Economic Impact of Overpopulation

One of the most critical issues Pakistan faces is overpopulation, significantly impacting the country’s economy. As the world’s fifth most populated country, with over 230 million people, Pakistan must address the economic challenges caused by this demographic pressure.

Excessive population growth burdens both natural and financial resources. Limited resources are strained by the growing population’s demands for food, energy, and water. The Pakistan Bureau of Statistics warns that Pakistan’s water resources are severely depleted and could become water-scarce by 2025. Similarly, energy demand far exceeds supply, leading to frequent blackouts that disrupt daily life and industrial production.

Joblessness and underemployment are exacerbated by overpopulation. The labor market cannot keep pace with the influx of young people entering the workforce each year. In 2023, the unemployment rate was projected to be 6.3%, but this figure does not account for the many underemployed individuals working in informal sectors or part-time jobs for inadequate pay. This surplus labor limits economic mobility and depresses wages, perpetuating social inequality and poverty.

Overpopulation also strains healthcare and education systems. Schools are overcrowded, resulting in lower educational quality. Pakistan has one of the highest rates of out-of-school children, with over 22.8 million unenrolled, according to UNICEF. This lack of education reduces workforce skills, hindering innovation and economic growth.

Healthcare services face similar pressures. Public health institutions are often overcrowded and under-resourced, leading to subpar medical services. According to the World Bank, Pakistan allocates only 1.1% of its GDP to healthcare, resulting in poor health outcomes, high infant and maternal mortality rates, and reduced life expectancy, all of which decrease economic productivity.

Rapid population growth has led to unchecked urbanization, with cities expanding faster than infrastructure can support. Major cities like Karachi, Lahore, and Islamabad face acute housing crises, resulting in the proliferation of slums and informal settlements. These areas often lack basic amenities such as electricity, clean water, and sanitation, exacerbating poor living conditions and health problems.

Overpopulation also contributes significantly to environmental degradation. Increased demand for land leads to deforestation, loss of biodiversity, and destruction of natural ecosystems. The World Bank estimates that environmental degradation costs Pakistan about 9% of its GDP annually.

Food security is another major issue linked to overpopulation. Agricultural production must increase to meet growing demand, but challenges such as water scarcity, land degradation, and outdated farming methods hinder productivity. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Pakistan could face severe food shortages in the coming decades without sustainable agricultural practices.

The wealth gap tends to widen with overpopulation. The wealthy can afford better living conditions, healthcare, and education, while the poor struggle to meet basic needs. This disparity fuels social unrest and increases the risk of instability, hindering economic growth.

Addressing the economic impacts of overpopulation in Pakistan requires comprehensive and multifaceted approaches. Policies promoting family planning and education programs to slow population growth are essential. Simultaneously, significant investments in infrastructure, education, and healthcare are needed to accommodate the existing population. Adopting sustainable development practices is crucial to protecting the environment and ensuring long-term economic stability. Without these measures, population pressures will continue to hinder Pakistan’s economic potential and the overall quality of life for its citizens. By implementing appropriate policies and addressing the root causes, Pakistan can leverage its young population to drive economic growth and development, turning demographic challenges into opportunities.

SYED UMAID AHMED,

Lahore.

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