Controlling overpopulation - is there a solution? A human rights analysis


This paper is concerned with the serious problem of overpopulation, a challenging phenomenon that is causing increased stress to the earth and its resources with each passing day. The implications of overpopulation are far-reaching and include, but are not limited to, environmental degradation and widespread poverty. Correspondingly, this paper identifies that there is a pressing need to address this problem with a human rights compatible population control policy. To arrive at this point, this paper will identify the difference between regulationist and voluntarist approaches to policymaking. Accordingly, the Chinese one-child policy introduced in the 1980s will be analysed as a famous and fitting example of a regulationist policy which quantitatively restricted the number of children that a couple could have. The analysis of this policy will indicate to what extent regulationist policies introduced to control population can withstand human rights based analysis. The research will then go further, seeking to offer human rights friendly solutions to the need implement some form of population control. This paper will first draw upon the Indonesian population control response seen throughout the 1970s and 80s as an example of a successful voluntarist approach which provides logical solutions. These solutions are identified as being largely voluntarist, and promoting free and informed decision making in the area of family planning. More precisely, this paper will coin the idea of ‘generating contentment’ as a policy which will delay the desire for children. The idea of generating contentment will focus on improving living standards in developing countries via the adoption of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, as well as the propagation of widespread family planning services and the implementation of these into educational curriculums. The implementation of these goals will be a primary driver into reducing population by achieving outcomes such as broadened and emphasised career opportunities for women, and challenging customs that supress sexual education and contraception access.


Indonesia, Liberties, Policymaking, Population control, Human rights, One-child policy, China, Overpopulation, Sustainable Development Goals, UN

How to Cite

Brown, J., (2021) “Controlling overpopulation - is there a solution? A human rights analysis”, Fields: journal of Huddersfield student research 7(1). doi:


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James Brown (Huddersfield University)





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