Linking Family Planning and Global Development

Why does family planning matter to global development?

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.


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 3.7: 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 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 family planning is a best buy for achieving 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 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.

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 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 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 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.



Topic last updated: March 27, 2019