Linking Family Planning and Global Development

Why does family planning matter to global development?

Family planning improves not only the health but the overall well-being of women and families around the world. With the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals, the extensive ripple effect of family planning’s benefits across the various goals remains clear.

Family planning has a strong ripple effect across all 17 Sustainable Development Goals. K4Health’s new animation, Family Planning: A Key to Unlocking the Sustainable Development Goals, illustrates how and why family planning is vital to our ability to meet global development challenges, from reducing poverty to slowing climate change to preventing civil unrest.


Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): These 17 goals, launched in 2015, will build on the Millennium Development Goals. The SDGs 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 Target 3.7 and Target 5.6: 

  • Target 3.7: By 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 5.6: Ensure 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.

Demographic dividend: the boost in economic productivity that occurs when there are growing numbers of people in a country’s workforce relative to the number of dependents in that country’s population (UNFPA)

Key messages

  • Meeting global demand for family planning can simultaneously improve outcomes in education, health, and wealth; help preserve the environment; support the rights and empowerment of women and girls; and increase food security for people around the world.
  • Investment in family planning is a best buy for the Sustainable Development Goals.


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

Individual and household level

Current use of contraception prevents more than 100,000 women from dying in childbirth, and prevents more than 1.5 million newborns and infants from dying—every year. Use of family planning methods enables healthy timing and spacing of births, preventing pregnancies which are high-risk for both mother and child. Access to family planning, including male or female condoms, for women and couples living with HIV also prevents transmission of the HIV virus and reduces the number of pediatric HIV infections.

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

Community level

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

National, regional, and global level

Meeting demand for family planning can also fuel large-scale economic growth by creating a demographic dividend, which occurs when a country’s population shifts from mostly very young children and adolescents to 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 more routinely met.



Topic last updated: July 11, 2018