Small children here have discovered that condoms paid for by the U.S. government make wonderful holiday balloons. It's about the only use they're put to.

Thirteen years after the United States began pumping millions of dollars into Pakistani family planning efforts and five years after it urged that Pakistani be flooded with birth control pills and condoms, the birth rate is higher than it was in 1960.

Only 6 percent of the fertile couples in this overcrowded nation of 74 million regularly use any form of contraception.

Only 9 percent have ever tried birth control at all, according to a United Nations study.

Furthermore, the majority of those using contraceptives in Pakistan are older women with four or more children.

It's unlikely that this will change soon. Mired in political and bureaucratic conflict. Pakistani's population control program and the majority of its 16,000 employes all but stopped work almost a year ago, although they continue to draw full salaries.

"There's never been a failure in population planning as large as this one," declares on U.S. AID official.

The failure flies in the face of all conventional wisdom about family planning.

The lack of results is not, according to evaluation reports, due to a lack of knowledge about birth control: rather it is due in large part of a basic misreading of the economics of family size.

Simply put, Pakistani parents find large families not a minus, but a social and economic plus.

No issue is more central to the future of the Third World than population.

Each day, 170,000 new babies come into the world. Eighty percent of them are born in less developed nations which produce only 20 percent of the world's food supply.

If present trends are allowed to continue, Mexico 100 years from now would have a larger population than the Soviet Union and China combined; the island nation of Indonesia would have 1.78 billion people - nearly half the world's current population.

Nowhere is the crunch more severe than in Asia, which is already overflowing with 2 billion people. At current birth rates, their number would double in 35 years.

But unlike much of the rest of the Third World, most Asia governments have initiated family planning programs.

This is the story of two of them: Indonesia, which is beginning to show some signs of success, and Pakistan, which isn't.

The Pakistani case is a classic study in Third World politics, bureaucratic ineptitude and misguided social policy.

It was to be a test of the "inundation" theory of population control whose chief exponent, Dr. R.T. Ravenholt, heads the U.S. Agency for International Development's family planning efforts.

The basic idea behind the theory is simple: if you flood a country with condoms and birth control pills at a very low price, the birth rate will drop.

The theory is based on the assumption that people want smaller families.

This, however, failed to take into account a major fact of life in conservative, Islamic Pakistan.

"There are very good cultural and economic reasons for Pakistanis to have large families," says one former AID population chief there. "Under these circumstances, it was foolish to think that a massive inundation program would have a major impact.

"It was," he adds, "doomed to failure from the start."

Mahmud Roshan, a Pakistani researcher who studies two villages, points out that "all male and female children . . . start contributing in some beneficial way (to their families) after the age of four.

"These children take care of goats, buffaloes and chickens, take food to father in the field, and many similar chores," says Roshan. "Their responsibilities increase with age. They earn by selling milk; working as laborers in the city; working on a horse-cart or bullock-cart; or in small trade.

"Socially, they say, 'Sons are guns.' Who can dare to look sarcastically toward the father of four or five sons?" asks Roshan. "They send him for pilgrimage in old age.

"The unmarried daughters work more than sons. They collect cow dung, take care of buffaloes, help in harvesting, bring mud from the pond for plastering the house. Socially, when they are married, they provide an extended small kingdom to their father," he adds.

Few countries have as severe a population problem - or have recognized this as long - as Pakistan. It launched its first family planning effort in the 1950s, and since 1960, has spent $164 million ($58 million supplied by the United States) on population activities.

Yet, Pakistan's population growth rate is still among the highest in the world. If it continues at current levels, the country's population will double by the year 2000.

The Pakistani government adopted the inundation program in 1973 after earlier family planning efforts had failed.

The plan was to distribute condoms and birth control pills through a network of 40,000 shopkeepers, clinics, hospitals, and private doctors, who would sell the contraceptives at a price of 2 1/2 cents for a month's supply.

Teams of "continuous motivators" were dispatched to the countryside. They were to visit each household three or four times a year to encourage and train residents in birth control.

The approach attracted widespread attention and praise. The Washington Post, for example, said in an editorial that the Pakistani program "deserves cheering and wide emulation."

But, according to an internal U.S. AID report, it "is generally regarded as having failed."

Almost everything imaginable went wrong.

Field workers "were generally poorly supervised and trained," the report said. Many were politcal appointees with little interest or skill in family planning. Female workers tended to be young, unmarried and unaccustomed to rural areas. Males were not given enough work to do, and served mainly as escorts for female workers.

They received little real encouragement from the top. Former Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto privately supported family planning efforts, but he considered them - quite correctly - a political liability.

Financial support was modest, and much of the Pakistani bureaucracy treated the government's Population Planning Division with mild contempt.

On one level, the inundation plan worked. Millions of cartoons of brightly colored condoms began flowing into the country in November 1974. But the Pakistani government did little to insure that they got where they were supposed to go.

Only one third of the commercial outlets that had been lined up to distribute them ever received supplies, according to U.S. AID reports. Massive numbers of condoms were diverted into the black market.

