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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.

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Aurapin Sakvichit shows off her clothing for sale at a local market in Thailand. It is no surprise that those women and girls hit hardest by the pandemic are those who have always had the most restricted access to reproductive health supplies. Photo: Paula Bronstein/Getty Images/Images of Empowerment
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