Pronatalism and Rapid Population Growth: Challenging the Social Pressures to Have Children

In this presentation, Executive Director of Population Balance Nandita Bajaj discusses her work on one of the main drivers of unsustainable population growth: pronatalism. Pronatalism encourages people to have large families for the sake of governmental interests such as the economy and national security. This preference for population growth is most often perpetrated by politicians, economists, and religious leaders.

In addition to undermining reproductive, social, and ecological justice, pronatalist beliefs, combined with a human-supremacist worldview, fuel denialism about the real effect of population pressures. This prevents healthy and urgently needed dialogue and action around climate change, biodiversity loss, empowerment and equality of girls and women, and a multitude of other emerging crises we face.

*The views expressed in this presentation and complimentary slides belong to the speaker and do not necessarily represent the mission of our organization.*

Presentation Date: July 13th, 2022



Is it possible to quantify the effect of eliminating pronatalism on the number of births both in North America and globally?

An excellent question, and a difficult one to answer, because pronatalism is the water in which we are all swimming. While there’s a huge variance in the degree of pronatalism across different cultures and countries, ranging from subtle to coercive, no place is yet completely free pronatalism. By some rough estimates, we can speculate as follows:

The following data is taken from the UN, keeping in mind that the framework within which it exists is pronatalist.

  • There are 1.9 billion women of reproductive age (15-49 years).
  • Out of those 1.1 billion women are considered to have a need for family planning, meaning that they desire to limit or delay childbearing.
  • Of these women, 851 million are using a modern method of contraception and 85 million are using a traditional method.
  • An additional 172 million women are using no method at all, despite their desire to avoid pregnancy, and thus are considered to have an unmet need for family planning.

According to Guttmacher, in the US alone, 2.7 million pregnancies are unplanned, and 1 million unwanted children are born each year.

Even within a pronatalist framework (i.e. Women and couples haven’t considered options outside of the social norms presented to them to have children or to have large families), there is a huge unmet need for family planning both within the US and globally. If that alone could be met, we could see upwards of 35-50 million unwanted births prevented.

But in a world where pronatalism could be minimized to allow for liberated and informed small family and childfree norms to emerge, that number could be in the hundreds of millions.

I would like to hear about the vested interests of institutions that rely on a growing population to survive and dominate, i.e., religions (proselytizing for greater membership) and for-profit corporations (GDP and an increasing consumer base).

Religious institutions, corporations, politicians all have a very strong vested interest in growth for reasons you’ve mentioned. I did cover this in my presentation briefly, so I hope that your question was answered appropriately, but you can also see this article I wrote for Ms. Magazine that gets into the sinister nature of coercive pronatalism: Abortion Bans Are a Natural Outgrowth of Coercive Pronatalism. I am working on an academic paper on this that should be out early next year and I will make sure that is made available to Population Connection and all their members.

What are the kinds of proposals to care for our aged and aging people?

This one by Dr. Jane O’Sullivan does a great job: Silver tsunami or silver lining? Why we should not fear an ageing population

Great talk! It was mentioned that 3 billion is a sustainable human population. I am curious– how that number was attained?

Here are recent publications that hover around this figure: Dr. Chris Tucker’s book: A Planet of 3 Billion, Sir Partha Dasgupta’s book and paper Time and Generations,  Dr. Paul Ehrlich and Dr. Eileen Crist have similarly discussed two billion as an optimal population, see Abundant Earth: Toward an Ecological Civilization.

Are there any government organizations advocating responsible population control?

There are many – this report by the UN lays them out well: World Population Policies 2021: Policies related to fertility

Doesn’t anti-pronatalism also have the potential to liberate humanity as a whole as well as individually? What language will make anti-pronatalism more socially acceptable — and even a social imperative in light of the climate and ecological crisis humans have created?

Anti-pronatalism or a pronatalism-free world definitely has the potential to liberate humanity both at an individual level and at a societal level. At an individual level, people would enter into this decision from a liberated and well-informed perspective, ensuring that their prospective children have all the minimum welfare needs met, while also understanding the impacts of reproduction. And at a societal level, if we can ensure true reproductive autonomy and reproductive responsibility, each child born will be planned and wanted, and there would be a variety of available family structures for people to choose – singlehood, adoption (human and non-human), communal living etc. rather than the one and only type of family structure that is currently promoted – an isolated nuclear family with biological children.

The language that I have found the most helpful is liberated, authentic, and responsible procreative choices that consider our obligations to the human and ecological communities as well as planetary boundaries.

My iPhone doesn’t even recognize the word pronatalism. This webinar is excellent. How can we help get out this message further?

Thank you so much! Your attending this presentation was the first step in normalizing these conversations. We offer free presentations to schools, colleges, and community groups across the globe and would love for you to spread our work within your networks. We also host a monthly podcast where we interview experts in the field, which you can also help elevate. Here are the links: Guest Speaker Presentations and The Overpopulation Podcast. Also, sign up for our newsletter so that you can learn about upcoming events and opportunities for engagement.

About the Speaker

Nandita Bajaj

Executive Director, Population Balance

Nandita Bajaj is the Executive Director of Population Balance that offers education and solutions to address the impacts of human overpopulation and overconsumption on the planet, people, and animals, where she also co-hosts The Overpopulation Podcast.

As faculty with the Institute for Humane Education at Antioch University, Nandita teaches two courses – Human Rights as well as Pronatalism and Overpopulation. She has Bachelor degrees in Aerospace Engineering and Education, and a Master degree in Humane Education. She was born and raised in India and has lived in Toronto, Canada for over 20 years.