Commentary Jamaica Magazine

Should Jamaica Restrict Family Size? Overpopulation, GNP And Poverty Alleviation!


Rather than depending on the laws of averages and thelaws of nature to construct the ratio of males tofemales, China has tampered with its population mix byrestricting family size and sex. This experiment nowseems to be a colossal failure from one angle asChina faces a current and future serious shortage ofworkers in certain age groups! Looking from anotherangle though, it may be viewed as a stunning successat slowing poverty growth and increasing GNP percapita. Jamaica should look and learn but should itcopy the China population strategy?


When we look at overpopulation it cannot be looked atin a vacuum; it must have some base. Here are a fewcriteria:

  1. land mass (this is the most common)
  2. available resources
  3. quality of life,
  4. environmental degradation,
  5. long-term shortages of essential goods and services
  6. and GNP potential (this one is my personalinvention)

Jamaican stats.

Square miles = 4400 est
Total acres = 4400* 640 acres
  = 2,816,000 acres
population = 2,714,000
population per acre ratio = 2,714,000/2,816,000
  = 0.9637784

Now clearly in terms of land mass Jamaica is not overpopulated per acre as the population ratio of persons per acre is almost one. One could make the case however, that it could be overpopulated for the other criteria if it could be shown that if the population was smaller, it would result in a measurable improvement in them. But what I focus on is GNP potential.

“Gross National Product is the total value added from domestic and foreign sources claimed by residents of a country. In other words it is GDP (Gross Domestic Product, the value of goods and services produced within a country) plus net income received by residents from non-resident sources. GNP/capita is the total divided by the number of people in the country. In other words, GNP/capita is a measure of national income per person.” Wikipedia

Jamaican stats

GNP 2005: $9.03 billion
GNP per capita 2005: $3396


The GNP to me seems to be a more accurate indicatorthan GDP because production does not always lead toincome a situation with which we are painfullyfamiliar.

Now then here is the question. Can the current population of Jamaica, 2.7 million, raise the GNP to a level equal to any of the other islands with which we are most similar? (Jamaica is last on this list.)

Cayman Islands 31 20 667 47,000
Aruba 33 19 800 104,000
U.S. Virgin Islands 36 18 609 111,000
Bahamas 46 15 232 331,000
Martinique 47 15 063 399,000
Netherlands Antilles 52 13 552 192,000
British Virgin Islands 54 13 043 23,000
Puerto Rico 55 12 221 3,991000
Antigua and Barbuda 60 10 854 85,000
Trinidad & Tobago 62 10 444 1,333000
Barbados 67 9 741 294,000
Guadeloupe 68 9 183 405,000
Saint Kitts & Nevis 72 8 298 50,000
Turks & Caicos Islands 81 7 143 26,000
Montserrat 86 6 667 5,900
Saint Lucia 98 4 731 165,000
Grenada 106 3 925 106,000
Dominica 108 3 750 67,000
St. Vincent Grenadines 109 3 613 120,000
Belize 110 3 493 288,000
JAMAICA 113 3 396 2,714,000

Or can the population of Jamaica raise the GNP to thatof Barbados? Can this realistically ever happen? Forthis to happen it means we would have to at leastdouble our income from where.. Bauxite, Tourism orAgriculture? Bauxite production has peaked, tourisminvestment is peaking and agriculture peaked decadesago!! Globalization now means that competition is farfiercer than in the seventies and so it is nearimpossible to displace other suppliers to markets. Theproblem seems more serious when one considers that ourpopulation is increasing too by about 130,000 peryear!

(From CIA fact book)

Birth rate: 20.44 births/1,000 pop. (07est.)
Death rate: 6.59 deaths/1,000 pop. (07 est.)
Net migration rate:-6.07 migrant(s)/1,000 pop.(07est)

NET INCREASE 7.81 (this is my calculation-simple subtraction..not sure if this is the way it is done.)

So then if we accept the premise that “nuff man a struggle” and 3,396 GNP per capita is too low we are clearly overpopulated based on the current number! If we believe that the facts say we cannot double the GNP then we must be overpopulated based on our GNP potential! If the country cannot increase its GNP per capita significantly then it means that permanent poverty alleviation is a shocking and real impossibility!

I would not be surprised if most of our political leaders are unaware of the real state of the nation and the future that awaits us. Partisanship does not major in solutions and problem identification, but in winning elections and staying in power!

What is the solution? Before solutions can beimplemented the consciousness of the country must beprepared. Do we really want solutions? I believe Iknow what some of them are but we do not wantsolutions that displace our comfort zone and so sadlyin fifty years we perhaps will be in a much worsestate!

About the author

John Anthony