Empowering Ethiopia’s Future: How Ethiopia’s Youth Population Growth is Paving the Way for a Brighter Future

Have you ever worried that Ethiopia’s population growth is out of control? Have you been perplexed by the difficulty in grabbing a bus or a taxi during rush hours? Have you been concerned about the lack of affordable housing as a result of the capital city’s ever-increasing population? Well, you are not alone. That is what lots of people are feeling! Many people are worried about population growth without carefully analyzing its possible consequences. However, contrary to popular assumptions, population growth, especially that of the youth, has a lot to offer to multi-dimensional development and is an essential component of a developing nation. In this article, I will specifically discuss the enormous potential of the youth population growth for Ethiopia’s development aspirations.

Ethiopia is a nation that relies heavily on its youth, with approximately 60% of its population under the age of 25. A youthful population presents an opportunity for accelerated economic growth on a per capita basis (Wilmoth et al., 2022). According to the UN projections of Ethiopia’s population age structure shown below, “Ethiopia 2030” and “Ethiopia 2050” both show a proportionately larger working age population compared to the number of its dependent children and elders, creating a window of opportunity for rapid economic growth. The country is on the path to a population age structure that may enable it to experience a “demographic dividend”, which is an increasing working-age population and decreasing dependent-age population due to sustained lower fertility (Assefa et al. 2015).

Source: UN Population Division, World Population Prospects: the 2012 Revision, medium variant, (New York: United Nations, 2013).

As noted above, one of the most significant advantages of population growth, particularly among young people, is the possibility of enhanced economic growth. With a growing population, more businesses and employment can be created. Young people in particular are known for being innovative and entrepreneurial, which can aid in the development of new enterprises and industries. Advances in technology (innovation of environmentally friendly electronic vehicles, smartphones, artificial intelligence and robotics, alternative energy i.e., solar and wind energy, the internet) and advancements in healthcare (emergence of improved lifesaving medicines) are all thought to be the result of increased population growth, which brings more creative minds to the fore.

In addition to creating jobs, a growing population can also increase demand for goods and services, further driving economic growth. As more people are born and grow up, they will require more housing, food, improved infrastructure, healthcare, and education, all of which can help drive economic development. Additionally, young people can contribute to the economy through their participation in the labour market, both in the formal and informal sectors.

Population growth has been a critical component of success for developed countries, though no single factor can fully explain their remarkable achievements. Following are some examples of countries that have leveraged their population growth to appear at the top of the development hierarchy.

One such example is India. India is the second-most populous country in the world and its population has consistently grown since its independence from the British colonial rule in 1947. Despite being a developing nation, India’s population growth has contributed significantly to the country’s remarkable economic expansion over the past two decades. By 2021, India’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) had grown by over 8.6% annually (World Bank, 2021), with substantial contributions from its young and rapidly expanding population. The surge in the country’s labor force, coupled with the growth of industries such as information technology, has played a vital role in turning India into a global outsourcing hub.

Kolkata Flower Market. November 2022

Another example is China. After enacting reforms in the 1970s that encouraged population growth, China’s population boomed from 800 million in 1970 to over 1.4 billion today and the country has reaped significant benefits from it. China’s rapid population growth transformed the country into a manufacturing powerhouse, creating numerous job opportunities and lifting millions out of poverty. The country has enjoyed sustained economic growth over the past few decades and is now the world’s second-largest economy. China’s population growth also spurred the development of its transportation infrastructure, including roads and rail, and led to the expansion of urban areas.

The secret behind America’s growing prosperity post-World War II is also attributed to what is commonly called the ‘baby boom, the dramatic increase in childbirth between 1946 and 1964. Singapore’s development in Asia and Brazil’s development in South America are no different. According to Peterson (2017), low population growth in high-income countries is likely to create social and economic problems. As a result, developed countries with high life expectancy of older people and very low fertility rates are now struggling to find active youths to fill numerous vacant positions created by the economy. That is why many developed countries, including the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, offer various visa options and continue to attract migrant workers from developing countries. Not only are these countries bringing in workers to fill vacant positions, but they are also bringing in diverse talent and new ideas from youths all over the developing world, indicating that youths are vehicles for development.

