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World Employment Programme Research Working Paper : Popluation, Labour and Poverty Project
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The people of Nepal live in a poor state . In 1971 94% of the labour force was in agriculture, but the annual rate of growth in food production per capita between 1961 and 1969 was zero. It was clear by the mid 1970's that the capacity of the predominantly agrarian economy to feed the population was not increasing. With a growth rate of 2.8 per cent per annum in GDP, and a population growth rate of around 2.5 per cent the prospects for the future were not good; indeed, as one major report stated bleakly, "Nepal i s poor and is daily becoming poorer" (ARTEP 1974: 1). Others were even more alarmed: "Nepal in the mid 1970's i s not just a very poor country that appears to be increasingly unable to provide adequately for its now rapidly growing population - that would be a misleading over simplification, and in some respects an understatement, of the problems that exist. The country i s now in a period of crisis, a crisis whose major components, over the next decade, will include serious over-population relative to employment opportunities, ecological collapse in the densely populated and highly vulnerable hill areas (where 30 per cent of the cultivable land supports 60 percent of the country's rural population), and the elimination of certain important 'natural' resources (e.g. timber), both in the hills and in the plains . These will be associated with an increasing inability to pay for the imported commodities, with growing food shortages, and consequently with the development of widespread unrest in both rural and urban areas.
Generally, the ' crisis ' of Nepal has been seen essentially in terms of population growth,outspacing economic growth. At the end of the 1970's, the world Bank concluded that "Nepal's demographic situation is amongst the worst in the world and is deteriorating rapidly. Even though demographic pressures already strain the capacity of the land to provide minimally adequate supplies of food, all reasonable projections point a t an inevitable and steadily worsening situation through the turn of the century and beyond" (IBRD 1979: 35). In 1983, an article in the Far Eastern Economic Review, (headed 'running on the spot') argued that "given the population growth rate , independent economists calculate that even if the average 2 per cent annual growth in gross domestic product doubles, half of Nepal's population will still be living below subsistence levels at the turn of the century" (Ali 1983: 30). But the conclusion often drawn - that it is population growth that is largely responsible for the growing poverty of the mass of the Nepalese people is agross over simplification and ignores the crucial fact that demographic change, like material deprivation or poverty, i s a social product, conditioned and determined in the last analysis by the economic and social structures of the state in question. Certainly, there are important connections between 'population growth' and 'the growth of poverty", but the precise nature of these connections must be explored and identified, not simply assumed in advance of such investigation and analysis, to be straightforward, direct and unilinear. In this essay I hope to be able to examine and reveal the economic and social context, both of population growth and poverty in Nepal.
UNFPA ,   (1985 )
Type / Script:
Official Document in English
Thematic Group:
 UNFPA : Population studies
08.01.00  -  Population Dynamics
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