Ghana: Examining population variables and development planning

NimaGenerally population refers to the number of people living in a defined area at a particular period of time. Everyone is a member of a population and it is the most valuable resource of any country since its quality and size determines the pace and quality of economic and social development.

Characteristics of a population like size, age and sex structure, distribution over space, deaths and births, growth rate among others are termed population variables.

They are very important in development planning because ‘‘Just like a prudent mother knows the basic characteristics of her household like size and age to aid her planning for meals, a prudent development planner is expected to know the basic characteristics of the population for which development is intended to foster efficiency, maximise impact and reduce waste’’.

Population variables are very foundational in improving the awareness of development planners and policy makers on individual and societal needs and aspirations.

They provide an understanding for development planners about the challenges of population change, causes of the change, consequences of the change and how the change can be managed to reduce poverty.

Significance of Population Variables

Globally, all economic and social development interventions are aimed at meeting the needs, and improving the quality of life of present and future generations. However, serious domestic resource constraints and dwindling external funding support has resulted in a growing gap between development programming and outcome. Ghana is no exception to this situation.

As a result, it has become all the more imperative for Ghana’s development efforts to be anchored on account of the population to be catered for within planned periods and beyond to maximise impact and forestall waste.

To this end, Population data collection, evaluation and analysis must assume greater importance in the day-to-day programming and administration of our society. For instance, in land use and settlement planning there is the need to determine current as well as projected population characteristics in order to determine the size and distribution of land use

Ghana’s Changing Population Dynamics

The country’s changing population dynamics have formed the basis for targeted interventions aimed at improving the quality of life of the citizenry. The country’s population has been increasing steadily over the years. With a total population of just over 2 million in 1921, the population more than tripled in nearly fifty years to 8.6 million in 1970.

In 2010, Ghana recorded a population of 24.6 million people with 51.2 percent being females and a growth rate of 2.5 percent. At this rate the population of Ghana is expected to double in 28 years.

Demographic Transition

The average number of children born to a Ghanaian woman over her lifetime has declined considerably from 6.4 in 1988 to 4.3 children per woman in 2011 and is one of the lowest in sub-Saharan Africa.

Despite the recorded declines in fertility, the population growth rate has not shown significant change and has been between 2.4 and 2.7 percent between 1984 and 2010. The population is currently youthful and with a sizeable proportion within their reproductive years has high growth potential.

The demographic transition from high to low fertility is gradually affecting the age structure of the population as fewer people are born compared to previous generations. This has resulted in a gradual increase in the size of the working age population. In contrast, the size of the young dependent population is reducing in the face of a steadily declining fertility.

The gradual transformation of the youthful population age structure has also been attributed to an improvement in the average period that a person may expect to live often termed as overall life expectancy.

Ghana’s life expectancy has improved from 48.6 years in 1970 to an estimated 60.76 for males compared to 61.81 for females in 2010.

The 2010 Population and Housing Census also showed that although the proportion of older persons (60+ years) decreased from 7.2 percent in 2000 to 6.7 percent in 2010, in terms of absolute numbers there was an increase from 1,365,291 in 2000 to 1,643,978 in 2010. Ghana’s aged population is expected to increase to 7.0 percent by the year 2030.

Integration of Population into Development Planning in Ghana

The commitment of the government of Ghana to effectively manage the country’s population for national development was profoundly exhibited by the country’s adoption of a National Population Policy as early as 1969( Reviewed in 1994) and subsequent establishment of the National Population Council through Act, 485 (1994). Ghana also ratified the landmark International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in 1994.

The ICPD sought to promote the strong interrelationship between population and development and the centrality of integrating population variables into development planning for sustained socio-economic development.

Although Ghana revised the National Population Policy before the 1994 ICPD conference, the document has among other key objectives, the systematic integration of population variables into all aspects of development planning and activity.

By Jonathan Kester Okutu

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