Many people argue that population growth in Ethiopia can strain the country’s resources and contribute to environmental degradation, which appears to be consistent with the pessimistic outlook of population theorist Thomas Malthus, who argued that human population grows faster than food supply. However, this notion has been consistently refuted in recent times, emphasizing the importance of human innovation. Notable population theorists such as Boserup see population pressure as a major cause of change in land use, agricultural technology, land tenure systems, and settlement form (Grigg, 1979). According to her, a larger and denser population facilitates the development of economic and social infrastructure which improves agricultural productivity and that the principal means of increasing agricultural output is intensification. A study in Ethiopia by Alemu (2020), which used a time series data from 1980/81-2018/19, also found out that population is an asset rather than a burden for the country. Ethiopia is endowed with fertile soil, year-round flowing water in every corner of the country, and favorable topography and environment for agricultural production. The country has also never been colonized, which means that its natural resources are still intact and can be used for development without jeopardizing the needs of future generations.

As a result, mechanization or intensification of agriculture, as well as effective policies and strategies to use natural resources sustainably, are all we need to build a prosperous and self-sufficient Ethiopia. Therefore, to maximize the potential benefits of a “demographic dividend” explained above, Ethiopia must continue to implement policy frameworks that prioritize health, education, and economic growth. Appropriate economic policies that promote growth will contribute significantly towards a job market that can absorb a large workforce and give them productive employment. Policies that provide incentive to invest and save, that encourage trade and a flexible strategy for producing a well-trained workforce will yield a stronger economy with greater employment and earning opportunities. Investments in basic infrastructure such as roads, transportation, and communication systems will create a supportive environment for Ethiopia to capitalize fully on its demographic changes (Assefa et al., 2015).

In short, population growth, especially that of the young people, is critical to Ethiopia’s development. When managed effectively, it can lead to increased economic growth, better infrastructure, and better healthcare. As Ethiopia grows, it would be critical to ensure that the country’s resources meet the needs of its people and at the same time protect the environment for future generations.

Cognizant of this, Frontieri Consult has identified the issue as an important area of focus and is committed to assisting the Ethiopian government and development partners through research and policy formulation. To that end, the company has formed an “Education and Youth Development” team of experts to consult stakeholders on youth and education issues. We hope to see interested firms, groups and individuals working with us!

About the Author

Mr. Getahun Siraw
Senior Research Officer

Getahun Siraw is a sociologist with extensive experience in academia and beyond. Getahun earned his Master of Arts degree in sociology from Addis Ababa University and a Bachelor of Arts degree in sociology from Wolaita Sodo University. Getahun has a strong academic background, a teaching experience in the higher education sector, a proven track record of publishing cutting-edge qualitative and quantitative sociological research in renowned journals and managing projects. His research interests are based on a number of societal concerns, with public health, youth, children, and vulnerability issues catching his attention the most.


Admassie Assefa, Seid Nuru Ali, John F. May, Shelley Megquier, & Scott Moreland. (2015). The demographic dividend: an opportunity for Ethiopia’s transformation. Population reference bureau, Wahington DC www.prb.org

Alemu, K. (2020). The Relationship Between Population Growth and Economic Growth in Ethiopia. Journal of Economics and Sustainable Development, 11(15). https://doi.org/10.7176/jesd/11-15-07

Grigg, D. (1979). Ester Boserup’s theory of agrarian change: a critical review. Progress in Human Geography, 3(1), 64–84. https://doi.org/10.1177/030913257900300103

Peterson, E. W. F. (2017). The Role of Population in Economic Growth. SAGE Open, 7(4), 215824401773609. https://doi.org/10.1177/2158244017736094

United Nations. (2013). UN Population Division, World Population Prospects: The 2012 Revision, New York.

World Bank (2021), GDP growth (%) – India. Retrieved from https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GDP.MKTP.KD.ZG?locations=IN

Wilmoth, J., Menozzi, C., & Bassarsky, L. (2022). Why population growth matters for sustainable development. https://www.un.org/development/desa/pd/sites/www.un.org.development.desa.pd/files/undesa_pd_2022_policy_brief_population_growth.pdf

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