Tuesday, October 10, 2006


My small writeup on population and the role of incentives.

Penalties coerced with legal or economic implication restrict the freedom of choice for individuals. Although some countries have enforced penalties successfully, like China with its one-child policy (OCP), the overriding approach, as defined by Dr. Amartya Sen, will ultimately lead to exploitation and abuse of the system. Unlike communist China, in India opinions of people decide whether the system is efficient. India decided to drop its sterilization program offering cash incentives in favour of a more voluntary approach to birth control in the mid-1990s. As a result of the enforced birth control policies during the emergency period in 1970s in India, candidates favouring the policies were defeated in the general elections.

The impact of incentives in population stabilization is difficult to ascertain. Given the improvements in healthcare, individuals can reverse the fertility control effects defeating the purpose of incentives. Moreover the reward may attract only weaker sections of the society.

Incentives for child-spacing, contraception or non-pregnancy raise ethical questions. Incentives help individuals, who are already thinking about a fertility, to hasten their decision making. An incentive to attract medical graduates, as stated in the National Population Policy 2000, by reserving seats in post graduate courses for medical graduates provided the candidate has served for 5 years at the First Referral Units is a positive measure. On the other hand, disincentives include barring individuals who have more than 2 children from taking up political posts. In 2003 during the Haryana Panchayat Raj elections, some contesters who violated this disincentive were disqualified from contesting elections resulting in a political imbroglio.

Policies and their incentives are a good way to promote awareness but they should complement rather than precede initiatives in education, healthcare and increasing job opportunities to control population. India’s overall fertility rate is not uniform and hence in a democratic system like India, high collaboration among masses along with incentives can address population issues. Government collaboration with NGOs and village self-help groups can set up a revolving fund for income generation.

In summary, it is difficult to have an efficient policy using incentives alone. Incentives and complementary programs on education and healthcare can be an effective measure towards population control.


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