Type to search

Why Voluntary Family Planning Matters to Global Development

In a hurry? Skip ahead to the quick summary of why voluntary family planning matters to global development.


Enabling women and girls to delay, space, and limit their pregnancies leads to lower health care costs, keeps more girls in school for more years, and ensures that more women can enter and remain in the workforce. It directly benefits key development goals at the household, community, and national levels.

WATCH: An Overview of the Relationship between Family Planning and Global Development.

Continue reading to learn about linking voluntary family planning and global development at different levels:

Individual and Household Levels

The Guttmacher Institute reports that if all need for modern contraception in low- and middle-income countries were met, the world would see 67 million fewer unintended pregnancies (a 75% decline from 2017 levels), 2.2 million fewer newborn deaths (an 80% decline), and 224,000 fewer maternal deaths (a 73% decline).

Voluntary use of modern family planning methods enables healthy timing and spacing of births, preventing pregnancies that are high-risk for both mother and child. Access to voluntary family planning, including male or female condoms, for women and couples living with HIV also prevents transmission of HIV and reduces the number of pediatric HIV infections.

Voluntary family planning yields other valuable benefits. Family planning advances the rights of all women to decide whether they want to have children, and if so, how many and when. This, in turn, can help prolong a girl’s education, as millions of girls around the world drop out of school early each year due to unintended pregnancy or to care for younger siblings. It also allows women greater opportunities to participate in paid employment and to increase their productivity and earnings. When women are able to contribute to or manage household income, they spend more than men do on food, health, clothing, and education for their families.

Community Level

In places with high population growth, improving access to voluntary family planning for the women and families who want it helps to slow population growth. This, in turn, reduces the demand for food and other necessities and relieves some pressure on the environment from over-farming, over-fishing, and over-extraction of key natural resources.

National, Regional, and Global Levels

Meeting demand for voluntary family planning can also fuel large-scale economic growth by creating a demographic dividend, which occurs when a country’s population shifts from being composed of mostly very young children and adolescents to comprising a majority of working-age adults. That scenario reduces the overall costs of educating children and keeping them healthy, and it increases a country’s collective financial outputs and ultimately its gross domestic product.

Moreover, the economic, environmental, and social strain of high fertility rates and rapid population growth can threaten an already fragile state’s stability and security. Family planning can reduce this stress at the familial, community, and national levels, contributing to more peaceful societies where all citizens’ needs are met more routinely.

Click through the menu below to explore messages, research, and educational resources related to this topic.

Summary/Key Messages

  • Voluntary family planning improves not only the health but also the overall well-being of women and families around the world. As countries work to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, the extensive ripple effect of the benefits of family planning across sectors remains clear.
  • Meeting global demand for voluntary family planning can improve outcomes in education, health, and wealth; help preserve the environment; protect the rights of and opportunities for women and girls; and increase food security for people around the world.
  • Investment in voluntary family planning is a best buy for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.


Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): These 17 goals, launched in 2015, were developed by a global network of governments, donors, multilateral organizations, and other key stakeholders in order to guide and further the global development agenda.

Family planning contributes directly to Targets 3.7 and 5.6:

  • Target 3.7By 2030, ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health care services, including for family planning, information and education, and the integration of reproductive health into national strategies and programmes.
  • Target 5.6Ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights as agreed in accordance with the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development and the Beijing Platform for Action and the outcome documents of their review conferences.

Take a Course

The Global Health eLearning Center offers several courses that shed light on the linkages between voluntary family planning and other priorities in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Review the Evidence

Omimo A, Taranta D, Ghiron L, Kabiswa C, Aibe S, Kodande M, Nalwoga C, Mugaya S, Onduso P. Applying ExpandNet’s Systematic Approach to Scaling Up in an Integrated Population, Health and Environment Project in East Africa. Social Sciences. 2018; 7(1):8. The authors lay out ExpandNet’s systematic approach to scale-up and subsequently illustrates its application in the Lake Victoria Basin (HoPE-LVB) project, an integrated PHE project implemented in Uganda and Kenya. Results demonstrate the fundamental value of systematically designing and implementing the project with focused attention to scale-up, as well as the challenges involved.

Choi Y, Short Fabic M. Monitoring Progress in Equality for the Sustainable Development Goals: A Case Study of Meeting Demand for Family Planning. Glob Health Sci Pract. 2018;6(2):387-398.  As demand for family planning has increasingly been satisfied, disparities between groups within a country have also generally declined but persist. To monitor disparity across countries and over time, the authors recommend comparing met demand by wealth quintile because it is most comparable to interpret and highly correlated with disparity by education, residence, and region. Within country, comparing disparity in met demand across geographic region can identify populations with greater need for programmatic purposes.

Li Q, Rimon JG. A Demographic Dividend of the FP2020 Initiative and the SDG Reproductive Health Target: Case Studies of India and Nigeria. Gates Open Research. 2018;2:11. The authors estimate the short- and medium-term economic benefits from two major family planning goals: FP2020’s goal of adding 120 million modern contraceptive users by 2020 and SDG 3.7 of ensuring universal access to family planning by 2030. They conclude that tremendous economic benefits from meeting these family planning targets demonstrate the cost-effectiveness of investment in promoting access to contraceptive methods. Accelerated progress is needed to achieve the FP2020 and SDG goals and so reap the demographic dividend.

Goodkind D, Lollock L, Choi Y, McDevitt T, West L. The Demographic Impact and Development Benefits of Meeting Demand for Family Planning with Modern Contraceptive Methods. Global Health Action. 2017;11(1). Many policymakers have embraced a benchmark goal that at least 75% of the demand for family planning in all countries be satisfied with modern contraceptive methods by 2030. This study examines the demographic impact (and development implications) of achieving the 75% benchmark in 13 low- and middle-income countries that are expected to be the furthest from achieving it. On average, meeting the benchmark would imply a 16 percentage point increase in modern contraceptive prevalence by 2030 and a 20% decline in youth dependency, which portends a potential demographic dividend to spur economic growth.

Starbird E, Norton M, Marcus R. Investing in Family Planning: Key to Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Glob Health Sci Pract. 2016;4(2):191-210. Voluntary family planning brings transformational benefits to women, families, communities, and countries. Investing in family planning is a development “best buy” that can accelerate achievement across the 5 Sustainable Development Goal themes of People, Planet, Prosperity, Peace, and Partnership.

The High Impact Practices in Family Planning (HIPs) team at USAID has developed briefs that synthesize the evidence and provide recommendations on how to implement selected HIPs. Economic Empowerment: A Potential Pathway for Women and Girls to Gain Control Over Their Sexual and Reproductive Health (2017; PDF, 2.3MB) summarizes the current evidence on interventions used by family planning programs that sought to improve women’s or girls’ economic empowerment and that measured key family planning outcomes. The interventions cluster in three primary focus areas: vocational training, microfinance, and cash transfers (Goal 8).

Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap