Will declines in fertility boost economic growth for sub-Saharan Africa? In a region where demographic change is still at an early stage, can sub-Saharan Africa look forward to the promise of economic growth and its benefits, in the same way that East Asia has experienced? Can family planning programmes help to accelerate this demographic change, and how can they be most effective?
As a result of prior declines in fertility, countries experience an era of declining dependency ratios, when the proportion of total population in the less economically active age bands (less than 15 and over 64 years) drops. This change in age structure guarantees a significant but modest boost to growth in GDP per head, provided that employment levels and productivity do not fall. Declines in fertility also benefit women, children and households in terms of enhanced survival, education and prospects of escape from poverty.
In East Asia and to a lesser extent South Asia, but not in Latin America or North Africa, econometric analyses suggest that changing age structure is associated with accelerated economic growth, two to three times larger than the guaranteed boost. This regional contrast stems from differences in macro-economic policies, institutions and trends in savings and investment. The size of the economic bonus is thus contingent on these other factors.