Population variables and development planning in Ghana…What are Population Variables? (1)

PopulationGenerally 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.

This key objective has been incorporated into the Ghana Poverty Reduction Strategy (GPRS I) (2003-2005) the Growth and Development Agenda (GPRS II) (2006-2009) and the current Ghana Shared Growth and Development Agenda (GSGDA) (2010-2013), the Population Sector Plan (2010-2013) and Ghana Shared Growth and development Agenda (2014-2017).

Subsequently, the National Population Council Secretariat has developed population integration manuals and trained district officers on integration of population variables into development planning.

This as envisaged will ensure that MMDAs plan for development in their respective jurisdictions taking into consideration the population size, age and sex distribution, density, growth rate, mortality rate among other demographic variables.

This will enable them to for instance build and site school buildings, boreholes and other socio developmental projects more precisely thereby enhancing effectiveness of plans in terms of poverty reduction and ultimately improve the quality of life of people in our local communities.

However, this quintessential approach to development has been beset by considerable logistical, funding and capacity challenges. Consequently the Ghana Country Report: ICPD Beyond 2014 (NDPC, 2013) has made strong recommendations to address population issues in national development policy frameworks.

Way forward

As we approach a new national development planning cycle all sectors of the economy must give serious consideration to the population factor.

It is at the core of all planning activities and it is inconceivable that meaningful development activities can be carried out without first considering the population: its size, age structure, distribution over space, growth and change over time in addition to other socio-economic characteristics.

Ensuring the effective integration of population variables into national development planning in Ghana would mark the beginning of sustainable development.

Issues of education, health, the youth, agriculture, environment and empowerment would better be informed if appropriate assessment of population issues are done and integrated into the development planning processes.

This would subsequently lead to a comprehensive approach to reducing poverty in Ghana thereby ensuring the upward movement of all facets of society.

Population variables are central to sustainable socio-economic development efforts and critical if any impact is to be made from interventions aimed at reducing poverty and improving the quality of life of the people of Ghana. As the way forward there is the need for sustained commitment by all stakeholders to population issues and it is recommended that Government prioritizes population management in the country and provides resources for population intervention programmes.

Furthermore there is the need for sustained advocacy on the interrelationship between population and development targeting policy and decision-makers.

Additionally there is the need to train a large body of personnel particularly district planning officers in population integration analysis.

For the long term however, measures geared towards incorporating population integration analysis into development/economic studies curricular particularly at the tertiary level should be vigorously pursued to facilitate the creation of a pool of graduates, well trained in population integration analysis to serve the administrative structure at all levels.

Furthermore there is the need for effective management of information and knowledge bases to support the integration process as well as the development of tools for effective monitoring and evaluation.

Population is central to sustained socio-economic development; it is both the basis and consequences of national development efforts. The new national development planning cycle provides yet another opportunity to develop targeted interventions by using population as a point of reference for planning at all levels to improve the quality of life of the people.


Jonathan Kester Okutu

Programme Officer

National Population Council Secretariat


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