A packet of birth control pills

Birth control case study

What do you do when you’ve got soaring populations and ageing populations? Read on and decide what you think about this population problem

Background briefing

Many low- and middle-income countries are struggling with soaring populations, and throughout the world, people are living longer.


In Kenya rapid population growth since the 1950s has put pressure on resources such as land for farming, water and healthcare. Use of contraception increased from 7 per cent in 1978 to 46 per cent in 2008, contributing to a reduction in the average number of children per mother from eight to five. However, over 10 million Kenyans still do not have enough food or have poor diets.


China’s one-child policy, introduced in 1979, prevented hundreds of millions of births by withdrawing benefits and imposing fines on couples who had more than one child. The policy went against traditions favouring large families and may have led to some women undergoing unwanted abortions or sterilisation. Most abortions during this time were of female fetuses. There are now fewer women than men in China, and single-child families have produced fewer working-age adults to support the older generation. Recently, China relaxed its policy.


France adopted a pro-natal policy for the first half of the 20th century – the ‘Code de la famille’ – which offered strong incentives for having a three-child family. It also included a ban on contraceptives, though this was lifted in the 1960s.


A government struggling to cope with overpopulation decides it will only offer housing benefit to those of childbearing age if they agree to use birth control.

  • Do you think this is a good idea? Why or why not?
  • What are the implications for current and future populations?
  • Can you think of any alternatives for dealing with overpopulation?

Lead image:

lookcatalog/Flickr CC BY

About this resource

This resource was first published in ‘Populations’ in June 2014.

Ecology and environment, Health, infection and disease
Education levels:
16–19, Continuing professional development