Populations in Transition


  • Crude birth rate: (number of births/total population) X 1000
  • Crude death rate: (number of deaths/total population) X 1000
  • Life expectancy: average number of years at birth a person can expect to live.
  • Infant mortality rate: number of babies that die before 1 year old/ 1000 live births/year.
  • Child mortality rate: number of children that die before 5 years old/ 1000 live births/year.

Demographic Transition Model


Patterns in MEDCs

Low birth rates due to:

  • Low infant & child mortality rates
  • Women remaining in education longer,
  • Increased gender equality in the workplace has attracted more women to establish careers before having children.
  • Cost of children has reduced the size of families.
  • Family planning education & contraception availability.

Death rates increasing as these countries experience ageing populations,

diet & lifestyle are leading to increased heart conditions.

Patterns in LEDCs

High birth rates due to:

  • Lack of access to contraception & family planning services.
  • Higher infant mortality rates.
  • Lack of state pensions means elderly rely on children for care.

Falling death rates due to:

  • Improvements in health care
  • Better diet – more calories & wider range of food (nutrients)
  • Improved sanitation and water supplies

Population Pyramids

These display the age and sex make up of a population & give a good indication as to the birth & death rates.

They also display the proportions of dependent & economically active sections of the population.

Developed Country Population Pyramid

MEDC Population Pyramid

  • Narrow base (low birth rate)
  • Steep side (low infant & child mortality rates)
  • Tall (long life expectancy)

 This pyramid is typical of countries such as Japan and the United Kingdom.  These pyramids are becoming increasingly top heavy as life expectancies increase and birth rates continue to fall.

This shape of pyramid concerns many Governments as it is facing supporting many more people in older age.

LEDC Population Pyramid

Developing Country Population Pyramid
  • Wide base (high birth rate)
  • Sloping sides (higher infant & child mortality rates, impact of AIDS)
  • Short (low life expectancy)

In countries with a pyramid structure like this, a reduction in the death rate for younger people would quickly result in a rapidly expanding economically active population.

Clean water supplies, better sanitation and vaccinations can rapidly reduce the deaths in children as their immune systems are not as strong as adults.

Many African countries (Malawi, Tanzania, Rwanda) have pyramids shaped like this.

Dependency Ratios & Dependent Populations

Calculation = (Population under 15 years old + population over 64 years old/population between 16 – 64) x 100

The dependency ratio is important as it shows the proportion of the population that are working, generating income and paying tax to the government in relation to the proportion reliant on their parents/government.

Ageing ratios:

Youth dependency ratio: (population aged 0-14/population aged 15-64) x 100

Elderly dependency ratio: (population aged 65+population aged 15-64) x 100

Youthful Populations

Youthful Populations: Tanzania
Youthful Populations: Tanzania

Many LEDCs have high birth rates and are experiencing large youthful populations.

Benefits: large potential workforce often leading to cheap labour which can attract new investment.


  • High demand for education & significant investment needed by governments in schools and training teachers.
  • Loss of women from the labour force as many women to stay at home caring for children.
  • High rates of unemployment likely if enough jobs for the large numbers of young people are not created.

Example: Malawi & Tanzania

Ageing Population

In many MEDCs life expectancy has significantly increased creating increased proportions of elderly people.


  • Workforce can work for longer number of years (retirement age has risen in many MEDC countries).
  • Elderly can help with grandchildren which allows parents to work full-time.
  • Greater passing on of skills and knowledge between generations.


  • Heavy burden on state finances through pensions and welfare payments.
  • Large demands on health systems as many elderly patients have ongoing illnesses that require expensive treatments.
  • Increasing pressure on housing stocks which often leads to rising prices if supply is not increased.

Example: Japan

Government Approaches to Population Control

Pro-Natalist Policies

These are policies aimed at increasing the birth rate in countries.  Many European countries are facing falling fertility rates.

The UK has been providing babies with 250 pounds at birth to be invested for their future.  Maternity leave has recently been extended and fathers are now able to take time off as paternity leave.  Parents also receive income from the Government in the form of ‘Child Benefit’ to pay for costs of children.

Recent years have seen increases in birth rates so the scheme has had some effect.

Anti-Natalist Policies

These are policies aimed at reducing the birth rate in countries.

Many Asian & African countries are experiencing very high fertility rates.


  • Large publicity and provision of free contraception available (condoms)
  • Family planning education in Thailand, advertising on tv, in schools, and in many public sector workplaces.
  • This approach focused on encouraging people to have less children (not a law)

1 Child Policy: China

  • The 1 child policy is credited with having reduced the rate of Chinas population growth (measured as the crude birth rate minus the crude death rate), from about 15 per 1,000 people in 1980 to below 5.5 per 1,000 people today. 300 million less extra people estimated.
  • Severe financial penalties for parents who have more than 1 child.
  • Its main focus is on couples in urban areas & it is regarded as having been successful in reducing birth rates.
  • There are many concerns about other negative impacts though such as reported infanticide of girls due to the desire to have a boy.  Also reports of abortions of many female foetuses.  Little Emporer syndrome – the one child gets showered with attention and has a large extended family in the older generations.
  • It has recently been relaxed (2014) to allow adults that are only children themselves from the scheme to be able to have 2 children.
  • China’s approach has been very forceful in its implementation.

