Geography Topic 6: Population Change

3.1 population growth and distribution

a. the growth and distribution of global population

Population distribution – the pattern of where people live.

  • World population distribution is uneven –
  • Dense, crowded areas (Coasts of China)
  • Sparse, empty areas (Interior of Australia)

Population density = number of people who live in an area / area (km2)

2 things that cause population growth:

  1. Birth rate
  2. Death rate

Population = Births – Deaths

  • Positive population growth: more births than deaths (also known as natural increase)
  • Negative population growth: Less births than deaths (also known as natural decrease) This is a sign of a developed country, as the cost of raising a child increases severely

Factors that affect population (with examples)

Densely populated areas:

  • North USA – Good job opportunities
  • North Europe  – positive culture and tradition, highly developed super power nations, perfect temperatures for farming
  • Japan – stable government, coastline makes it easily accessible for trade
  • Ganges – good water supply, flatland and fertile soils
  • India – lack of education and lack of empowerment of women
  • Syria – becoming less dense – (OUTWARD MIGRATION) – due to war and conflict (2016, 4.6 mil evacuees)

Sparsely Populated areas:

  • Alaska and Greenland – sparse – hostile climate, difficult for agriculture
  • Himalayas – difficult to access, thin infertile soils, poor nation and restricting cultures and traditions
  • Amazon rainforest – limited jobs, high humidity
  • Central Africa – hostile climate, unstable government

b. reasons for changes to birth and death rates, including the study of the demographic transition model

  • Overall rate of population change depends on natural and migrational change
  • Positive: Natural change + migrational change = rates of population growth is high
  • Negative: Natural change + migrational change = High rate of population loss
  • If these changes are balanced, there is little to no change.
  • Population Gain.png

Demographic Transition Mode: Measures the rate of natural change, these changes underline a generalisation of development


c. the physical and human factors affecting the distribution and density of population in China and the UK

Case Study: CHINA

  • The population of china is concentrated on the eastern half of the country, 1,000 people /km ^2.
  • Sparse population belt to the West, 5 people per km^2
  • North West – another high population belt, around 25-250 people/ km^2

Links with relief (physical geography)

  • Eastern belt of dense population coincides with low lying, flat coastal areas with rich and fertile soils
  • Explains the northern belt of sparse population with high (over 5,000m) mountain ranges and desert atmosphere

Links with rainfall (physical geography)

  • East has >50cm/year  worth of rainfall (water in abundance)
  • Elsewhere <5cm/year worth of rainfall, often as snow

Links with economy/history (human geography)

  • Concentrated belt of population around the coast due to the country’s major trading ports – it’s centre of industry attracts people globally
  • Therefore coastal towns tend to be more modern due to the increasing economy, therefore more desirable than rural chinese countrysides


Links with relief and rainfall

  • Highlands and islands of Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and England are sparsely populated because of low rainfall and high relief
  • South East and North West as well as central Scotland densely populated, >600 people / km2!

Links with economy

  • Highest population coincides with coal fields due to the industrial revolution attracting huge amounts of industry
  • London is an urban and very wealthy city that attracts people because of jobs, education and leisure.

d. how two countries cope with contrasting population problems, one trying to increase and the other trying to decrease the birth rate



  • Start date: late 1980
  • End date: Early 2016
  • End product: 120 boys : 100 girls
  • China has the third largest economy
  • Urban population of China is 43%
  • Fertility rate prior to the 1CP: 2.9
  • Fertility rate post the 1CP: 1.7
  • Prevented a total of 400 mil births
  • Current population: 1.3 bn


  • To rein in China’s population (if not, there would be unprecedented population growth)
  • Speed up it’s development by limiting the number of births (number of mouths to feed)

Exceptions (Only a couple years towards the end of reign):

  • End products of 1CP (the ‘4-2-1’ problem, 4 grandparents, 2 parents, 1 child)
  • Those who lived in rural areas (Needed an extra pair of hands to help on the farm, especially if that first child was a girl)
  • Mentally ill/ disabled
  • First child = girl


  • Hefty fines after each child
  • Forced sterilizations
  • Pressure to abort pregnancies
  • Discrimination at work


  • Cash bonuses
  • Longer maternity leave
  • Preference for schools, nurseries and higher education
  • Access to houses and healthcare