Contractors are said to have melted them down for use as caulking material. Small manufacturers designed pull toys that used condoms to make a quacking sound.

The continuous motivator scheme was a disaster. Many of the teams apparently did little or no work. Over 70 percent of the families surveyed by the United Nations reported that they had never come into contact with a family planning worker. Others functioned as fulltime campaign workers for Bhutto during the 1977 Pakistani election.

The program, a U.S. Government Accounting Office investigation concluded, "has had only a limited impact on the birth rate and has not resulted in increased demand" for contraceptives.

The bureaucrats who run the program from a sterile-looking office building in Islamabad are understandably a bit jittery these days. AID refused to commit any new money to the program last year, and is giving it only $1.3 million this year. Other foreign governments have done likewise.

In classic bureaucratic fashion, they talk about ambitious new goals, reorganization and setting new priorities. They refuse to admit that the program is a failure.

"We've softened the soil," says one high-making Pakistani official."We've planted the seeds. Soon they'll grow."

While the Pakistanis produced little more than excuses, Indonesia's population-control program is producing results.

A map in the town hall in Banjar Kangin, a small hamlet on the Indonesia island of Bali, records the method of birth control used in every home in the community.

Pill users live in red houses, IUD users in blue houses, condom users in green. Households that don't practice birth control are left blank.

Kesut Ganta, the elected headman in the hamlet, hauls out the map and an accompanying record book once a month when men of the community gather for their council meeting.

The book lists the name and age of every resident, and when they started practicing birth control.

J. Kempes, who is 30, has used an IUD since Sept. 29, 1973, according to the record. J. Bukin, a mother of four, has been on pills since Feb. 14, 1974.

It's all very public and open. No one minds much, for this is the way things have been done in Banjar Kangin for generations.

At the council meeting, Ganta - before passing out the next month's supply of condoms and pills - asks each man what he has done about birth control that month. If a man has not done anything, he has to explain why.

Not many explanations are necessary. Two hundred eighteen of the 243 fertile couples in Banjar Kangin practice birth control.

The scene is repeated in almost every one of the 3,700 banjars, or hamlets, on Bali. The island-wide figure for couples using some method of contraceptions is 43 per cent.

"It's a matter of economics for us," says headman Ganta. "Our land is very dry and there is no water for irrigation. Each child means another mouth to feed, and we don't have enough food to go around now."

The contrast between this view and the prevailing attitude in Pakistan could hardly be greater.

Ask a Pakistani villager about birth control and you generally get a smirk and the reply, "No, not here."

A number of explanations account for the differences in perceptions. Not the least is that Bali is a Hindu society, with far more permissive attitudes toward sex than Moslem Pakistan.

Indonesia also has a strong village structure with an established chain of command that can exert pressure on families. Villages in Pakistan are loose units - often made up of feuding families - with not formal government.

But that is only part of the story. Indonesia's largest island, Java, is also predominantly Moslem. Its population problems are among the worst in the world.

Java, with about the same land area as New York state, has roughly the same population as New York, California, Texas, Pennsylvania, Illinois and Ohio combined.

The people of Java, like those of Pakistan, are predominantly rural and dirt poor. Yet the percentage of couples practicing birth control in Java's five provinces ranges from 15 to 30 percent, compared with only six percent in Pakistan. And a high percentage of those using contraceptives on Java are young married couples.

The number of children per woman dropped by one third (from 5.8 to 3.8 children) in Bali between 1971 and 1976; by 17 percent in Central Java and Jakarta, Indonesia's capital and largest city; and by 15 per cent in East Java, according to a World Fertility Study.

The big difference between Indonesia and Pakistan, officials in Jakarta claim, is the approach and priority given to family planning by the government.

Indonesian President Suharto has been an outspoken advocate of population control and he passed the message along in no uncertain terms all the way down to the village level.

Goals were set for each province, and each year, as the annual target deadline approaches, the number of contraceptives users suddenly spurts upward as field workers scour the countryside.

"We've tried to institutionalize family planning, to make it part of the every day life of every community," says Dr. Haryono Suyono, the program's director of research and development.

The Indonesian program has also been flexible. While the pill was pushed in urban areas, more emphasis was placed in rural areas on getting women to use the IUD.

"The pill and condoms are for educated people," one provincial family planning chief said. "The IUD is for people in villages."

But for all its pluses, the family planning effort, even in Indonesia, has been far from an unqualified success. Less progress has been made in Jakarta than in rural areas, and the birth control campaign has barely got off the ground in many of Indonesia's outer islands.

In addition, the program is expensive (it cost about $15 a year per participant) and is heavily dependent on U.S. assistance. U.S. AID has already spent $42.6 million in the country, and proposes to put up another $86.6 million in grants and loans in the next six years.

What's more, even the most optimistic demographers estimate that the population, of Indonesia will soar from 132 million today to at least 215 million by the year 2000 and that Jakarta will mushroom into a city of 17 million.

This means that by the end of the century, Indonesia will need 25 million more jobs - and 35 million more classroom seats - than it had in 1971.

The question for Indonesia - and the other developing countries facing the same problems - is where will it find them?

Today, there is no answer.