6-8 children in the past did very well in their life. All these family members proved to be a blessing rather than a burden on their parents and nation. After a few years babies born today could be doctors, engineers, politicians, teachers, musicians, and, sportsmen. Note: not all these babies were born into rich families. We don’t know what positive role they will play to improve our life.

If you see Castles around, they were built by construction workers. If your see Churches and Temples around, all built by construction workers. If you see Universities, Hospitals, Roads, Dams, Cinema theatres, Houses, Museums, and Parks, these were all built by construction workers. When these babies (construction workers) grew up they provided shelter for us and our children to protect from heat, cold and rain. The Umbrella was created by a Chinese person who once upon a time was a toddler in a highly populated country ... China. Could you imagine him/her not being born? Farmers who grow fruit and vegetables for us were little babies. We did not know they are going to feed us.

All previous religious and social reformers once upon a time were toddlers even in the highly populated and poor countries. All toddlers who grow into adults have the capacity to improve the welfare of humankind itself. People are engaged in cultivation, design and construction to provide food and shelter, transport, education, health and leisure. The Wright Brothers, Graham Bell, Adam Smith, David Ricardo, Albert Einstein, and other human beings were not worried about their future; they were toddlers, and used to play with their brothers, sisters, and friends; later they invented lots of things to improve our life.

I give you one example of Australia’s population ...

Looking at the new Australian population figures, many became worried that there is no infrastructure to support this big population in say 2050. But demographers, social planners, economists, health scientists are not worried. Many generations ago demographers estimated Australia’s population of today; even then; they did not worry rather all worked together. Generations ago there was one TV channel now there are many to provide entertainment and education to many. Engineers and allied professionals through their better receptivity of mind designed processes to create more and more goods and services. Earlier few people came to Australia, now we are many because those few people welcomed migrants from, India, Italy, Greece, China and Japan etc. Some are engineers, some are doctors, and some are scientists. They all could manage earn their livelihood when they came to Australia and sent remittances from abroad, where ever they lived. Engineers and allied professionals through their immense intelligence got people engaged in the developmental process of Australia and other countries like New Zealand, helped in overcoming poverty of millions directly and indirectly. We all say, we are highly fortunate to be in Australia. Those of us who are engaged in cultivation of crops, creation of goods and services and construction of buildings and infrastructure improve the life of millions by exchanging our resources and also raising children to the benefit of the community. My head rises when I say to my friends in India: I teach Economics in Australia. Do we think that the grocery store (s) get worried when they see more customers? No! They employ more people.

Can my friends imagine me not being born because India is highly populated? When Stephanie Rice, David Beckham, and Ian Thorpe were born even then there were population control slogans. If we stop population today, we would not have Stephanie Rice, Sally Pearson, Michel Johnson, Russell Crowe or Nicole Kidman. There is always population being replaced. Teachers, doctors, nurses social planners will support these new babies by taking care of them and taking them through their process of education, learning and experience along with their natural abilities to facilitate the process of development in their own ways – sport, education, journalism, medicine, and, administration. We don’t know when a child becomes Milkha Singh (World’s fastest sprinter of India in 1960’s), Stephanie Rice (one of the fastest Australian swimmer), David Beckham (World class English soccer player) or Sally Pearson (the fastest Australian sprinter in the world).

The whole idea of suggesting the contributions of the well-known is also to acknowledge millions of workers who are unknown, yet their contribution is not lesser than anyone. For example, factory workers deliver finished products and many work in severe winter and very hot conditions outside and inside many hours. Prof. Adam Smith (1723-1790), the Father of Economics suggests we all work according to our specialization, interests, qualifications, skills, knowledge, aptitude and capacities. Some are doctors, some are engineers, some professors, some journalist, some writers, some musicians, some players, some actors, and so on. The list is very long. The amount of reward (wages and salaries) which we receive varies due to our education levels, work experience, and work capacities. But, the income reward for people on low incomes in all countries of the world is so low that they cannot buy even necessitates of their life. Low income earners are found everywhere, including Australia.

The point is, if we could have better employment and income policies, we might see poverty of a person get to be less harmful, and would make his worries much lesser. We need to ask a question here. How many times do the wife and children of a factory worker in India or elsewhere drink milk in a week? How much fruit did they consume in a week? What savings do they have when they seldom drink milk and eat fruit? Globally, more than 162 million children remain undernourished: The Millennium Development Report 2014* suggests.

If we want to overcome malnutrition, how do we do it? Raise the income of those who really need it. Their low income reward is fixed by governments and businesses. If a person in Australia or India lives on meagre income because he is a factory worker, it is not his fault that he earns a lower wage to live his life, rather, it is the reward which governments and businesses have decided for him – to let him live in poverty. We can’t argue that he should have studied well.  If all of us become priests, teachers and actors, then, who would grow fruit and vegetables? No one! Farmers are committing suicide. At end of the day we need food. Government should encourage farming through better monetary rewards. Prof. Adam Smith says we all work according to our interests and capabilities; therefore we all earn a reward for our hard work. But the reward is highly insufficient for workers on meagre income. We would not want factory workers, labourers, stewards, receptionists, and so on to become intellectuals when their services are very important to us.

Governments should reset the earnings of all workers without delay. If we want to raise the income of our citizens who are on low income, we can do it. Where do we get money from? We could control the earnings of high income earners, so that the extra money which we have been giving to high income earners could be used to raise the income of workers who live on low incomes. There is no other way. Note: income tax on high income goes to the government in forms of tax revenue to facilitate government policies. We need money to raise the actual income of workers on low income. If all countries have minimum wage legislation, we can change the minimum wage levels. How do we decide the right amount of income which high income earners should receive? If high-income earners are paid less, then, the amount which they need to buy them fruit and vegetables, bread and butter, milk and juice, good education, transport, communication, health and leisure for themselves and their families would be the most appropriate salary. Higher wages and salaries of people on low income would avoid them misery, hunger, and deprivation. Governments can make sure of greater monetary reward in the form of better wages and salaries for low paid workers which can happen when income redistribution takes place. 

Population control measures get to be adopted by people themselves when they get education and employment. Population is a blessing, businesses always find new markets where there are more people to buy their products. But we need to give them sufficient amount of income for their hard work who currently cannot afford to buy even necessities of life. In all countries due to poor governance of employment and wage policy, low income earners are kept on low income, otherwise, population is a blessing. We never knew that this child Adam Smith would be called as The Father Economics – Prof. Adam Smith.

*Dr Baljit Singh has a PhD in Economics from La Trobe University, Melbourne. He taught Tourism Economics for a good number of years at La Trobe University. Dr. Singh appreciates the contribution of all human beings, and suggests a better monetary reward for those whose pay is very low.