  • Severe gender imbalance (120 boys : 100 girls)
  • An aging population
  • Diminishing workforce
  • Falling fertility rate – 6 births/women, 1970. 2 births/women, 1980
  • Generations of only children – ‘little emperor syndrome’ – spoilt children with no ability to share, work or be independent
  • The 4-2-1 problem
  • Corrupt means to achieve yearly raises for ‘family planning officials’
  • ‘Illegal children are seized by officials and are victims of child trafficking.
  • Trauma from those victims which suffered beatings, forced sterilizations and abortions
  • Historically male preference as a result: sex selective abortions, not registering female births and female infanticides
  • In rural areas, there are twice as many men (often nick named bachelor villages). Wives are expensive – $8,000 dowry.
  • Estimated 24mil men without wives by 2020 China
  • Fines of multiple children can be 10x the yearly wages in rural areas
  • Increased academic pressure on the single child – chinese schooling system is very competitive and often leads to suicide


  • Hope for dependents to economically active ratio will even out
  • Reminder that China as a country is still developing



  • Mid 1960s (1 child policy)
  • Policy reform 1960s –> onwards
  • Population density – 8,000 / km^2
  • Popuation now – 5.4 mil, (75% Chinese, 14% malay, 9% Indian and 2% other)


  • To reduce the rate of population growth as the prime minister was worried it might be overpopulated as it is a small island
  • Policy reform in 1980 July/August to grow the population as it was decreasing before


  • Tax rebates for each child
  • Cheap nurseries
  • Preferential acess to the best schools and housing
  • Pregnant women offered counselling to discourage abortions and sterilizations

On immigration:

  • Singapore used immigration as a way to increase population – but only residents can have 3 or more, non residents have to ‘stop at 2’, this is a means to preserve the genetic make up of the country.

3.2 characteristics of population

a. the characteristics of population on a local scale including age, gender, ethnicity, religious and occupational structure

Census – a census involves literally counting everyone in a country or region and recording their characteristics (age, gender, ethnic origin), usually every 10 years and is mandatory

Screen Shot 2016-08-22 at 10.42.00 AM.png

b. comparison of population pyramids for three countries at different levels of development

A population pyramid’s shape is controlled by:

  • Birth rate – the higher it is, the wider the base
  • Death rate – the lower it is, the taller the pyramid
  • Balance the two rates, and if births exceed deaths and vice versa.

LIC – Youthful population (eg. Indonesia)

  • Short top as very few people reach old age due to low life expectancy – high death rate, poor healthcare
  • High birth rate –  wide base

MIC – eg. Mexico

  • Narrow base as birth rate falls
  • MICs often categorized by falling birth rate and death rates (DTM stage 3)
  • It loses its triangle shape as life expectancy rises

HIC – Working population (eg. The UK)

  • Bulge in the working population
  • Low death rate – higher life expectancy
  • HICs have a low death rate – hence the narrow base
  • Also known as a ‘greying population’ – if the peak is heavy, that means life expectancy is high, advanced medicine

c. consequences of youthful and ageing populations

Young Dependants (Under 16s)

  • More people will need to be employed, housed and fed
  • Public money will need to be spend on nurseries, schools and clinics
  • Dependence on parents, challenge to support functioning growing families
  • Political priorities of a youthful population: Education and job creation

Elderly Dependants (Over 65)

  • An aging population need care homes, special housing and day centres
  • An aging population comes with a reduction in the workforce
  • A shortage of workers could greatly negatively impact the country – the hope is that more young people will work
  • Political priorities: pensions, healthcare and age descrimination

d. a study of the advantages and disadvantages of an ageing population within a country



  • 5.4 mil women
  • 3.9 mil men
  • 10% still working
  • 70% dependent on state benefits
  • 2/3 are widowed women, 1/3 are widowed men

Economic plus:

  • Those who are fit and able can cause a boom in the leisure business- helps the LICs as a tourist destination

Economic minus:

  • With fewer people in the workforce, they have to raise taxes to support pensioners
  • Present state pension needs to be raised

Social plus:

  • Retirement resorts allow old people to interact and are able to be geared up with things that specifically elderly people need

Social minus:

  • Who looks after the elderly? Now put away into care homes with pro care, rather than their kid’s love and care

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