Ethiopia has kicked off a revision of its three-decades-old National Population Policy (NPP) in an effort to better align economic planning with rapid population growth.
The policy has not been amended since its introduction in 1993 by the Transitional Government of Ethiopia (TGE).
Ethiopian experts say the delayed census and outdated population policy have created challenges for policy planning and development efforts.
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The revision is long overdue and crucial to properly address socioeconomic problems, according to Tirumar Abate, State Minister of the Ministry of Planning and Development (MoPD).
“The population policy had not been upgraded for a long time. But now, it is essential to address issues like demography, employment, gender equality, and others,” Tirumar said. “For instance, youth now make up a large segment of the population. How can we develop policies that address their needs? Women’s roles also need to be addressed in the updated policy.”
Abate said the new policy will be finalized in the next couple years, aiming to complete it by 2025 at the mid-point of Ethiopia’s Ten Years Perspective Plan.
Another long overdue task is conducting a nationwide census. The last census took place 15 years ago in 2007. The government had planned to hold one in 2020 but failed to due to political and resource issues.
Experts say population issues are sometimes politicized in Ethiopia over regional budget allocations, contributing to delays in policy revisions and data collection. But officials stress an updated approach is urgently needed.
Ethiopia’s Constitution mandates a population census every 10 years. However, experts say the government has breached this as it has not conducted a census since 2007.
The charter also calls for a National Census Commission to periodically conduct censuses. But in practice, the Central Statistics Service (CSS) manages censuses while juggling other responsibilities.
Even though a National Population Council office exists under the prime minister, it has been inactive, according to Degye Goshu, research and policy analysis director at the Ethiopian Economics Association.
“We have repeatedly urged the government to prioritize both population policy and census-taking. But they have been reluctant to fully act,” Degye told The Reporter.
Degye stressed the importance of standalone population institutions, arguing the lack of updated data and policies means population growth risks becoming a threat rather than an opportunity.
“There is no census, no policy—how can the population be properly managed? The government seems to have forgotten these issues completely.”
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