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    Role of the state in population planning: Singapore and Pakistan

    Hassan R

    Genus. 1984 Jan-Jun; 40(1-2):155-71.

    State intervention in population and family planning has been gradually increasing on the assumption that unregulated population growth poses serious national problems requiring public action. Among 152 developing nations in areas surveyed with respect to population and family planning policies in 1980, 52 supported family planning primarily from a demographic rationale and 65 from a health or human rights rationale, while only 35 provide no support. There appear to be 4 major underlying sociophilosophical perspectives on the role of the state in population planning: 1) the deontic/utilitarian whose prime concern is with the rights and obligations of present generations to future generations; this view provides a very vague basis for a general policy of population planning, 2) the environmentalist, which with varying degrees of pessimism in different formulations argue the need to limit population and economic growth because of the limited nature of the world's resources; this view ignores a considerable body of evidence that more than just overpopulation is involved in environmental problems, 3) the family planning perspective, advocated and supported by various international organizations and conferences, holds that decisions about birth control should be made by prospective parents. The assumption is that making birth control methods and education readily accessible to everyone will eventually result in birth rates which are desirable for the society as a whole. In practice, it is difficult to establish whether such voluntaristic measures are enough to control population, 4) the developmental distributionist position sees low birth rates as resulting from modernization, including such factors as more equitable distribution of income and increased educational and social services. Pakistan's family planning program has undergone 3 major bureaucratic reorganizations and shifts in strategy consequent on changes in national leadership since services were 1st offered in 1965. Singapore's leadership has supported family planning actively and consistently since 1966, and the country's socioeconomic development has contributed to its remarkable fertility decline. A 1975 survey of 864 persons in Singapore and a 1981 survey of 584 persons in Pakistan included questions on opinions of the appropriate role of the state in population planning. In Singapore and Pakistan respectively, 31 and 17% felt that the government should have a strict role in controlling family size, 32 and 10% felt that the government should primarily provide advice and pass laws, 18 and 18% felt the government should provide advice only, 17 and 37% felt it should be left to the married couple, and 2 and 18% didn't know. The empirical evidence suggests that the political legitimacy of the state and public policies to promote distributive justice, are both more developed in Singapore than Pakistan, have significant influence on the degree of public acceptance of state intervention in family planning.
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