The irony behind population growth

The irony behind population growth

by UA&P News Desk on October 20, 2011 - 10:35 am

by Dr. Antonio Torralba, UA&P Faculty

The Sustainable Demographic Dividend, a collaborative undertaking of the US-based National Marriage Project under the auspices of several universities around the world including UA&P, comes amidst heated debate about the size of the Philippine population. The country is projected to have 140 million residents in 2040, up from the 90 million in 2010.

A long-term international study released recently attributes economic growth to sustainable fertility rates.

Some legislators have thus expressed alarm over the disparity between the increasing population and the decreasing standard of living. They propose that methods ought to be legislated as state policy—just as other countries already have—in order to pacify this growth.

This statistic, however, does not reveal the whole picture. The “medium variant” projections released by the United Nations also require unprejudiced attention. The UN Population Division attributes the growth experienced in the last years to the number of young people.

But the UN reveals that in the next 40 years, 53 percent of world population growth will come from increases in the number of people over 60, while only 7 percent will come from people under 30. They add that by 2025, the population of children under 5 will be in decline globally. There is a shrinking working age population and consequently limitation of retirement pensions.

The Philippine Census estimates a 12 million growth among the youth (below 35), and a 14 million growth among senior citizens (60 and above) from 2010 to 2040. Their data also show that there will be 300,000 less children under 5 in 2040 compared to the 2010 figure.

Empty cradles

While the Philippines is at the crossroads of an aggressive fight to curb the population, other countries that were successful in demanding this decline now face a different battle. In “The Empty Cradle,” an essay in the report, Philip Longman and his colleagues detail how China and Japan stand to watch their workforce dwindle by more than 20 percent between now and 2050. Consistent with the UN projection, even as their senior citizen population escalates, the younger generation would experience a decline in numbers.

They further note that India’s population plays a critical economic advantage in the long term. India will “have more favorable demographics than China” due to the increase in its workforce population. This suggests the direct correlation between population and long-term economic growth. W. Bradford Wilcox and Carlos Cavalle call this the sustainable demographic dividend—“the wealth of the nations depends in no small part on the health of the family.”

Philippine setting

Having low fertility levels impact economic growth negatively. Women in developed countries now have an average of 1.66 children over a lifetime, when 2.1 children per woman is the average needed to sustain the population overtime.

The Philippine fertility level in 2011 is approximated at an average of 3.2 children per woman. This has already been dropping by 1 child per decade since 1955. With this trend, the Philippines is likely to reach the replacement level of fertility of 2.1 children per woman in the 2020s.

Thus, the country’s fertility level has not reached the danger level of other countries. But aggressive state policies designed to bring Philippine fertility levels down might push our fertility below replacement levels, which would lead eventually to a shortage of children and the workforce—trends that are now emerging in China, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan.

The Sustainable Demographic Dividend, through the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, involved the Universidad de los Andes (Chile), Universitat Internacional de Catalunya (Spain), Universidad de La Sabana (Colombia), Universidad de Piura (Peru), and UA&P (Philippines).

For more information contact ant@

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