Gender Inequalities & Change

Positive correlation between gender equality and development

  • Culture: In almost all cultures women take responsibility for maintaining the home and caring for family.
  • Status: In many countries women tend to have a lower status, making less of the decisions (family level & political level).
  • Education: Many LEDCs women have lower educational levels & higher drop out levels (care duties, pregnancy).
  • Birth ratios: ratio of girls to boys born.  Should be roughly equal but in some countries there are cultural preferences for sons which has caused an imbalance in this (Chinas 1 child policy & reported female infanticide/abortions).
  • Health: inequalities in health as women have additional risk of pregnancy, childbirth, sexually transmitted diseases, abuse.
  • Employment: women often occupy lower skilled, lower paid and more temporary/part-time jobs than men.
  • Life expectancy: in most countries women have longer life expectancy than men.
  • Migration: lower migration of women (tie of family duties/children) but there are increases in the number of women migrating for economic reasons (rural to urban & international).
  • Legal rights & land tenure: in many countries, women are not afforded the same legal rights as men and often don’t own property & land.

International Migration

Forced Migration

  • Slave movements (W.Africa to USA).
  • Refugees from civil war (Congo to Rwanda).
  • Refugees from famine (Somalia to Kenya).
  • Natural disasters (Montseratt to UK – volcano) 

Voluntary Migration

  • Economic reasons – seeking employment
  • Education reasons – university
  • Political – don’t agree with politics in home country
  • Family – move to be nearer to family

Impacts of International Migration

* Culture – large-scale immigration can dilute/change the destination countries cultures as foreign traits are brought in.  Can lead to segregation of communities and possible tensions (Bradford race riots, UK 2001) .

* Economy – can provide a boost in labour force for destination country, but may also cause a leakage of money through remittance payments back to the source country.  Increased labour force may drive wage levels down.

* MEDCs have faced brain drains as highly skilled workers leave the country to go to other countries offering better working/living conditions.

* Housing stocks – destination countries may need to increase the amount of housing that they have – environmental impact as urban areas expand.  Failure to meet housing demand can lead to high prices and/or illegal development/slums.

* Dependency ratio – source countries may lose people of working age – leaving less economically active people to support dependent population – could lead to higher taxes, less welfare benefits from the governments.

Example:  Mexico to the USA.

* Legal & illegal migration of Mexicans to the USA seeking higher wages and improved living conditions.

* Often to work in seasonal industry or low paid services.

* High population growth, comparatively low wages & mechanisation of farming & manufacturing in Mexico has led many people to seek an alternative.

Impact on Mexico:

– Increase in remittence payments from migrant workers, large sums of money flow to Mexico in this form which goes directly to families and can be used by them to raise their standard of living .

– Decrease in some of the economically active population (more male than female).

Impact on USA:

– Increased supply of labour with few rights has provided cheap labour allowing lower production costs benefitting domestic consumers and export sales.

– Increasing presence of Spanish in American culture (tv, menus etc).

– Reduction in jobs available & cultural change has created anti-migrant feelings in some Americans.

Internal Migration

Rural -Urban Migration

Rapidly occurring in LEDCs as rural populations seek higher income and better services. Often end up in informal sector.

Push Factors

  • Lack of jobs in rural areas due to mechanisation of farming.
  • Limited provision of higher education
  • Limited range of jobs available (few IT/banking etc)
  • Poorer infra-structure & communications networks

Pull Factors

  • Perceived higher wages & more job opportunities
  • Universities & main medical facilities
  • Entertainment & leisure facilities
  • Often cheaper & more accessible Internet facilities

Impacts of Rural – Urban Migration

* Rural areas face a shortage of economically active aged people. Decline in population leads to a decline in services available there which prompts more people to leave.  Results in an ageing population and less people to look after the elderly in old age.

* Urban areas facing overcrowding, pressure on housing, infrastructure, health & education services.  Inward migration exceeding job creation so many people unemployed or working in informal sector.

* In cases where inward migration exceeds housing provision slums/favelas occur (Sau Paulo & Rio De Janiero in Brazil, Lagos in Nigeria).

* Reality for many migrants is that they will end up working in the informal job sector due to lack of qualifications, competition for formal  jobs & sometimes lack of official address.

* Causes rapid expansion (planned & unplanned) of urban areas (urban sprawl) which damages/destroys the natural environment.  Often urban areas will join forming large conurbations.

Formal Sector (Jobs)

  • Official employment.
  • Pay taxes and can receive welfare benefits.
  • Employer follows rules about working conditions.
  • Likely to receive sick pay & holiday pay.
  • Good job security.
Fake DVD selling

Informal Sector (Jobs)

  • Unofficial employment (shoe shine, car wash etc).
  • Don’t pay taxes & so not eligible for welfare benefits.
  • No rules/regulations about workplace or hours of work.
  • No sick or holiday pay.
  • Very little job security.
  • Selling fake or copied products is common.


MEDC trend in which people increasingly choose to live outside urban areas in rural communities.

Push Factors of the Urban Areas

  • Higher crime rates

    Traffic congestion & pollution
  • Higher levels of air pollution
  • Higher noise pollution
  • Higher land values & lack of space
  • Traffic congestion

Pull Factors of the Rural Areas

  • Safer cleaner environment (family friendly)
  • Less traffic congestion
  • Easy access to out of town malls
  • IT developments leading to home working.
  • Commute into urban area for work

Impacts of Counter-Urbanisation

  • Increased development in rural areas – damage to environment & often loss of agricultural land.
  • Increases in commuters into urban areas – traffic congestion on certain routes at rush hours.
  • Increases in house prices in rural communities – can lead to local populations being priced out.
  • Encourages decentralisation of retail which can lead to a decline of shops & services in the CBD.

Past Paper Questions


2) “Government attempts to control population growth are ineffective.” Discuss this statement. [15 marks]example_answer_button