March 19th, 2010
11:21 AM ET

Jobs and population: controlling population

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Editor's Note: This article continues our series excerpted from AC360°'s contributor David Gewirtz's book, How To Save Jobs, which is available now. AC360° viewers can download it for free at HowToSaveJobs.org. To learn more about the book, follow David on Twitter @DavidGewirtz.

David Gewirtz | BIO
AC360° Contributor
Director, U.S. Strategic Perspective Institute

There’s no doubt that as we move through the next few decades, the planet simply won’t be able to support as many people as will be born. In America alone, we need to create 2 million more jobs every year, simply to keep up with the population.

The problem of supporting a growing population becomes doubly true of hugely populous countries like China and India, which are pursuing goals to move the bulk of their population into the middle-class. China and India alone will need to consume more than 50% more energy than actually exists in the entire world.

Like issues relating to climate, population is really a world-wide issue and somehow needs to be addressed across national boundaries.

There are a variety of approaches that can be taken. These include scientific advances in generating new sources of fuel and renewable energy so our growing population doesn’t run out of power.

But, without a doubt, the planet needs to produce less people. No one likes the idea of government-imposed population control, and yet this is what China has been attempting since the late 1970s, with less than positive results.

In 1979, China instituted the jìhuà shengyù zhèngcè, unofficially known as the one-child policy. The policy restricts the number of children couples can give birth to and raise. While China claims that the program, in its first 30 years, has prevented as many births as there are people in the United States, the program is not without its serious problems.

Chinese parents who ignore the one-child policy are subject to enormous fines and heavy-handed government prosecution. As you might imagine, the rate of abortion and infanticide is off-the-charts, in part because prospective parents are often faced with no other choice than to terminate the pregnancy.

Parents who do actually go through with giving birth are often required to “dispose” of the newly born baby, according to testimony by Gao Xiao Duan (a former Chinese population control administrator) to what was then the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on International Relations human rights subcommittee in 1998.

A disturbing culture of kidnapping and black-market selling has grown out of the one-child policy. Gender roles are still strong through much of Chinese culture and some families value having a boy far more than having a girl.

This has resulted in a reduction in female children and, as Nobel Prize–winning economist Amartya Sen described, more than 100 million women are “missing” from what would have been a normal population – through abortion, infanticide, or starvation as a result of poor nutrition.

Depending on how coldly you measure it, China’s one-child policy has either been a measured success or a horrible, gruesome failure. In a country overwhelmed by population, preventing hundreds of millions of births may well have helped China manage scarce resources with more effectiveness.

But, the cost in terms of simply life itself is hard to ignore. Children being kidnapped, never to be seen again by their parents, infants being put to death, families forced to starve in order to pay the fines required to keep a beloved child - all of these are chilling effects that no one wants to see in a civilized world.

Follow David on Twitter at @DavidGewirtz.

Editor’s note: David Gewirtz is Director of the U.S. Strategic Perspective Institute and Editor-in-Chief of the ZATZ magazines. He is a leading Presidential scholar specializing in White House email. He is a member of FBI InfraGard, the Cyberterrorism Advisor for the International Association for Counterterrorism & Security Professionals, a columnist for The Journal of Counterterrorism and Homeland Security, and has been a guest commentator for the Nieman Watchdog of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University. He is a faculty member at the University of California, Berkeley extension, a recipient of the Sigma Xi Research Award in Engineering and was a candidate for the 2008 Pulitzer Prize in Letters.

Filed under: David Gewirtz • Economy • Job Market
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